Thursday, December 08, 2016

The Muezzin's Call

"The call to prayer is a symbol of Islam. This is something that's existed for 1,426 years."
Imam Adel Elfar, Lod mosque, Israel

"The goal of the law is to prevent people's sleep from being disturbed."
Col Motti Yogev, Knesset parliamentarian

"We don't say they can't do it, but not so loud."
Naama Reichman, 32, Lod, Israel

"There's hate for Arabs. There are people who are against Islam."
Muhyi Sharabati, 22, Lod, Israel
The four minarets of a new mosque are seen in the Israeli-Arab village of Abu Ghosh, near Jerusalem, Nov. 22, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

"In some places, like [the mixed Arab-Jewish towns of] Jerusalem, Lod, Ramla and Jaffa, due to the sensitivity of the issue, local authorities preferred to handle it through quiet talks with the muezzins and local Arab leaders. The dialogue often resulted in solutions such as turning down the volume of the loudspeakers or, in the case of Jaffa, an agreement to install a central wireless system connecting all the mosques to one uniform call aired at the same time and at the same sound level."                                                                   Parliamentary report recommending dialogue
The very notion of Islam's traditional call to the faithful to attend prayer sessions at their local mosques five times daily has a romantic feel to it. Quaint and endearing to those visiting Muslim-majority countries where the call of the muezzin adds to the exotic flair of the environment. When, however, mosques are ensconced in mixed towns of Muslims, Jews and Christians, non-Muslims may not feel so appreciative of the 'romantic' aspect somehow missing when they are awakened by loudspeakers at 4:45 a.m.
 
Not everyone wants to rouse themselves at that, pardon the pun, 'ungodly' hour. The calls to prayer are broadcast at 4:45 a.m., 11:25 a.m., 2:21 a.m., 4:47 a.m., and finally 6:04 p.m., daily. Which is when the faithful are exhorted to rouse themselves and separate themselves from whatever else that they may be engaged in to enter the mosque to pray. It is their duty. It is their way of life. It is inextricably intertwined with their lifestyle, it is ingrained in them from childbirth to maturity
 
In Lod, about a third of the close to 73,000 residents are Arab. Reflecting the fact that about 20 percent of the citizens of Israel are Arab Palestinians. The two-thirds of the population of Lod who are not Arab, not Muslim, would very much like to be able to sleep longer than to 4:45 a.m., and many find it difficult to return to sleep once they have been awakened by the six loudspeakers that top a giant metal structure resembling the Eiffel Tower, above the Lod mosque.
 
A Likud proposal introduced to Parliament by Col Motti Yogev has been approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by his Knesset ministers. And it has been sent to Parliament for final approval. Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have, unsurprisingly, condemned the move. Even the ultra-Orthodox Jews are perturbed by it, concerned its passage might presage protest over the use of sirens to announce the once-weekly start of the Jewish Sabbath.
 
Most Jews in Lod state they don't find the muezzin calls offensive, when they regularly occur during daylight hours. But that the first one so early in the morning is a frustratingly unwelcome intrusion into their lives. And that efforts on their part, in their homes, to attempt muffling the sounds are useless. Lod Muslims on the other hand, claim the proposal limiting the muezzin represents a dreadful personal insult and an assault on their religion.


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