This blog post is written by Soren, a Yahel fellow living in Lod.
As we fellows continue to learn with more depth and complexity about Lod, hearing varying perspectives on various issues - both within Lod and the larger Israeli society - I felt compelled to try to share with a wider audience voices directly from young people in Lod, so that others may get a glimpse into who these people are and what perspectives they carry.
I thus interviewed a group of three close friends - high school students with whom I hang out and practice conversational English, through a Yahel partnership with their school. Lior, Adam, and Sahar are extremely sweet, silly, and fun to spend time with. They are also a group of friends with notably diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, which, even in the “mixed” city of Lod, appears to be harder than I expected to find. Lior comes from an Ethiopian Jewish background, Adam is Arab and Muslim, and Sahar is Jewish, from a Moroccan background.
Missing from the following transcription is all of the frequent laughter throughout, their (often amusing or sarcastic) tone while speaking and the non-word layers of communication within the group dynamic, some brief back and forth in Hebrew, and a regular occurrence of “איך קוראים” (how do you say…) as they asked and helped each other find words in English. I also made minor edits and omissions in the transcript, for the purpose of content or grammatical clarity, while also leaving the transcription as true to their words as possible.
Sitting in a lovely park in Lod, I conducted the following interview as transcribed below :
Soren: Can you introduce yourselves - whatever you want to say.
Lior: My name is Lior. I am 18 years old. And I’m studying Biology.
Adam: My name is Adam. I’m 18 years old. I’m learning at Ort Lod. I’m learning Biology. My favorite singer is Ariana Grande. I have six cats, I think, maybe, I don’t remember all of them. I love to listen to music and play videogames.
Sahar: I’m Sahar. I’m 18 years old. I live in Lod. I learn Biology. I have three brothers. I love listening to music and cooking.
Soren: My next question is - can you describe any hobbies, passions you have, or issues in the world that you really care about, what you like to learn about?
Lior: I like to listen to music and to sleep, and watch TV, and doing nothing [laughter]. My favorite singer is Nicki Minaj, we all know this. A topic that I really care about - I don’t think there is issues that bother me right now. That’s it, I think.
Adam: So as I was saying, I love to listen to Ariana Grande. I love to play video games, to hang out with my friends, to take pictures of anything, play with my cats, and to eat of course. Yeah, that’s it. I don’t have some topic right now that is bothering me.
Sahar: I love listening to music. My favorite singer is Justin Bieber. I love to cook.
Lior: What is the thing that you like to cook the most?
Sahar: Fish, I don’t know, I like to cook everything. I like to read books, watch movies and TV shows, in Turkish, and I don’t have a topic that is very interesting me right now.
Soren: What are your plans, because you’re all in 12th grade and finishing high school soon, for next year or if you have any idea in the longer-term future and what direction you might want to go?
Lior: I want to be a scientist. I didn’t think of how to do this, I don’t have any way to do this - I’m going with the flow. Next year, I’m doing the army.
Adam: First of all, I’m planning to go to the gym next year, and this year also, to lose weight of course, maybe changing my style, amen. I’ll do sherut leumi (national service year) because I am not joining the army. I don’t know where yet but I’m hoping that when I join the sherut leumi, this will help me find any direction to where I want to work or what I want to do in the future.
Sahar: At the end of the year, I am going to join the army. After that, I want to learn biology in university. After that, I want to be a teacher.
Soren: Describe your experience growing up here in Lod. Are there any defining moments or memories that stand out to you?
Lior: I didn’t grow up in Lod; I lived in Rod Hasharon. And I moved to here when I was 13 years old and I don’t know how it is to grow up in Lod because I didn’t. [Regarding the time he did spend in Lod:] It was a nice time; it was cool to be here. It was kind of a new start. Because in Rod Hasharon, everybody knew me, knew my family, and when I moved to here, I kind of have a new start - nobody knows me and I can be who I am and not be the “son of…” the “brother of…” of someone. It was exciting and is going well, I think. Actually I’m sure about it.
