by Ilana Messika
Residents of the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev emulated a muezzin call early Thursday morning in front of the Beit Hakerem residence of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to protest the ongoing disturbance from Muslim calls to prayer emanating from the Shuafat, Beit Hanina and A-Ram neighborhoods.
“There is a ‘noise regulation’ law in Israel restricting the amount, duration, source and timing of noise [in the public sphere] and the Muezzin calls are an infringement on that legislation,” rights activist and Jerusalem City Council member Aryeh King told TPS.
“Over the last year, the muezzins have ramped up the volume to insane levels, not only for [prayer calls] but also for weddings and other celebrations,” he said.
King said that in 2015, the Jerusalem City Council budgeted half a million shekels to enforce those regulations and to find technological solutions to resolve the issue. However, in October 2015, Mayor Barkat decided to reallocate this money for other pressing matters.
“I tried to convince him [Barkat] not cut the budget, and he promised to redistribute the funds on that issue during 2016. But a year has gone by and nothing has been done, which is why we decided to protest,” King said.
The activists came at 6 am to perform the muezzin call and claimed that they actually showed consideration to Barkat and the neighbors by not doing so at the actual time that they are routinely woken up.
“This morning we had to shatter the tranquility of Beit Hakerem in Jerusalem as part of our struggle with the muezzin noise [with] loudspeakers in order to emulate the sounds of mosques disturbing thousands of families in the various neighborhoods of Jerusalem,” said Yossi Davidoff, one of the organizers.
Police removed the protesters after a few minutes.
King said that the Arab community suffers from this issue no less than their Jewish neighbors.
“I brought Arab residents to testify at the Knesset and they have said the same thing: ‘You live 500 meters away from the loudspeakers, but we live only five meters away,’” he related.
“There are three parties who have jurisdiction to deal with this issue on their own – Ze’ev Elkin’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and, Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan,” King said.
Erdan recently gave a countrywide order for the police to enforce the noise regulation law.
On Wednesday, Nir Barkat charged Jerusalem Municipality General Director Amnon Merhav with the task of formulating a plan together with the police to effectively regulate and supervise compliance with the law as well.
“Anybody who has not been woken by the muezzin in the morning or in the evening will never understand how annoying it is,” King said. “This will not be our last protest in front of the Mayor’s house.”
Andrew Friedman contributed to this article.