Litzman’s block on ‘muezzin bill’ likely to be withdrawn

However, the minister will seek an exemption for sirens sounded to notify the Jewish population that Shabbat or Jewish holidays have begun.

November 16, 2016 17:46
3 minute read.
Ya’acov Litzman

Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman . (photo credit: Courtesy)

Health Minister and United Torah Judaism chairman Yaakov Litzman said on Wednesday that he will likely withdraw his appeal against the so-called “muezzin bill,” which is designed to prevent mosques from issuing the call to prayer via loudspeakers.

Residents of mixed neighborhoods or Jewish neighborhoods close to Muslim ones have stridently complained in recent years that mosques use extremely powerful speakers when issuing the call to prayer, which wakes people in the early hours of the morning.

Bayit Yehudi MK Moti Yogev has proposed a bill that would ban all religious institutions from using loudspeakers to tackle the problem.

In a statement from Litzman’s office, the health minister said: “If it is the case, and people are disturbed by the noise from the muezzin (which is the case), and if implementation and enforcement will solve this problem, then the minister will not oppose it.”

However, the minister will seek an exemption for sirens sounded to notify the Jewish population that Shabbat or Jewish holidays have begun.

Yogev’s office said that it was working on having Litzman remove his appeal and for the bill to come before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation once again this coming Sunday for approval.

Once the bill is approved there, Yogev’s spokesman said the MK hopes it will go to the Knesset for its preliminary on Wednesday.

Yogev himself said his legislation would not affect the Shabbat and holidays sirens since it would only prevent usage of loudspeakers at night.

“The responses and the requests that we have received in the last week from Muslim and Jewish citizens, secular, religious and haredi, that the noise at four o’clock in the morning is unreasonable and is only getting louder,” he said.

Yogev told Litzman that depriving a person of sleep is considered theft in Jewish law since it cannot be returned.

“We will continue forward with this law, and on the one hand freedom of religion will not be harmed, and on the other the sleep of Israeli citizens will not be disturbed,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, a spokesman for Interior Minister Arye Deri issued a statement in the name of “a senior figure in the Shas party” who described the “muezzin bill” as “unnecessary,” saying there was no need for the measure and that current laws can be used to require mosques to reduce the volume during the call to prayer.

“There is no need for the muezzin bill,” the senior official said. “It is possible to halt the noise [of the call to prayer] according to the Law for the Prevention of Nuisances and [its] regulations.”

The senior official said the problem at present is a lack of enforcement of the existing laws. He labeled the proposed muezzin bill as an unnecessary measure that would “injure the honor of many citizens.”

Some Shas MKs have publicly criticized the bill. Shas MK Ya’acov Margi tweeted on Monday that “the noise of tractors close to his home on Shabbat is worse than call to prayer from mosques,” but that both issues could be solved without legislation.

Shas MK Yigal Gueta tweeted on Saturday night that he had considered supporting the bill, but since right-wing Jerusalem Municipal Council member Aryeh King had made the issue political, he would oppose it and call on all other Shas MKs to do the same.

Yogev’s bill has faced criticism from Arab MKs, the opposition and coexistence activists, who have said the legislation is antagonistic toward the Muslim community and is unnecessary.

According to these critiques, the current Law for the Prevention of Nuisances can be used by the police to prevent mosques from issuing the call to prayer over loudspeakers at an unreasonable volume in the very early hours of the morning.

Activists campaigning to stop overly loud calls to prayer have also complained that the police do not enforce the existing law.

But they say Yogev’s law would comprehensively solve the problem.

According to Yogev’s spokesman, the procedures for enforcing the Law for the Prevention of Nuisances are too cumbersome to be effective, which led the MK to introduce his bill.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this article.

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