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New Jerusalem mayor said pushing plan to quieten mosque loudspeakers

TV report says Moshe Lion’s initiative includes swapping out old speakers for more muted ones, allowing police to turn down volume of call to prayer

A man looks out from a minaret at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem on January 23, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A man looks out from a minaret at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem on January 23, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion is advancing plans to require mosques to turn down the volume of loudspeakers during the call to prayer, Hadashot TV news reported Tuesday.

The plan will reportedly be one of the first major initiatives pushed by Lion, who entered office last month after winning a second round runoff in municipal elections in November.

As part of the plan, the report said, old loudspeakers at mosques will be switched out for new ones that are quieter; the volume of the call to prayer will not be allowed to exceed the limit permitted under noise ordinances; and police will be permitted to turn down the volume of the speakers if they are too loud.

The proposal is being formulated with the support of local leaders in a number of East Jerusalem neighborhoods, among them Beit Safafa, Beit Hanina, and Shuafat, the network said.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon speaks outside the Jerusalem City Hall on December 4, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“Our goal is to deal with this issue with all the relevant parties so that all those involved will be content,” Lion said.

A preliminary budget has been approved for a pilot program to test the plan’s efficacy, the report said, with the initiative expected to be rolled out in full in March. The expected cost for each mosque under the program is NIS 50,000-70,000 ($13,380-18,730).

Proposed Knesset legislation known as the “Muezzin Bill,” that would limit the use of loudspeakers for religious purposes, has languished since clearing its first hurdle toward becoming law in March 2017.

Critics of the bill argue that the measure unfairly targets mosques, whose muezzins use loudspeakers to announce the call to prayer five times a day, including during the pre-dawn hours.

Other critics of the bill argue that it is superfluous, as the problem can be tackled using existing noise pollution laws. Proponents argue that police do not enforce the existing rules, and thus more specific legislation is needed.

Jewish residents of East Jerusalem and other areas of Israel have long complained about what they say is the excessive noise coming from mosque loudspeakers, as they say it wakes them up in the middle of the night.

Sponsors of the bill were forced to withdraw it for further revisions a number of times after it was first proposed in November 2016, as ultra-Orthodox lawmakers feared the original bill’s limitations would outlaw the Shabbat siren, which is heard in cities with large Jewish populations Friday evenings to mark the start of Judaism’s day of rest.

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