A Jewish mayor in central Israel has decided to fight noise with more noise, announcing that city hall in in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod will broadcast Jewish prayers over loudspeakers until mosques there lower the volume of their calls to prayer.
Mayor Yair Revivo said the move was in response to complaints from residents that the recorded Muslim calls to prayer, traditionally broadcast over loudspeakers five times a day, had grown louder recently, the Walla news website reported Wednesday.
The daily calls by the muezzin, one of which takes place before dawn, have become a cause of “daily suffering and annoyance” for Jews and Arabs living close to mosques and “a clear breach of the law on noise,” he said.
So to fight the noise, Revivo says the city will blast the seminal Jewish “Shema Yisrael” (“Hear O Israel”) prayer to drown out the Muslim calls.
Lod, a working-class town east of Tel Aviv previously known as Lydda, is home to some 45,000 Jews and 21,000 Arabs, and has seen bouts of ethnic tensions over the years.
The issue of muezzin loudspeakers have been a source of friction in areas where Jews and Arabs live in close quarters. In 2014, the Yisrael Beytenu party revived a proposal that would ban electronic amplification of the calls to prayer.
That same year, Jewish activists in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv blasted the Shema prayer into the adjacent Arab neighborhood of Tsur Baher at 2:30 a.m. to protest the calls.
According to Walla, the calls became an issue in Lod when residents complained the Muslim calls had gotten louder after having recently been turned lower.
Others within the council say the volume has not changed in years.
Revivo made the announcement during Hakafot Shniyot, a post-Simhat Torah dancing event hosted by the city.
Abed el Karim Azbargeh, an Arab member of the city council, said Revivo had chosen a Jewish religious celebration for “cheap politics” and had acted in a “disgusting and irresponsible” way.
“It doesn’t bother us to hear Shema Yisrael, but it won’t cancel out the call of the muezzin, holy to Muslims,” he said, according to Walla.
In September 2015, Revivo was criticized for appearing to suggest that his city’s Arab residents were a security threat.
Revivo, who is Jewish, said Lod “would be an Arab city today if not for the garin torani — a group of religious Zionists who began working in Lod 20 years ago to strengthen Jewish identity there.