Adam: On the one hand, growing up in Lod was ok because the mix of the people we have here - Jews, Arabs, Ethiopians, Russians, and the rest of the people. And I loved it because a lot of different people in one place so we can learn a lot of things from each other. But from the other hand, we have racism, violence in the city and all of the things and that makes the city a bad name, stereotypes also. I’m sure that people that don’t live in Lod think that Lod is not a good city to live in and I think that that’s not true. We just need to take control of the violence that we have here and the racism we can’t control but we can maybe do things that maybe will connect the people here more. But yeah growing up in Lod was fine, sort of.
Sahar: In my opinion, Lod is a good city to grow up in because when you go to school, you have a lot of people in one class and every day, you learn something new about each other. If the person is Arabic, he teaches something about Arabic - for example Ramadan, something like that. But there’s a lot of fight in the city between Arab and Jewish and Arab and Arab. And all the time it’s not a quiet city. There’s a lot of areas that are very quiet and everything is ok but for example in this area, it’s not quiet. All the time there is shooting and fighting and I think that we need to do something to change it because it’s a very good city to live in but we need to reduce the violence.
Soren: So if you were the mayor of Lod, what might you change about Lod or what might you keep the same?
Sahar: Maybe to do activities between teenagers some place that connects with different people and show the side of every group. Maybe police in every area to make sure that everything is fine and there is not violence between people. Talk about the different people in school. It is not a thing that happens all the time. Maybe if there is some Jewish in school and Arabic and everyone thinks that the other side is bad, so maybe do a class every hour, every group talks about their religion and teach new things. In my school, we did
Lior: A night that every group give their food
Soren: So like teaching about the culture, the religion, the food?
Lior: I think that we need more activities that connect us, the groups in the city, and that’s it. I don’t think that we need more than this. We just don’t have knowledge about each other and understanding between all of us. I think the older people need it more than the young people, because we kind of start to understand each other and the old people just don’t. So I think that we need activities to old people, like not old old, maybe the age of 40 or something like this.
Adam: First of all, I would plan a plan that would help the families and people in town that have trouble with money. For example, families with a lot of children, old people. And I would also do more, like they said, activities that will connect more between different people in the city, because I think that there are a lot of people in Lod that don’t know much about other religions that are here in town, and that’s a shame because you live with a lot of people from different cultures and religions and you don’t know about even the basic things in their religion and that’s a shame in my opinion. Also, again like they said, do more activities between the teenagers from the different cultures to connect them more and understand more each other, and maybe it will break the stigmas they have on other cultures and religions.
Soren: I’m curious, because the three of you go to Ort Lod/Zail and it’s considered a “mixed school” - what is it like going to this school, and how do you think your experience there in high school is different from anyone you might know who is going to schools that are not mixed?
Sahar: It helps because one day you will work some place that there is a lot of different people and if you don’t know how to live with other people who are not like you, it’s hard because at first you will be in shock. And if you grow up with different people, it’s more easy - you know how to connect and talk and what you should say, what you shouldn’t say. Even if you join the army, the first question they ask is what languages you know. So I know a little bit of Arabic because Adam and when I was in middle school, there is a lot of Arabic, they teach us how to speak Arabic. And even in my school, there’s a teacher who teaches us to speak Arabic and there’s some schools where it doesn’t happen. It’s very important to know different people.
Adam: As Sahar was saying, when you grow up with different people, first of all, you learn new things about each other’s religions, you will get the chance to have more friends from different cultures and religions, as you can see [gestures to Lior and Sahar] and you can also experience the cultures and ceremonies in different cultures. For example, me and Lior went to mimouna [a traditional Moroccan celebration marking the end of Passover]. Sahar invited us - she’s Moroccan - and it was fun. And another example - in our school, we’re also celebrating the holiday Sigd [a holiday originating within Ethiopian Jewish communities] and it also was fun and I got a chance to eat injera [traditional Ethiopian fermented bread] and buna [traditional Ethiopian coffee] and it was tasty, except the buna, which was bitter. But yeah it’s fun to grow up in an environment that you have different kinds of people and not an environment where everyone’s the same - it’s boring and I think that students that learn in schools that are not mixed, it’s their loss, I think, because they don’t have the chance that we have to know more people and be more involved in more cultures and ceremonies.
