Review: Lyd


Lyd, also known as al-Lyd, Lydda, and Lod is an almost 5,000-year-old city in southern Israel, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In this film, Lyd is a character who tells us her story (voiced by Maisaa Abd El-Hadi – “The Alleys”).

The story of modern day Lyd (Lod, in Hebrew) begins in 1948 with the formation of the state of Israel and the expansive war that took place between the Israeli army and the indigenous Palestinians. The Palestinians refer to what happened next as the Nakba, Arabian for “catastrophe.”

The oft-quoted claim of the Jewish colonists who moved into Palestine from Europe and elsewhere after WWII, was that Palestine was “a land without people for a people without a land.” Some argue that the true meaning in Hebrew is that the people who were there were not a “people,” in the sense of other national groups and therefore not worthy of being considered owners of the land. This is perhaps even worse than believing there actually were no people there, because it relegates the inhabitants to a lesser station of existence compared to others. This is at the heart of all colonial enterprises; it explains what happened and is still happening in Lyd and elsewhere.

The film can be divided into two parts: an historical description of the city before 1948 and what happened during the war that followed the recognition of the State of Israel; interspersed with an imagining of what might have happened if Lyd had not been invaded and forcibly made part of Israel. This latter part is usually described as “science fiction” in descriptions of the film, but it is more correctly identified, in my opinion, as an extrapolation of what the development of Lyd could have been without the Nakba. The filmmakers clearly delineate the difference by having the extrapolation done in animation.

The film opens with an overflight of present day Lyd, while the city describes her almost 5,000-year history up to the end of WWI, when the Ottoman Empire collapsed and occupation by Britain began. After WWII, the United Nations ended the British Mandate (occupation) and partitioned the land into Jewish and Arab parts. Even though the Jewish ownership of land was only 6.6 percent at the time, they received 53 percent of the land and the Arabs got 43 percent. The Arabs refused to accept the partition and fighting broke out. The superior Jewish forces, exemplified by the Palmach, overwhelmed the Arabs, seizing more land, killing or expelling the Arabs. This was the Nakba. Vintage film from that time is used to illustrate the events.

The story shifts then to an imagining where the actions after WWI occurred differently, with no occupation and no overwhelming of the Arab population. Then back to reality.

We are introduced to Eissa Fanous, a survivor of the Nakba, an artist, and now an old man. He recalls a terrible massacre of people which took place in a mosque at the hands of the Palmach. He and other Arab boys were taken by the invading Israelis and told to clean out the dead bodies without their parents ever even being informed. He helped to clean up, removing rotting bodies day by day while he was only 12 years old. We then see 1989 recordings of members of the Palmach recounting their part in the massacre from the vantage point of 40 years. Their nonchalant descriptions are chilling.

Even now, 75 years later, the process of expulsion and land appropriation continues in Lyd. The mayor of the city talks of how things are improving, with the building of new high-rise housing by religious Jewish groups. This housing and the areas around it are of course off limits to non-Jews. Tensions are high in the city, as the uneasy truce between Jew and Arab frays with each additional incident.

The film’s directors, Palestinian Rami Younis (“Tel Aviv on Fire”) and Jewish Sarah Ema Friedman (“Here After”), have assembled archival material and present day interviews in order to give us a picture of a human tragedy hidden by adept world-wide propaganda, as it continues to unfold day by day, person by person.

“Lyd” is an eye-opening documentary that every thinking person with a respect for all humanity must see.

Runtime: One hour, 18 minutes
Availability: Now playing in NYC

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