temple mount mosque 248.88.
(photo credit: )
While recent rioting in and around Jerusalem's Old City has left religious tensions between the capital's Muslims and Jews simmering, a new dispute - this time concerning the volume of prayers, more than the prayers themselves - is resonating in outlying neighborhoods.
Jewish residents of these areas, all of which are in close proximity to Arab neighborhoods in the capital's east, have begun to complain that the adhan, or Islamic call to prayer, which is broadcast five times a day from loudspeakers inside local mosques, has become an intolerable nuisance, particularly when it blasts through their neighborhoods at 4 a.m. every day.
"It's as if they took the speakers and put them inside my bedroom," Yehudit Raz, a resident of the northeast Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "And it's not from one mosque or two mosques - we're talking about tons of speakers going off, one after the other, every morning."
According to Raz, many residents of Pisgat Ze'ev are fed up with the noise, which they say has only gotten louder of late. And the police and municipality, to which, Raz said, residents have complained a number of times, aren't doing anything about it.
"Everyone is shirking their responsibility," she said. "All we want is for them to turn their speakers down. How would they feel if we did the same thing to them?"
Raz added that the gunshots and fireworks that often accompany weddings in the nearby neighborhoods of Shuafat, Anata, Beit Hanina and Hizme were adding to the problem, and that residents of Pisgat Ze'ev felt as if they were under siege.
"It's like we're living under their rule," Raz said, adding that the Shuafat refugee camp affected her the most. "It's the area that's closest to my home," she said. "And they just don't care.
"Why must they wake up the whole neighborhood with the noise?" she went on. "Can't they just get alarm clocks?"
City Councilwoman Yael Antebi, who lives in and represents Pisgat Ze'ev at City Hall, told the Post on Thursday that she had begun to take the matter up with the municipality.
"These mosques are violating noise ordinances," Antebi said. "And the police are refusing to get involved."
Antebi said that while she understood recent tensions in the capital might make police and other city officials wary of confronting local leaders in the Arab neighborhoods, it was not an excuse.
"It's easy for us to say that now isn't a comfortable time to deal with this issue, but we can always say that," Antebi added. "Meanwhile, people can't sleep. This is affecting people's everyday lives."
The mukhtar of Shuafat, Jameel Sanduka, told the Post on Thursday that he and residents of his neighborhood saw the issue quite differently.
"We were living here long before Pisgat Ze'ev even existed," Sanduka said. "And this is just a continuation of all the troubles that have been going on in Jerusalem, and on the Temple Mount."
He continued, "It's not the noise that bothers these people; Islam bothers them. But there are things that bother us, too. The [security barrier] that has been put up in Shuafat, the checkpoints - these things disrupt our daily lives. So I say, if they have a problem with the noise, it's their problem."
Sanduka did say that police had contacted him numerous times and asked him to lower the speaker's volume.
"And we did that," he said. "We turned it down a bit. But I can't tell my people to turn the speakers off. This is part of our religion."
Asked why leaders from both communities couldn't come together and try and find some sort of middle ground, Sanduka said that he was always willing to talk.
"If they would like to come here, as neighbors, and sit and drink coffee, my hand is always open," he said. "When there was trouble between the two communities in the past, I personally went to Pisgat Ze'ev and met with leaders there. I've been to their community center, I have a number of friends there.
"But people who want to start trouble - what can I tell you? They're going to start trouble."
While the municipality on Thursday said in a statement that the issue was known to them and was being dealt with through a number of channels - including a joint effort with the police - other Jerusalem residents, from Mount Scopus to Gilo, complained to the Post of similar experiences.
"When my wife and I lived near the Mount of Olives cemetery, the speakers were always going off, and loudly," said a former resident of the area who asked to remain nameless. "We realized after some time that it was a recording - an mp3 file or something - because a few times, really early in the morning, I guess they had turned the speakers on before they turned on the computer, and the music that comes on when Windows starts up would just blast, really loud, through the whole neighborhood."
Benny A., a resident of Gilo, told the Post that the adhan had affected "hundreds" of people in his neighborhood as well. "We hear it every morning. People get woken up, they can't go back to sleep, and then they show up to work just exhausted," he said.
"What I don't understand," he added, "is that if this is a religion that says it preaches tolerance, why aren't they being tolerant here? I'm all for freedom of religion and I think they should be able to practice their religion openly, but when it comes to tolerance, they're forcing their religion into our lives, and we're their neighbors!"