President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday morning hosted a meeting of Jewish and Muslim leaders in Israel, in an effort to resolve the debate surrounding the proposed bill prohibiting muezzin calls from 11 PM to 7 AM.
“In our lives together there are issues which are very close to the hearts of many of the residents of this country,” the president told his guests, noting that “Jerusalem has always brought together the various voices, the Jewish prayers with the Muezzin’s call to prayer along with the Church bells.”
“I am the son of a man who translated the Quran and observed the Jewish commandments, and I recognize the need to tread a fine line,” President Rivlin said. As such, he endeavored “to sit and speak with you in order to see if there is a way to tread this line even when there are conflicts. I thought that perhaps such a meeting could have an impact on the whole public, and that it would be a shame that a law should be born which touches on the issue of freedom of faith of a specific group among us. Perhaps the voices heard today can be used to pave the way.”
Rabbi Aryeh Stern, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, told the meeting: “I see the need for a joint call for dialogue, which should be issued by the highest Jewish and Muslim religious leadership in the country – and which in turn will possibly pull the rug from under the need for such a bill to be passed. I think it should be a joint call, which on the one hand will stop the legislation itself and on the hand will deal with the places where the volume of the muezzin is an issue.”
President of the Islamic Sharia Court Sheikh Abdel al-Hakim Samara stressed that “through an agreement and discussion we can reach solutions wherever the loudspeakers are a problem. Once the law goes through without us attempting to resolve the issue through dialogue, it causes us to feel that our freedoms are vulnerable. Solutions can be achieved even without the threat of the law looming over our heads. We all agree there is a need to lower the volume in problematic areas and we will act to ensure this, regardless of the law.”
Rabbi Yosef Yashar, Chief Rabbi of Acre, shared his experience of coexistence in his mixed city, saying, “I want to tell you the story of Acre – a city where Arabs and Jews live together as a fact. For years now we have been doing fieldwork in terms of dialogue. This way has proven itself. It is s not without problems, but we are talking.”
“Can I say that it is easy? It is not easy,” he continued. “Can I say that there is no hatred? There is hatred. But we’re talking. We are in contact. I do not make them Zionists or Jews and nor does the opposite happen. The dialogue has proven itself. We, too, have experienced acts of provocation in increasing the volume in defiance, but we have talked, we realized the problems and solved them. The problem can be overcome with dialogue and I invite everyone to come and see how it happens on the ground. Dialogue is stronger than legislation. We still have a lot of problems that revolve around coexistence but they will not be resolved with legislation.”
Sheikh Mohammed Ciooan, Head of the Imam’s organization which represents around 400 Imams, told the participants, “Human dignity should guide us. We’ll watch over each other. We are connected to each other, we have no other choice and I hope we can reach an agreement through talks, without such laws. We have already made a public request to lower the volume in all the communities involved. It will be difficult for us to accept and deal with such a law. We have one destiny and one future. We will continue to act to correct this, through our communities, we will bring engineers that will check everything and we will issue a call to all worshipers to work for consideration and decrease the volume anywhere that constitutes a problem.”David Israel