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      Arab Noise Breaks Hevron's Sound Barrier; Jewish Music Legal

      Sound check: Jewish music around the Cave of the Patriarchs is within legal limits, but Arab noise broke the barrier. Police must call the tune.
      By Hana Levi Julian
      First Publish: 12/23/2009, 2:25 PM / Last Update: 12/23/2009, 2:38 PM

      The sounds of Jewish music around the area of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron may be loud, but not beyond the legal noise limit, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry.

      Not so the sounds of Arab worship, however: according to Hevron Jewish community spokesman David Wilder, the same tests found the speakers used to broadcast the daily prayers of the Muslim muezzin exceeded the legal limits.

      Ministry officials arrived at the site to measure the levels on Monday after Hevron police last Thursday ordered that Jewish music broadcast from loudspeakers atop the Gutnick Center next to the ancient tomb be silenced. 

      The ban on the music and police threats to arrest and charge Ofer Ochana, who runs a store in the center, prompted the Organization for Human Rights in Judea and Samaria to fire off a letter to Regional Police Commander Itzik Rachamim, accusing him of selective law enforcement.

      “For years, Jewish worshipers at the Cave of the Patriarchs have complained about the unreasonable and illegal noise of loudspeakers sounding the Muslim calls to prayer into the area assigned exclusively for Jewish worship…” stated the letter in part. An investigation of the noise levels conducted two years ago yielded findings that proved the Muslim muezzin broadcasts exceeded levels that in 1990 were considered “unreasonable noise.”

      Copies of the document were sent to various Knesset members and ministers, among them the Minister of Religious Affairs. On Monday, ministry inspectors showed up to measure the audio levels in the vicinity of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, Wilder said. 

      Ofer Ochana was asked to begin broadcasting music from the very loudspeakers police had ordered him to silence because it was defined as “public noise.” The tests showed that the Jewish music broadcast do not exceed legal limits, according to Wilder, who noted that those of the Arab loudspeakers, by contrast, did. (For full details, read Wilder's blog, 'The Wilder Way.)
       
      “It is expected that the Hevron police will reach two important decisions,” said Wilder. “One, the Arab muezzin should be immediately detained, commencing a criminal investigation against him, and two, the Jewish songs will be allowed to continue playing, as has been customary for many years.”

      Shas Knesset Member Rabbi Chaim Amsalem followed up by sending a letter to Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch, describing the selective manner in which the police enforced the law, as well as the discrepancies between the ban on Jewish music and the findings of the investigation.