Eating in Lod's Old City
By Dustin Feinberg
Restaurants in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood of Lod offer a safe space for different communities to connect.
I’ve resided for the past few months in the city of Lod, which, despite its vast history, faces a number of pressing challenges. When I tell Israelis outside this city where I live, the common response is: “why?” accompanied by a confused and perplexed expression on their face. Some Israelis even respond by saying: “Oh, you shouldn’t live there. It’s dangerous!”
I often find myself confused by these common responses. While what I see in Lod today differs from the perception, some fears and biases are founded in a previous reality. Five years ago the city’s municipality received government-appointed counsel to combat corruption. A lot has changed since then, with new signs of vitality appearing throughout the city. But the city has always had positive attributes.
Upon arriving in Lod I noticed a lack of food options, but upon further exploration discovered a number of local eateries. There is a wide range in the Old City area. You can find falafel, shawarma, schnitzel, hummus, etc. Each place offers its own unique spin on these classic dishes, stimulating the taste palates of tourists and locals alike.
The people running the warm and welcoming Ramat Eshkol neighborhood restaurants featured below are familiar figures serving their community.
Emed, the man pictured on the left, owns the restaurant displayed above. His restaurant has been open for seven years. As he tells the story, almost 1,000 years ago his family marked a tree in Jordan, then moved to Lod, and remained here ever since. I asked Emed if he thought it was important to serve the community of Lod. He stated that it’s important to give Jews an opportunity to meet Arabs. The Ramat Eshkol neighborhood has a 70% Arab and 30% Jewish demographic disparity. While relations between Jews and Arabs are closer in Lod than in other areas in the country, food can still serve as a bridge connecting different communities. Emed’s restaurant provides a safe space where Arabs and Jews get to know one another.
The gentleman in the picture above on the right owns a restaurant that opened only six months ago. He is from Turkey and travels back there often, though his wife is Israeli. The restaurant was originally located in Bat Yam, but moved to Lod for financial reasons. In response to a question about the residents of Lod, he explained that, “there are some good people and some bad people, like everywhere else.” When you pass by the restaurant you can hear Turkish music playing, which he says attracts Israelis. Although the restaurant is not certified “kosher”, it serves only kosher meats.
Abu Mishel’s restaurant was established in the year 1955 as one of the first restaurants open to the local community after the establishment of the State of Israel. Formal attire in this country is less common than in The United States, unless you’re doing high level business—however, in Abu Mishel’s restaurant it’s not unusual to see people dressed in suits and ties seated at a table quietly chatting over a plate of hummus and falafel. When you enter the restaurant, you immediately notice pictures of notable local, national and even international visitors. Some of the most memorable, according to Mishel, include Shimon Peres (former President and Prime Minister of Israel) and Moshe Dayan (renowned Israeli military and political figure). Abu Mishel’s family dates back five generations in the nearby city of Ramle. When asked about how he sees his role in serving the community, he said he tries to set an example by being straightforward with people. He also believes it’s important to respect someone as a person rather than differentiating between Jew, Muslim or Christian.
Rami, seen in the picture above greeting a loyal customer, is a proud employee of the Ibrahim restaurant, owned by the Hamduni family. It has been open for a total of 25 years, but 13 years ago relocated across the street to its current location. The Hamduni family has been in Lod for generations upon generations. I asked what he thought about himself as it relates to the community around him. He responded by saying his business is open to the whole community, and that regardless of whether a person is a Jew or Arab, everyone receives the same high quality service.
As mentioned above, the common response given by Israelis, while rooted in a not too distant reality, doesn’t necessarily match the current state of the city. Since the government-appointed counsel, along with efforts made by organizations like Jindas, the city has been undergoing a positive transformation. And through all the changes taking place in the city, the featured restaurants consistently offer a stable and safe space for different communities to connect with each other.