Lydda, on the Plain of Sharon where Peter healed Aeneas, was home to one of the earliest Christian communities in the Holy Land (Acts 9:32). The name is derived from the Biblical city of Lod, and it was a significant Judean town from the Maccabean Period to the early Christian period. Map.
The initial settlement of the city is at 5600–5250 BC, and was a Canaan city. In 43 BC, Cassius, the Roman governor of Syria, sold the inhabitants of Lod into slavery, but they were set free two years later by Mark Antony. During the First Jewish–Roman War, the Roman proconsul of Syria, Cestius Gallus, razed the town on his way to Jerusalem in 66 CE. It was occupied by Emperor Vespasian in 68 CE.
In 200 CE, emperor Septimius Severus elevated the town to the status of a city, calling it Colonia Lucia Septimia Severa Diospolis. The name Diospolis (“City of Zeus”) may have been bestowed earlier, possibly by Hadrian. At that point, most of its inhabitants were Christian. The earliest known bishop is Aëtius, a friend of Arius. In December 415, the Council of Diospolis was held here to try Pelagius; he was acquitted.
In the sixth century, the city was renamed Georgiopolis after St. George, a soldier in the guard of the emperor Diocletian, who was born there between 256 and 285 CE. The Church of St. George is named for him.
The Madaba map shows Lydda as an unwalled city under a black inscription with a cluster of buildings. An isolated building with a columnated plaza in front of it might represent the St. George shrine.
In 1869 (during the Ottoman era) , the population of Lydda (or Ludd as it was called then) was given as: 55 Catholics, 1,940 “Greeks”, 5 Protestants and 4,850 Muslims. In 1870, the Church of Saint George was rebuilt. In 1892, the first railway station in the entire region was established in the city. In the second half of the 19th century, Jewish merchants migrated to the city, but left after the 1921 Jaffa riots.
At the time of the 1922 census of Palestine, Lydda had a population of 8,103; 7,166 Muslims, 11 Jews and 926 Christians, the Christians were 921 Orthodox, 4 Roman Catholics and 1 Melkite. This had increased by the 1931 census to 11,250; 10,002 Muslims, 28 Jews, 1,210 Christians and 10 Bahai, in a total of 2,475 houses.
During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War most of the city’s Arab inhabitants were expelled in the 1948 Palestinian exodus from Lydda and Ramle. The town was resettled by Jewish immigrants, most of them from Arab countries, alongside 1,056 Arabs who remained.
Israel’s main international airport, Ben Gurion International Airport (previously known as Lydda Airport, RAF Lydda, and Lod Airport) is located on the outskirts of the city.
Lydda is now a modern city between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but it still bears the ancient Hebrew name of Lod. It was founded by a Benjaminite family (1 Chron. 8:12) and later reestablished by Jews returning from Babylonian captivity (Ezra 2:33). St. George the dragon-slayer, a Roman soldier who became a Christian, and a symbol of Christianity’s victory over paganism, is said to have been born here.
The beautiful St. George’s church in Lydda’s Old City, rebuilt in 1871 on medieval ruins, is an interesting place to visit. Tradition has it that St. George was chained here by captors who tried unsuccessfully to dissuade him from his faith.
Phone St. George’s church: +972-8-922-2023