'Muezzin Law' receives initial approval

Two new versions of law banning use of loudspeakers at night receive initial approval from Knesset.

Chana Roberts,

Muezzin
Muezzin
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On Wednesday afternoon, the "Muezzin Law" was brought for its initial Knesset reading.

There are two versions of the Muezzin Law: One of them, submitted by Coalition Chairman David Bitan (Likud) and MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), would prohibit places of worship from using their loudspeakers between the hours of 11:00pm and 7:00am, as well as limit the decibel level of loudspeakers used during the remaining hours of the day.

The second proposal, submitted by MK Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu), completely bans all places of worship from using loudspeakers and levy a fine between 5,000 and 10,000 NIS for each violation.

Ilatov said, "After a discussion with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Coalition Chairman Bitan, we agreed to vote on the Muezzin Law today. I am happy that after a lengthy fight, we will soon be finished with the issue of blaring mosque loudspeakers, and thousands of Israeli citizens will be able to live normal lives.

"This law will help thousands of citizens living in Arab towns. There is nothing religious about the law. People need to understand that those around them want to sleep."

Environmental Protection Minister Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) said, "For 25 years, we've had laws banning loud noises and loudspeakers at night. There's nothing new about this law. We are standing here in opposition of a violation of the law... Israel Police have said they are having difficulty enforcing the law when it comes to muezzin, and that the fines are too low. We will help them enforce the law, and loudspeakers can be used during daytime hours."

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (UTJ) repealed his opposition to the law after Bitan and Yogev set specific hours in which the loudspeakers could not be used.

The current version will block mosques from blasting their loudspeakers at 4am, but will not disrupt the "Shabbat sirens" on Friday afternoons and just prior to the start of Jewish holidays.

"Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens, in the Galilee, in the Negev, in Jerusalem, and in the center of the country suffer every day from the noise produced by the loudspeaker systems of places of worship," the proposal states. "These loudspeakers disrupt their sleep several times a day, including early in the morning and late at night.

"The proposed law brings a change in perspective, in which religious freedom does not harm civilians' sleep and in which places of worship will limit the use of loudspeakers at night."

Ilatov's proposal received the approval of 55 MKs, but was opposed by 48 others.

Yogev and Bitan's proposal received the approval of 55 MKs and was opposed by 47 others.

Both proposals will be brought to the Knesset Committee for further discussion.




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