The Ministerial Law Committee on Sunday will discuss a law proposed by MK Anastasia Michaeli that would require mosques to temper the prayer announcements made by muezzins at Islamic prayer times. While most members of Michaeli's Yisrael Beiteinu party support the law, it is not clear that most of the other factions in the coalition do. Many government officials, including Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, have expressed opposition, fearing the reaction of Arabs to the law.
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. Many Israelis have complained about the call to prayer, which is often broadcast very loudly with the help of speakers and amplifiers, especially in cities with large Arab populations like Jerusalem.
Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, who has made fighting noise pollution a priority, is a strong supporter of the bill. In recent weeks, Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gappaso and Afula Deputy Mayor Boris Yudis have pressed Erdan to initiate laws against noise pollution, and have attempted to recruit MKs to their cause as well. Michaeli, who is sympathetic to their cause, drafted the bill that the Committee will discuss Sunday.
“No one is against freedom of religion,” Michaeli said. “But along with freedom of religion must come environmental awareness, and consideration of others. When families, the elderly, small children, and working people who need their rest are forced to wake up in the early hours of the morning because of the muezzin's call, we are talking about a clear violation of the law. People who live near mosques need not suffer, and coexistence cannot be a reason for damaging the quality of life,” she said.
Michaeli said that she had gotten firsthand complaints about the extent of the problem from friends who live in the Ganei Aviv neighborhood of Lod, a middle class development of villas and cottages. Residents there have complained for years of the problem, she said. “It is everyone's right to pray, but it is also everyone's right to sleep well, and to enjoy peace and quiet in their homes,” she said.