Sleepless in Rehovot

For many of the city's residents, their complaints about booming fireworks and loud music seem to fall on deaf ears.

Imagine that you've spent a fortune on building a nice house, looked into every detail, toiled for months to make sure that everything caters to your needs and taste, waited for several years until construction was finished - but one factor evaded you and you realize it only when it's too late. This has happened to thousands of Rehovot residents who are regularly awoken in the middle of the night by loud techno music that often continues until five in the morning. The nightly abuse of residents of the northern part of Rehovot commenced after a few clubs and a wedding hall started operating in the vicinity. "The first night I woke up, I thought I was back in miluim (military reserve) in the middle of a bombardment," says one frustrated Rehovot resident who asked not to be named. "It took me a moment to realize it was merely fireworks. Mostly the noise is fireworks and extremely loud music that can be heard all the way to Ness Ziona. Sometimes the music lasts all night long. I spend too many sleepless nights. No matter what I do, I can't evade it, and in the morning I'm a wreck. It's frustrating because we are absolutely helpless, while the authorities - the police and the Rehovot municipality - do not do enough, if anything, to solve the problem and stop this nightmare." Rehovot residents have been suffering from such noise bouts since the territory around the railway station turned into the hottest local club scene. Clubs such as Metrock, Metro, and Tarazina, as well as the Shamayim Kchulim wedding hall, have been operating north of the city's railway station for several years on agricultural land owned mainly by the Ya'acovs, a wealthy family from Be'er Ya'acov. According to Rehovot municipal spokesperson Carmela Kooper, "The area has developed into a hi-tech resort and adjacent facilities. Clubs fall into this category; and if owners have the appropriate licenses and operate legally, there's no reason not to allow the activity. This should, of course, include the taking of proper measures against noise. Park Hamada (the science park) is ideal for such activity, as the area empties of its inhabitants at night. It is not a residential area." Some parents are satisfied with the development of the nightlife area. "My 22-year-old daughter Ravit is an enthusiastic clubber and goes out a lot," says local resident Dov Kahan. "As I know, she and her friends sometimes drink; I'd rather she goes out in Rehovot and does not need to drive or be driven back from Tel Aviv at 3 a.m. or later. I'm totally unaware of the noise coming out of the clubs. I've never been in the area at night, as I'm too old to be allowed in." Many parents appear to be unaware that some of the clubs operate illegally and do not have such safety features as emergency exits, fire extingushers or maximum capacity. Two of these clubs - Metro and the Shamayim Kchulim wedding hall - have licenses, but Metrock and Tarazina operate illegally. Tarazina is owned by Nir Forer, a nephew of Rehovot mayor Yehosha Forer. The younger Forer's partially outdoor club has been operating without a license for the past six years. When questioned about the club's legal status, Tarazina shift manager Assaf Cohen says laconically "We are working on it now." According to municipal officials, Nir Forer is not treated differently from other offenders despite his close family relationship to the mayor. "To prove this," Kooper told Metro, "we sued Forer for construction without a proper license and for running a business without permits. He was tried and sentenced last February." Regarding conflict of interest, Cooper says the mayor "does not participate in municipal meetings devoted to the clubs, mainly because of this issue." Because the younger Forer extended the club area by 30% while running his business without a license, the procedures for licensing cannot resume until he removes the extension. As he has been reluctant to do either, he is now held in contempt of court and his next trial is scheduled for October, says Kooper. Shamayim Kchulim has a construction permit, but as owners Moshe and Yigal Mizrachi did not wait for a permit for their new wing and went ahead with the construction, they are being sued by the Rehovot municipality at the local magistrate's court. Moshe Mizrachi claims that the loud music does not come from the wedding hall. Fireworks is another story. Mizrachi told Metro that setting off fireworks is legal before 11 p.m; and since it is fashionable, people pressure him to shoot fireworks into the sky or they will turn to other wedding halls. However, he promised to do his best to minimize the nuisance. Officials at the Rehovot municipality confirmed the legality of setting off fireworks before 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends. The law does not prohi bit fireworks as long as the operator is legally licensed. "I have complained to the police more than a dozen times over the past few months about the music and fireworks and have the complaint numbers to prove that it was way after midnight," a scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science told Metro. "When it comes to noise from loud music or fireworks, one should call the police immediately. They are in charge of law enforcement," Kooper advises. "As for the fireworks, there's a problem," explains Shfela precinct police spokesperson Limor Goite. "If the felony is not performed in front of a police officer, there's no way we can press charges." "This is somewhat curious," responds the scientist. "Is there anything more obvious than the fact that by the time somebody at [the emergency hotline] 100 picks up the phone, the fireworks show is over? Do I need to suggest an ambush or whatever strategy that will bring a policeman to the club area before the show? It's no big deal to detect fireworks. They are up in the sky every single night." While the municipality is battling the law offenders in court - a procedure that might take several years - the abused residents have turned to the police, hoping their salvation would come from law enforcement. Both the police and the municipality need a court order to close a club. "We suffer the most from the noise because our houses are relatively close to the clubs - and they are extremely noisy," says the scientist. "For a while I believed the police were doing their job, until I realized that nothing was being done. The music never stops." After checking police diaries, Goite confirmed that that during May and June the police received several complaints about noise emanating from clubs at Park Hamada, but she had no account of any fines handed out to club owners. She added that as the police are deployed for the summer, Rehovot police chief Alon Levavi has instructed his policemen to cooperate with the Environment Ministry's patrol vehicle that is in charge of noise level measurement. She added that as the police are deployed for the summer, the Rehovot police chief Alon Levavi has instructed his policemen to cooperate with the Environment Ministry's Union of Local Authorities patrol vehicle that is in charge of noise level measurement. Last Friday night, June 30, the music resumed. One irate neighbor called the police at 2 a.m. to complain about the nuisance coming from what she assumed was the Metrock club. At 3 a.m. a policeman returned her call to say, "We checked. The noise is coming from a new club called Hi-bar." It appears that the issue is far from a being resolved.