Mourning in Lod: A personal look at Israeli-Palestinian pain

Even before the current violence in Gaza, the history of Israeli-Palestinian interactions has been filled with violence and death in both groups. It is easy to forget that each of those deaths lead to a grieving family. In Mourning in Lod, documentary filmmaker Hilla Medalia uses two of those deaths (and a life that grew out of that) to help us see into this history of pain, but also to see a sliver of hope for a community.

Lod/Lydd is a “mixed” city about 30 miles west of Jerusalem. About 30% of Lod’s population is Arab. Arab and Jewish citizens live as neighbors and friends. We will find out that the two victims in this story were not unknown to each other. The picture we see here is a community, but one that we see is on the brink of trouble.

Protest every 10th of the month for justice for Musa Hassuna, a Palestinian man killed in a violent protest in Lod. From MOURNING IN LOD, directed by Hilla Medalia. Courtesy of MTV Documentary Films.

In May 2021, Musa Hassuna and his family were preparing for a trip for spring break. He was out with his brother and friends late. On his way home he encountered a skirmish between provocative settlers and Arabs. One of the settlers shot and killed Musa. The next day, with many Arabs in town for Musa’s funeral, some became violent. As Yigal Yehoshua was driving home he was hit with a rock and soon died.

We hear their stories from their widows and other family members. We are in their homes as they struggle to deal with the absence and grief that was set in motion by these events. Much of the pain they suffer grows out of the fact that the two men were not actively political. They wanted to live with their families and in their communities. But the deaths created even more tensions within the community—especially as the justice system began to play out in what certainly looks like a double standard with several Arabs arrested for Yigal’s murder, and Musa’s murder deemed “self-defense”.

When we hear Yigal’s story, we learn that his wife and brother chose to donate his organs. His organs went to four people, including Randa Aweis, an Arab Christian woman living in East Jerusalem. Her family sought to thank Yigal’s family and attended his thirty day memorial service, where they were welcomed by the family (but felt like others were not as welcoming). Randa and her family serve as the reminder that even in the darkest of times, some light can still be found.

Randa Aweis (l.), an Arab woman who received a kidney from a Jewish man killed in a violent protest in Lod, and Sharihan, her daughter. From MOURNING IN LOD, directed by Hilla Medalia. Courtesy of MTV Documentary Films.

This is a film about reconciliation. Even though the two deaths lead to sorrow and anger, it also serves to bring people together. We not only see Randa and her family at Yigal’s service, we also see Musa’s father and Yigal’s brother meeting to talk and to share their desire for justice for all those involved in the death. Reconciliation can be hard. For those in the film, the desire to live in their community is strong. They do not want to be cut off from their homes and friends. I expect there are many in Israel and Palestine that share such desires.

The last few months serve as a reminder of just how hard reconciliation can be—especially when old issues and injustices are left to multiply over decades. This film does not touch on the issues of Israeli politics that are involved. (And both Yigal and Musa were Israeli.) Instead, it strives to be a personal look at the pain (and the hope) that has come to these families. We are left to extrapolate that to the ever-growing number of deaths in Israel and Palestine.

Marwa (l.) and Milla, the widow and daughter of Musa Hassuna, a Palestinian man killed in a violent protest in Lod. From MOURNING IN LOD, directed by Hilla Medalia. Courtesy of MTV Documentary Films.

Mourning in Lod is now in select theaters, and will be available on Paramount + with Showtime on May 17.

Photos courtesy of MTV Documentary Films.

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