Lod Municipality Hands Out Summonses for Mosque Noise

View of residential buildings, in the central Israeli town of Lod. May 08, 2014. Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90
View of residential buildings in Lod. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The Muezzin Law, which seeks to limit or eliminate the loud calls to prayer emanating from mosques, especially in the early morning hours, has a long way to go before it is enacted into law. Unwilling to wait, however, the Lod municipality has begun issuing summonses to mosques for violating existing quality-of-life laws against excessive noise.

Dozens of the summonses have been distributed in the past several weeks, with each ticketed offense costing the mosques NIS 730. The city has begun measuring the decibel levels of the call to prayer emanating from mosques throughout the day, and calls that exceed the permitted level are ticketed.

It remains to be seen if the mosques will actually pay, Meir Layush, head of a local citizens’ committee, told the Kipah news site. “The municipality is authorized to give out these tickets, but enforcement is much more complicated than would be the case under the Muezzin Law,” which would specifically limit the loud calls to prayer. Passage of that law would “upgrade” the violation of noise laws from a civil to a criminal offense, in which case police would enforce the law.

The law was proposed by Jewish Home MK Motti Yogev. “Hundreds of thousands of Israelis in the Galilee, Negev, Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and other places in Israel suffer on a regular basis as a result of the muezzin’s call to prayers,” Yogev wrote in an introduction to the bill. “The excess noise is generated by sound systems which disturb the sleep and rest of Israelis numerous times a day, especially in the early mornings and at night.” His proposal, wrote Yogev, “emphasizes the idea that freedom of religion does not have to harm quality of life, and recommends that the use of sound systems to call people to prayer or to send out other messages be banned.” After the objection was filed, the Ministerial Law Committee will have to review it again in order for the Knesset to vote on it.

The law has elicited savage condemnation by Arab MKs, who called the law racist. The law will “turn the political dispute into a religious one and this could set off the entire region,” MK Ahmed Tibi said. The law was opposed by MKs of United Torah Judaism and Shas, with Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri saying that laws already on the books were sufficient to limit the noise from mosques, especially the early-morning calls that were the real issue for most people. The current laws were not being enforced, and if they were, said Rabbi Deri, there would be no need for a new law.

But that’s not necessarily the case, said Layush. “If it is a civil violation, the city will continue to distribute tickets, which the mosques will be unlikely to pay,” he said. “Eventually they will dispatch the sheriff (hotzaah lapo’al) to seize assets, but more likely they will have to go to court to retrieve their money.”