The Muslim five-times-a-day muezzin’s “call to prayer” over loudspeakers, starting before dawn, is driving many Israelis crazy.
But it’s getting a bit more complicated, as many Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel are now against the proposed ban, as they are concerned that the 45-minutes-before-sundown siren on Friday afternoons in Jerusalem could also be banned.
It would be easy to miss the mosque in a temporary building with a concrete floor and corrugated roof. But it is impossible to miss the constellation of six loudspeakers atop a giant metal structure resembling the Eiffel Tower.
Five times a day, starting well before dawn, these loudspeakers broadcast the muezzin’s call to prayer in Lod, a city of Arabs and Jews near Ben-Gurion International Airport, and therein lies one more friction point in a country full of them. One group’s expression of faith is another’s noise pollution, and Israel’s government is planning a crackdown.
A proposal backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and initially endorsed this week by his ministers would authorize the government to ban the use of loudspeakers by mosques and other houses of worship across Israel. For many on both sides of the nation’s sectarian line, few questions could prove more provocative than whether the muezzin should be muzzled.
“The call to prayer is a symbol of Islam,” said Adel Elfar, the imam of the Lod mosque, one of several that have been controversial here. “This is something that’s existed for 1,426 years.” He said that he could hear bells from a Christian church in town and that Jewish residents drove around the city every couple of months broadcasting from loudspeakers on their vehicles. “The call of every religion, if you get rid of extremism, shouldn’t bother anybody,” he added.
And yet it does. Among those bothered is Lod’s mayor, Yair Revivo, who is Jewish and announced last month that the city would broadcast the Shema, a central prayer that begins “Hear O Israel,” to counter the mosques’ call.
The first of Islam’s five daily prayers begins before dawn, noted Col. Motti Yogev, a member of Parliament who introduced the new ban. “The goal of the law is to prevent people’s sleep from being disturbed,” he said. “We have no desire to harm the prayer of the Muslims.”….
The proposed ban, approved on Sunday by Mr. Netanyahu’s ministers and sent to Parliament, has drawn denunciations from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. In a sign of the complexity of the issue, it drew surprise opposition on Tuesday from Israel’s ultra-Orthodox health minister, Yaakov Litzman, who temporarily blocked parliamentary debate and sent the issue back to the ministers because it might also affect the use of sirens to announce the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath….