Last month's conflict between Israel and Gaza militants saw tensions come to a head in the "mixed" city of Lod, where Jewish and Arab Israelis are now trying to patch things up.

But some hold that nothing will ever be the same again in this industrial city near Tel Aviv, home to 80,000 people, approximately one-third of whom are Arab Israelis.

Residents shocked by the descent into violent riots and two deaths in their hometown have set up the WhatsApp group "Pashut Day" - "That's Enough" - in an attempt to re-establish connections and open dialogue.

"We're all so sad about what happened," said one of the group members, Pnina Rintsler.

"But we need to talk in order to not be scared of one another," said the 42-year-old playwright.

Arab Israelis, the descendants of Palestinians who stayed on their land following Israel's creation in 1948, comprise some 20% of the population.

The minority community's deep-seated grievances resurfaced last month, which saw fighting ignite in Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem between police and Palestinians.

Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas then launched barrages of rocket fire and Israel pummelled the coastal enclave with air strikes.

Lod was not immune, becoming a stage for shootings, burning cars, ransacked businesses and smouldering synagogues.

Violence also broke out in other cities including Acre and Ramla, which like Lod were once heralded as models of cohabitation.

'Inclusive' measures

For Amnon Be'eri-Sulitzeanu - who co-directs the Lod-based Abraham Initiatives organisation aimed at opening dialogue between Jewish and Arab Israelis - "there have always been tensions between communities in mixed cities".

Arab citizens of Israel frequently speak of discrimination they face. But this time, Be'eri-Sulitzeanu says, tensions dialled "up a notch".

Two men, one Arab and one Jew, died in the clashes in Lod.

"I never thought it would get this bad," said Ikram Mansour, 48.

"We grew up together, Arabs and Jews; we live together in the same buildings," said the 48-year-old mother who joined the WhatsApp group hoping to revive the spirit of coexistence.

For Thabet Abu Rass, who co-directs the Abraham Initiatives group, a number of factors exacerbated recent tensions, notably the relocation of nationalist Jews to Lod in recent years.

In the wake of last month's violence, the organisation has launched a national campaign to promote living side by side.

The initiative includes publishing photos and video clips of Jews and Arab Israelis going about their daily lives, together, in newspapers, and on television as well as social media.

But to improve equality such a campaign is not enough, says Abu Rass.

"We need to establish more inclusive public policy," he said, that better support the Arab minority.

'Rebuild trust'

In Lod, calm has returned but the wound remains open.

In the district of Ramat Eshkol, only traces of black smoke on the sidewalks recall the violence that transpired.

Israeli police arrested hundreds of people suspected of taking part in the riots and intercommunal violence.

"We went through a difficult period, but it's calm now," said Adil Nofal, 17, speaking in timid Hebrew.

The young Arab student lives in one of the yellow-tinted buildings typical of the neighbourhood, and says he likes "the city, its people, and its diversity".

"My Jewish neighbours are like brothers," Nofal says.

But for Tsur, a Jewish passer-by in his 50s, "nothing will be like it was before".

"Before I would buy pita bread at Arab bakeries and I would often eat in their restaurants, but now I don't want to," he said.

"Something broke."

For Rintsler, the playwright in the WhatsApp group, each side has a responsibility.

"It doesn't do any good to blame each other and try to find out who started it; it's the story of the chicken and the egg," she said.

"We have to see how to progress," Rintsler said, adding she has thought of putting on a play uniting Jews and Arabs.

"But if we don't talk to each other, we won't get anywhere," she continued.

"It's the only way to rebuild trust."

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us