Lior: When I was a kid, I didn’t go to a mixed school and I think that if I had a chance to choose where to go - to a mixed school or not - I would choose to go to a mixed school because there are different kinds of people and it kind of prepares you for life, when you see other people and different people who are not like you. This is why I was excited when I moved to Lod, because I knew that it is a mixed city and I’m happy that I moved to here because I saw different people. In Rod Hasharon, we were all Jewish. We didn’t see Arab people or Christian people. It was weird to see them at first but I got used to it and I’m happy I saw different people like Adam and Sahar.
Soren: What brings the three of you together as friends and what are your favorite things to do together?
[a bunch of laughter]
Sahar: Me and Adam met in 9th grade in biology class and first we didn’t talk to each other and then the teacher told us to do an experiment together so we started talking and became friends and then we met Lior in 10th grade. At first, we didn’t talk with him and after that, me and Lior started talking about horror movies, we talk a lot about this
Lior: We both don’t like the genre
Sahar: We became friends and after that, Adam joined and that’s it - the three of us are friends.
Lior: We like to laugh at Sahar [the four of us burst into laughter], she’s funny. Yeah that’s what we do.
Sahar: We go for walks sometimes, we watch movies together. Romantic movies, I choose the movies. We like to talk on the phone, play video games together like Minecraft. I think that the thing that connects us is that we have similar hobbies and we laugh a lot and we take it easy.
Soren: My last question is: what is one thing that you’d want someone who’s not from Israel, who’s never been to Israel or maybe an Israeli who’s never been to Lod - what would you want them to understand about the city Lod or the country of Israel in general?
Lior: I would tell them not to be judgemental because there are a lot of stigmas and lies about Israel and Lod and you need to live here for a while to understand what happens, to not believe what people are saying because it’s not always true, and that it. I think they need the time and to see what is Lod and how it is to live here in Israel, because it’s not the same as how people describe it, it’s different.
Adam: First of all, if they’re coming to Israel, to not be afraid from all the different people that we have here. I think that Israel is really amazing, from the culture, the food, the music, the art. Everything here is very different from each other, so that’s why I think that Israel is so special. People that are not living in Israel should come and visit here, and especially in Lod, I think. Don’t be afraid to open yourself to people here and don’t come with stigmas about Israel and Lod and every different place that you will be here because I think it can ruin your experience here in Israel, so just come with an open mind, have fun, eat hummus and falafel, eat kanafe [traditional Middle Eastern dessert] also because it’s amazing, and awame also
Soren: And injera, and Morrocan fish...
Lior: I’m still waiting for the kanafe, Adam
Sahar: I would tell this person who wants to visit in Israel - don’t listen to fake news because it’s not true, it’s all lies. It’s not a desert. Israel is very technological and there’s a lot of people who will say that living in a mixed country is bad and it creates a lot of hate in people but it’s not true because when you live in a mixed country, you see different people at once and you don’t have to go from this country, to this country, to this country to meet different people and cultures. And it’s a very nice country. I mean, there are fights, but every country has fights.
Soren: Is there anything that anyone wants to add?
Sahar: You don’t have to be scared because we have an army to protect us.
Adam: And don’t believe the fake news
Soren: What fake news are you talking about?
Sahar: Israel is a desert
Adam: That’s the main fake news that we have
Lior: That soldiers hurt people. They don’t, it’s fake
Adam: That all the Arabs here are dangerous and all this stuff, it’s not true
Sahar: We have a nice country. And when you go to Israel, it doesn’t matter who you are, if you need help, everyone will help you. If you’re Arabic, we will help you. If you’re Jewish, we will help you. I don’t know if everyone says this but there are a lot of people who say that about Israel - that when you come to Israel, everyone will help you, everyone will be there for you.
We then proceeded to chat further, with Lior and Adam explaining in depth why they like Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande, respectively, and how they all like to annoy their siblings…