Members of the Knesset's Committee on the Rights of the Child visited the mixed Jewish and Arab city of Lod on Sunday and spoke to local children. Their visit followed a wave of murders in the city, some of them Muslim honor killings of women.
“I saw the fear in the children's eyes. Some were even afraid to speak. Their distress reminded me of the distress among children in Sderot as their city was hit by rockets,” said MK Danny Danon, head of the committee. Danon called on local and national authorities to intervene immediately, for the children's sake, saying, “They won't have a second childhood.”
MK Avi Dichter, former head of Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), spoke to Arab high school students in Arabic. He came away with some optimism, noting the students' interest in learning, and their success in a new program that includes a weekly course in Israeli law.
However, he said, some of the problems facing Lod cannot be solved by the government. “The young women are afraid to leave their homes after dark, for fear that it would be seen as a blow to 'family honor,'” he said. “Their fear cannot be dealt with by the city, or even the country. Arab society bears responsibility.”
Local officials told committee members that they are facing a severe shortage of psychologists and of Arab social workers.
The government approved a multi-faceted plan Sunday aimed at improving security and quality of life in Lod. The plan is expected to cost 160 million shekels, including 10 million to be spent on increased security.
Thirty million shekels will go to improve city infrastructure, find a solution for illegally built houses, and bring order to poorly planned neighborhoods. The Housing Ministry is planning the construction of 7,500 new housing units, 3,000 for the Arab community and 4,500 for the Jewish community, to be marketed primarily to security workers, young couples, and the hareidi-religious community.
Sixty million shekels will go to traffic safety and improved transportation. Four million shekels will be added to the annual social welfare budget, and funding will be provided to allow the city to hire more social workers. Ten million shekels will go to build sports facilities in the city.
Prime MInister Netanyahu announced to his cabinet on Sunday that he will be checking progress monthly.