President hosts interfaith meeting on Muezzin issue

President Rivlin hosts a meeting between Jewish and Muslim leaders. “We can come to a solution without a new law.”

Ido ben Porat ,

Meeting at Rivlin's residence
Meeting at Rivlin's residence
Mark Naiman/GPO

President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin today hosted a meeting between Jewish and Muslim leaders seeking to promote dialogue between the religious groups regarding the conduct of the muezzins across the country.

The meeting was called in the wake of new “Muezzin Law” that has been drafted and is making its way through the Knesset legislative process. The new law would prohibit houses of worship, specifically mosques, from using loudspeakers which disturb the sleep of nearby residents when the Muezzin calls worshipers to prayer in the early hours of the morning.

The President opened the meeting by saying that “There are issues that are extremely sensitive to many residents of this country. Jerusalem always melds our many voices together – the prayers of the Jews along with the calls of muezzins and the church bells. I am the son of the translator of the Koran, who kept the 613 commandments, and I recognize the need to walk ‘between the seams.’”

“I wanted to sit and speak with you and to see if there is a path we can walk together despite our differences. I thought that perhaps such a meeting would have an impact on the public and give us some direction.”

Rabbi Aryeh Stern, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Jerusalem, told the meeting: “I see the need for dialogue between the Jewish and Muslim religious leadership that might possibly eliminate the need for such a law. I think there should be a joint decision that will, on the one hand, ensure that the places where the volume of the muezzin is a problem are properly dealt with and on the other hand, halt the current legislative process dealing with the issue."

President of the Islamic Court, Sheikh Abdel Hakim Samara stressed that “We can reach an agreement and a solution wherever the loudspeakers are a problem. The solutions should not include raising the sword of law. We all agree that there is need to lower the volume in problematic areas. We can do this without a law.”

Rabbi Yosef Yashar, Chief Rabbi of Acre, which is a mixed Jewish and Arab city said, “I want to tell a bit about Acre’s story. It’s a city where Jews and Arabs living together is a fact. We have done years of work in the field promoting dialogue. This path has proven itself. It’s not without problems. It’s not easy. There is still hatred. But we're talking to one another. We’re in contact.”

“We have not turned the Muslims into Zionists or the Jews the other way around. But the dialogue has proven itself. We have also had provocations in which the muezzin volume was raised as an act of defiance. However, our dialogue has allowed us to find solutions to all the problems. We can overcome the problems with dialogue and I invite everyone to come and see how this operates in the field. Dialogue is stronger than the law.”

Sheikh Mohammed Ciooan, head of a committee representing about 400 imams, told the meeting: “The dignity of man should guide us. We can protect one other. We are connected to each other, and we have no other choice than to reach agreements through dialogue, without such laws. We have already publicly requested the imams to lower the volume in all the communities involved.”

“We have one destiny and one future,” said the sheikh. “We will continue and we’ll correct the problem. We will bring in engineers who will check everything that’s needed, and we will issue a call to all worshipers to have some consideration and decrease the volume anywhere that it’s a problem.”