Responding to ongoing complaints by Israelis in many communities about the loud calls to prayer by Muslim clerics, especially early in the morning, Likud MK Danny Danon suggested Monday that mosques use SMS messages to call people to prayer.
Danon was responding to complaints by Labor MK Raleb Majadla at a Knesset committee meeting that some Israelis were seeking to prevent muezzins from calling Muslims to prayer, especially in cities with large Arab populations like Jerusalem, because of the loud noise at odd hours generated by the calls. At issue, for the most part, is the early morning call to prayer, the Fajr, which is called at least a quarter hour before sunrise, when most people are still sleeping. Danon suggested that clerics use SMS messages to alert the faithful to attend services, thus fulfilling the obligation to inform them of when prayer is, while accommodating their Jewish and Christian neighbors by allowing them to sleep, and eliminating the complaints about noise.
The problem of the early morning call to prayer has come to a head in several neighborhoods in Jerusalem, where residents have flooded City Hall in recent weeks with complaints about the noise. Several weeks ago, Jerusalem City Council member Yael Anteby sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovich complaining of the refusal of authorities to enforce laws, including those against excess noise, in Arab neighborhoods.
Anteby sent the letter in the wake of recent statements by Netanyahu that Israel must enforce the law equally in all parts of the country. “There is only one state, and there is no 'state within a state.' We live in one state, that is Jewish and democratic. There is a feeling among many Israelis that enforcement of the law is less important in certain communities, and I am determined to change this.”
In her letter, Anteby said that police were not enforcing the law in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, such as Shuafat and Anata. There, she said, Arabs routinely and without interference committed all sorts of violations of the law, from mass illegal building to violations of quality of life laws – such as the loud muezzin calls early in the morning. “The situation is such that Israel seemingly does not have sovereignty over large parts of Jerusalem. Jewish residents of neighboring areas like Pisgat Ze'ev, Neveh Ya'akov, and French Hill suffer because of these violations.
“As representative of Pisgat Ze'ev,” Anteby said, I get calls from residents every day who say that the situation is unbearable. As a result, they have lost all faith in the rule of law in this country.” Anteby added that she hope the government would attempt to resolve, or at least limit, the problems, including early morning muezzin calls to prayer.