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Ma'arat HaMachpela: Audio levels don't top legal limits

By David Wilder
12/21/2009, 12:00 AM

Hebron police today requested that the Environmental Protection Ministry perform noise measurements in the vicinity of  Ma'arat HaMachpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

When the ministry inspectors arrived, Ofer Ochana was asked to begin broadcasting music over loudspeakers from the roof of the Gutnick Center in order to perform the tests. It should be remembered that only a few days ago he was warned that he would be immediately arrested should he broadcast the music, defined as 'public noise.'

The examination concluded that the audio levels do not exceed the legal limitations.

On the other hand, the intensity of the sound produced by speakers of the Arab muezzin, also tested by the Environment Ministry, was found to exceed the limits permitted by law.

As a result it is expected that the Hebron police will reach two important decisions:

1. The Arab muezzin should be immediately detained, commencing a criminal investigation against him

2. The Jewish songs will be allowed to continue playing, as has been customary for many years.

Today, Shas MK Rabbi Haim Amsalem sent a letter to Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovitch on this matter:

MK Amsalem's letter stated:

For years Jews have complained about the unreasonably loud audio sound from the mosque loudspeakers directed straight into the area allocated to Jews at Ma'arat HaMachpela.

Two years ago a professional examination to measure the noise level was carried out, and found that the speakers exceed permissible levels by a very large rate. To this day nothing was done to stop the phenomenon, although the High Court recognized the right of prayer as one the foremost human rights (HCJ 466/06, 10356/02 , 10497/02)].

In light of this, the police action to stop the Jewish prayer melodies, broadcast from speakers of the Gutnick Center, within the Jewish area of the Ma'ara courtyard, thereby enforcing the law only against Jews, is a very serious.

The steps taken by the police against Mr. Ofer Ochana represent selective law enforcement, and is a serious breach of freedom of expression and freedom of worship.

I request that you order the police to immediately annul this unfair decision.