Thursday’s demonstration was peaceful, with protesters marching from the city's main mosque to the city hall, chanting and carrying banners that read, "I have a right to a home" and "We will rebuild every house that is destroyed".

Land Day commemorates street protests by Arab-Israelis in Galilee in 1976 against confiscations of Arab land. Six demonstrators were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces.

Thirty years on, Arab-Israelis face similar hardships.

In Lod, they have difficulty getting housing permits, and there are about 2,000 illegal houses in the city. Arab-Israeli residents often have to fight for basic municipal services.

Lod, a 10-minute drive from Tel Aviv, was chosen for the main Land Day commemoration in Israel because it is the Arab-Jewish city most blighted with social and economic problems, said Buthayna Dabet, manager of the mixed cities project, Shatil.

Discrimination

"The whole city is like a disaster zone," Dabet said. "It is like a dying city and is a symbol of the outcome of discriminatory government policies."

"I get on with the Jewish residents here. There is no problem; we are neighbours. The problem is just with the government"

Ahlam abu-Sharech,
Arab-Israeli resident of Lod

About a third of Lod's population are Arab-Israelis.

"I get on with the Jewish residents here," says Ahlam abu-Sharech, a mother of three from Lod. "There is no problem; we are neighbours. The problem is just with the government."

Abu-Sharech lives with her family in the centre of Lod, in a house that her grandfather lived in for more than 10 years. For the past two years, she says, the family has been fighting a court decision to demolish the home.

"They say the house is not legal, not registered with the municipality," said Abu-Sharech. 

Ten houses have been demolished in the past three months.

Arab-Israelis from around the country came to join the Lod protest. Organisers estimated that about 2,000 people attended.

Salam al-Shkeh, a 35-year-old from Yafo, said, "It's important for me to come here to identify with Land Day but also with the problem of house demolitions in Lod".

"It is crucial for us to give them some feeling of solidarity," said Fathi Marshood, from Haifa.

Police action

Another Land Day demonstration was broken by Israeli police in annexed east Jerusalem. Rallies also took place in the West Bank, in the northern Israeli town of Sakhnin, and in the villages of Kfar Kanna and Arraba in Galilee – the sites of the original protests.

Israeli police broke up a
demonstration in east Jerusalem

Israel was on high security alert on Thursday.

According to the Israeli radio station, Arutz Sheva, Jewish residents of Lod rallied to protest against illegal construction by Arab-Israelis and the granting of permission for the Land Day marches. 

But Jewish Israelis were also in attendance at the Arab-Israeli protest.

"It's important that Jewish people come to Lod today and say that the anger felt here is legitimate," said Yana Knopova, coordinator of the Israeli group Coalition of Women for Peace. 

"I had to come, I feel responsible," said Hava Keller, 78, from Tel Aviv. "I fought in the 1948 war, but this is not the state that I wanted."