Lod Residents Fight for Their Rights

23 July 2015

On June 30, Abed Shahada, Shatil’s Lod Project Coordinator, walked into the office of the Central Regional Planning Commission and delivered a stack of 700 objections to the new Lod city master plan. The plan grants long-overdue recognition to the city’s Arab neighborhoods, but fails to provide adequate housing and schools for Arab residents.

These objections, each of which is signed by a resident of Lod, reflect the results of a long-term project to raise residents’ awareness about planning rights, improve existing plans, and ensure that the Arab community is represented in the planning process.

“It’s one step toward changing the reality, and there is a lot more work to be done,” Shahada said.

Over the past two years, Shatil, in partnership with NIF grantee Bimkom and with the support of the European Union, initiated dozens of meetings and trainings to help residents understand how population projections, zoning designations, and urban-renewal schemes enshrined in official plans can affect their lives and communities, and to mobilize them to advocate for their needs.

Many Arab neighborhoods in Lod are not recognized, which has made nearly all new building illegal and put thousands of homes under threat of demolition. Arab neighborhoods also severely lack infrastructure and services. The new master plan takes steps toward resolving those problems, but has many gaps and contains some provisions for urban renewal that could harm low-income residents.

For example, the current plan is based on an estimated population growth rate of 171%, but a Shatil survey in the Arab neighborhood of Pardes Snir reported that the number of family members had increased an average of 5 times—an increase of 400% — since 1995. The gap between these figures has serious implications for the amount of housing, public facilities and services, infrastructure, and open areas needed both for the present and future.

In addition to work on the master plan, Shatil worked with Pardes Snir residents to create a new map reflecting existing buildings in the neighborhood. And thanks to a Shatil training in the mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood of Banit, a volunteer is now on hand to inform residents of their rights as the neighborhood faces urban renewal plans.