My home town Lydda is known today, as the center of drug dealing in Israel. Lydda has an ancient history of 5000 years, (including the St George church of the 4th century and his grave - Lydda was his hometown too) most of it is hidden under the ground, covered with dirt and garbage heaps. One third of the people who live in Lydda, which is located in the very center of Israel (10 minutes drive from Tel Aviv), are Arabs. Most of them are Muslims. When I came back to my home town, looking for my memories, I found a violent and hostile urban ruin with a surrealistic reality. This became even worse while the Palestinian terror acts continued and especially after the 9-11 events. Lydda, city with no pity, became a mirror of the conflicts and difficulties in Israel.
Once upon a time the international airport of Israel was called the Lod Airport. In the fifties and sixties, in the very new and very small state of Israel, Lod was like being near the window to the world. It was also one of the few places were one could see, beside the Jewish immigrants from many different countries, also many Arabs, Muslims and Christians.
I grew up in Lod (Lydda). I arrived with my parents, Holocaust survivors in 1950. I left in 1977. As a child I loved watching the airplanes buzzing in the sky. It was exciting and imaginative. In the seventies the name of the airport was changed. Lod that was neglected for many years was forgotten. The city used to be surrounded by huge olive plantations. Now there are only a few left. My visit to my hometown was painful. I couldn't find any traces of my memories. I found the old city abandoned ruined and neglected. I also found Arabic optimistic dreamers: “One day the whole world will come and see the history and the culture of our city…”
2003 Berlinale - FORUM section.
2003 Docaviv - Tel Aviv
2003 International Showcase Competition - Hot Docs, Toronto
May 1, 2003 at 9:45pm Royal Cinema
What does someone feel when he finds out that his home town became the center of drug dealing in his country? How do we feel when we discover that our memories are wiped out and covered with ruined houses and heaps of garbage? What does someone feel when he learns that this home town has a history of 5000 years, most of it hidden underground?
I was a baby when I arrived at Lydda with my parents, Holocaust survivors, in 1950. Lydda is located in the center of Israel very close to the international airport. I left in 1977 with my baby daughter, after I was widowed in the October war of 1973. I came back to my home town shooting this film and was welcomed with a hail of stones. I found a violent and hostile urban ruin with a surrealistic reality. A city with no pity.
The picture is very sensual: colorful with seasons and variety of people and sounds - airplanes, cars, trains, church bells, Muslim, Christian and Jewish prayers, sheep, thistles, cocks crying out, loud popular Arabic music and with the blooming and fruits of jasmine, lemon, figs, grapes, dates and pomegranates. The senses of smell and taste stimulated with the food.
About 2000 years ago the city was an important Jewish cultural center. In the 20th century, during the British era, it was the district of Lydda. The international airport and the biggest railroad junction in the Middle East were built. The city which was for centuries surrounded by olive trees became the main center of olive oil production. Now, the sign “for sale” is seen on almost every veranda of the houses in the city. Most of the olive trees were cut down and the oil presses were abandoned. A magnificent Byzantine mosaic of the 4th century and other antiques are covered with ruins and garbage heaps. So are my memories.
Islam was born in the desert. A place where acts of stealing, killing, murder and rape are legitimate. Muhammad thought that if his believers would be busy praying, their minds will be distracted from these bad deeds. He also forbid killing, unless it’s a must… In the city of Lydda every third resident is a Muslim Arab. The prayer of Allah Akkbar is heard loud five times every day from the mosques that are scattered all over.
Every year on November 16th , people flock to the city to mark Saint George’s interment day. Georgeos was a Roman soldier who lived in Lydda in the 4th century. His house once stood here, where his church now stands. He was tortured to death because of his Christian faith. His remains were buried here. St George, a fearless warrior, pure of heart and an idealist, is also, according to myth and legend, the good knight who courageously battled the evil, cruel dragon and vanquished it. When the church was built in the 4th century, the name of the city was changed from Diospolis, city of God, to Georgiopolis. In the Bible her name is Lod. The British called her Lydda, same as in the New Testament.
Lydda was taken from the crusaders by the Muslim warrior Salah A Din on 1187. He ruined the church of Saint George. Instead in 1268, Baibars the sultan built the mosque called El Omar. Nowadays the church and the mosque share one mutual wall. The Imam did not allow me to film inside the mosque: “The believers might think you’re a crusader photographer, coming to conquer the mosque.” Two months later, after the 9-11 events, Bin Laden also announced that he is fighting the crusaders. 800 years have passed since the great victory of Salah A Din, but for the Muslims that war never stopped.