speaker (illustration)
speaker (illustration)iStock

A woman from Afula was questioned by the police yesterday over her playing Shabbat songs on speakers for two minutes every Friday afternoon right before the start of Shabbat.

The speakers are customarily turned on in the minutes preceding the start of Shabbat in dozens of cities across Israel.

Shortly after the performance of the Shabbat songs in Afula, police officers from the Afula police station showed up at the entrance to the woman's home, threatened to confiscate her property and even summoned her for questioning.

The questioning took place during the fast day of the 17th of Tammuz, when Jewish law prohibits eating and drinking.

"At first I was with the station officer who brought a haredi policeman and together they played the 'good cop, bad cop' game," the woman told Israel National News. "The haredi policeman tried to talk about my conscience of how I can sleep at night when I don't fulfill the commandment to beautify the Shabbat and I don't respect my neighbors. And he dug into me a lot on the subject."

"After an hour of hearings, I was taken in for questioning by a criminal investigator," she said. "I waited for almost an hour and a half and then the interrogator started with questions liked: Do you understand the meaning of your offense? Why didn't you turn it off? And all sorts of silly questions that were unrelated. From there they proceeded to the opening of a criminal case. Although I repeatedly said that if the police officer requires me to turn it off until I have a permit and a court order this is what I will do, they still claimed that it is an order from above and there is nothing they can do. When I raised the issue of the muezzin which wakes me up every night at ridiculous hours, he said that everything related to that issue is out of their purview but is under the authority of the Supreme Court."

"I left the market and I never stopped crying," she added. "I am a law-abiding person and raise my children to love police officers and respect the law at a very high level. I am a returning resident after 15 years in the US, a social activist in Afula and the founder of the Yishai congregation in Afula. People have donated all the money to me for the speakers and are now donating money to me to fight and claim my rights and clear my name. As of yesterday, residents have been playing music from 4pm for an hour or two of Shabbat songs and religious songs. And I'm talking about non-religious people."

The woman's attorney, Michael Litwok, sent a complaint to the police stating: "The police did not present any order and / or evaluation and / or opinion examining the intensity of the noise and it is not clear by virtue of what the police decided to abuse its power and authority."

He said, "Thus, my client, who is a completely normative woman, a mother of eight children, with no criminal record at all, found herself forced to face a criminal investigation, and a serious violation of her privacy for doing nothing wrong. My client found herself during the fast of Shiva Asser B'Tammuz with the police and detained for long hours and even had her ID, fingerprints and photos taken as if she was one of the worst criminals. All of this too please a handful of violent residents who do not find Shabbat songs pleasing to their ears."

"My clients can not help but wonder about the selective enforcement against them, while dozens and hundreds of complaints about noise and music at high volume are not enforced at all. We have not seen the Israeli police act in this way towards the speakers of a mosque - which clearly indicates selective enforcement and, moreover, persecution against the Jewish religion. Instead of dealing with real crime, it seems that the police are covering for their helplessness with the opening of an investigation against a 'criminal' suspected of playing Shabbat songs for a just two minutes a week."

B'Tzalmo chairman Shai Glick responded: "It is unfortunate and outrageous that the Afula police, instead of strengthening the Shabbat observant in the city who make the eve of Shabbat pleasant, choose to fight them. There is no doubt that the speakers do not hurt anyone, but the opposite prevents the atmosphere of Shabbat eve the city of Afula, which is a traditional city. While muezzins are heard all over the country at a decibel level that exceeds the law and at night and nothing is done here the police turn their power against the weak. We will continue to act and strengthen those who choose to play Shabbat speakers in accordance with the law."