Residents of Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood have a secret weapon in their fight against deafening muezzin calls from neighboring Arab villages. It has a shaved head, a scalp tattoo, and croons “Mitga’agea” (I Miss You) with an impressive Mizrahi swagger. It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane – it’s Eyal Golan.
French Hill Community Council director Yochanan Bechler says negotiations with Issawiya religious leaders to lower the volume of the local muezzin have gone nowhere, and residents are fed up with the calls to prayer that roll over their homes at 4 a.m. So the community has floated a new idea: Blast Eyal Golan at 3 a.m. to give Issawiya residents a taste of their own medicine.
Bechler, for his part, would prefer they play Mozart at full volume.
“That way, it will even be classy,” he said Tuesday.
Other residents said that they might switch to heavy metal because Golan wasn’t annoying enough.
The community council director said the muezzin calls were part of a long series of complaints against French Hill’s Arab neighbors, including a rash of sexual harassment against women walking at night, shooting into the air during weddings, fighting with kids on the sports field, and bringing drugs and alcohol into the neighborhood.
Bechler has been in contact with Issawiya muktar (community leader) Darwish Darwish to request that the imams turn the muezzin calls down a notch. Darwish told The Jerusalem Post that the imams had agreed to lower the volume three months ago, but it was apparently not low enough for the French Hill residents, who have continued to complain.
“They want to do this against the faith of God and against Islam,” Darwish said on Tuesday. “This is our tradition, we get up at 4 a.m.”
He said the French Hill community council was “extremist” and accused it of being inflexible.
“We get up at 4 a.m., so if they put [music] on at 3 a.m., they’ll just be helping us, so we’ll definitely be ready for our prayers,” he added.
Bechler denied that the initiative was motivated by racism or anti-Islam sentiments.
“We don’t want to close the muezzin, there are rights for everyone,” he said. “But where there are rights, [it shouldn’t be] at the expense of someone else – they need to get their full rights, but so do the residents of French Hill. The problem here isn’t an argument about religion; on Yom Kippur, they drive through our neighborhoods at full speed, which is incredibly disrespectful.”
The proposal will be on the agenda next week at a neighborhood meeting. If the residents approve it, Bechler said, the neighborhood will look into different possibilities for rigging up the speakers, including putting them on balconies of apartments facing Issawiya or other areas right on the seam between the neighborhoods.
He added that the community council was checking into the legality of the initiative, since it was not interested in breaking the law, but he expected to find a way to operate the speakers early in the morning or at the same time as the muezzin call.
A municipality spokesman declined to comment on the initiative and said police handled all noise complaints.
Noise regulations are determined by the Environmental Protection Ministry, which stipulates that building construction, digging and demolition cannot occur between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. Noisy gardening tools are prohibited during those hours, as well as during “siesta time” between 2 p.m.
and 4 p.m.
According to Islamic tradition, there are five designated daily Islamic prayer services.
Preceding each service is the adhan, a call to prayer from a mosque’s minaret, which is usually amplified by loudspeakers. The times change based on the sunrise, but currently the earliest call to prayer is at 4:06 a.m. and the last call to prayer is at 9:20 p.m. in the Jerusalem area.
In December 2011, MK Anastasia Michaeli (Yisrael Beytenu) proposed a bill to restrict “unreasonably loud noise” emanating from houses of prayer, including any sound disturbances from synagogues, churches and mosques. The so-called “muezzin bill” garnered widespread opposition for being anti-Muslim and was delayed indefinitely, though Michaeli’s spokeswoman said on Tuesday that Michaeli was still pursuing the bill.
Sharon Udasin contributed to this report.