Loudspeakers have been in the news in Israel. For those not in the know, the Knesset is working on a piece of legislation to ban loudspeaker use in houses of worship. This is because the Arab muezzin call to prayer is blasted over loudspeakers five times a day and the sound carries to Jewish neighborhoods. This would not be a problem at all, if one of those five times of the days were not dawn, which this time of the year is at 4:33 AM, when the majority of the citizens of the Jewish State are fast asleep.
In my own neighborhood of Efrat, some of the neighborhoods are closer to Arab villages than others, and it definitely does wake people up. Efratians are just regular people who work 9-5 and need a good night's sleep. Efrat has politely (and repeatedly) asked the villagers to turn the volume down a bit. Our Arab neighbors comply for a week or so and then the volume begins to creep back up until it's being blasted at full volume once more.
And let me tell you. It's LOUD.
Now, this isn't specific to Efrat. I know this because I haven't always lived in Efrat. In fact, when I first came to Israel in 1979, I lived for a time in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. I was in Israel as a year student at a seminary.
That first night in the dorm, it was hard falling asleep; getting used to a strange place; a new bed; dorm mates chatting in the kitchen, walking around; and so forth. But I finally did nod off. Until at dawn, the muezzin's call came blasting into my bedroom.
I was 18 and American and terrified. I didn't know it was the call to prayer coming at me from a loudspeaker. I sat bolt upright in my creaky cot, heart pounding. I thought it was an invasion, an attack of marauding Arab terrorists come to rape me and slit my throat.
I thought it was the end. (Just my luck—my first night in Israel.)
But as the prayer continued inexorably on I realized there was not a peep from my roommates. Deductive reasoning told me this was obviously NOT a terror attack. I didn't know what it was, that loud Mideastern caterwauling but I realized it couldn't be anything dangerous or I would see some movement, hear some screaming. Something. I did my best to fall back asleep, thinking I'd ask about it in the morning.
And that, my fair readers, was my introduction to Muezzin, his loudspeaker, and the Arab dawn prayers.
In every place I have since lived, I have seen and heard the same phenomenon, and heard about it from other Israelis in different parts of the country, as well. The Arabs are asked to lower the volume a bit, they do for a time, then back up it goes, the volume, in every mosque in every Arab town, city, and village in Israel. Sometimes we Jews do something smart and blast Jewish music from loudspeakers in our towns, loud enough to disturb the Arabs, during the day or at a middle of the night time OTHER than their dawn call to prayer.
That may feel momentarily good, but it does nothing, however, to rectify the situation.
More effective perhaps, was this effort by Jewish citizens to demonstrate for their mayor that we're talking serious noise pollution here.
The thing is, there is already in place, a law to limit the volume at which loudspeakers are used. Of course, the Arabs ignore the law, and nobody dares enforce it, because oh my, the left might have a conniption fit, so the law is, for all intents and purposes, worthless at keeping the prayers at a sane volume.
As Elder noted, this new bill was approved by the Knesset on Sunday and while it will need several readings to pass into law, Netanyahu threw the weight of his approval behind the legislation. The Prime Minister said that while freedom of religion is important, a government must also protect its citizens from noise pollution. Naturally, the Arabs are not happy campers. The PA is threatening to go to the Security Council. MK Zahalka said that anyone who doesn't like the noise should leave and go back to where they came from. (As if the Jews, the Yehudim in Hebrew, or Yahud as they are called in Arabic, don't come from Yehuda/Judea.)
But what really irked me most from all the responses was this message that flew into my work inbox unbidden, from the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), in the form of a press release on how this think tank sees the legislation:
IDI Scholars Responds to Bill Prohibiting Loudspeakers at Houses of Worship: "Offensive to the Muslim Israeli Community, Harmful to its Freedom of Expression"
Scholars from the Israel Democracy Institute submitted an opinion to Ministerial Committee on Legislation regarding the pending piece of legislation, scheduled to be discussed on Sunday, 13/11/2016, by the, which would ban the use of loudspeakers at houses of worship.
November 13, 2016 -------- IDI's Vice President Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer; Co-Director, The Project for Arab-Jewish Relations, Adv. Eli Bahar and Head of the Defending Democratic Values Project ,Dr. Amir Fuchs explained:
"Israel's Knesset has already passed legislation that prohibits an inappropriate level of noise. However, this new proposal asserts that any sounds emanating from a loudspeaker system will automatically become illegal. In essence, this bill seeks to ban even reasonable levels of noise. This is unacceptable and contradicts the stated purpose of this proposal, to uphold the quality of life standards for all Israelis."In addition, the authors noted that "even though the bill is worded in neutral language and defines a house of worship as a 'synagogue', 'church' or 'mosque', it is clear that in practice this law is aimed at limiting and harming the activities of mosques only. After all, only Muslim houses of worship make frequent use of public address systems."
Kremnitzer, Bahar and Fuchs emphasized that "it is impossible to ignore the fact that this bill's supporters have stated that it seeks to 'stop the broadcasting of nationalistic messages and incitement,' a completely separate issue that has nothing to do with excessive noise. Israeli law of course offers a number of legal remedies to deal with offences related to incitement. As such, there is no reason to use the pretext of too much noise."
Finally, the authors of IDI's response stated: "the use of this seemingly innocuous piece of legislation cannot disguise the nefarious purpose of its drafters: to not only violate Muslim Israelis' freedom of religion, but to stir up strife and arouse resentment among members of this community."
The IDI's policy position would have us believe that with this new bill, Israel is attempting to stifle Muslim freedom of worship. Nothing could, however, be further from the truth.
See, here's the thing: knock yourselves out praying at dawn. But do it without loudspeakers. Because you have proven that you can't use them at a normal volume, loud enough for Muslim worshippers, and soft enough for Jewish people who still have a few hours left to sleep before a long day of work. Instead, you've proven that you use these loudspeakers as a direct provocation to assert religious supremacy over the Jews and to show your non-recognition of Israel as the Jewish State.
Since these worshippers can't respect Jewish rights in the Jewish State, it seems obvious that some limits would need to be applied to keep their behavior in line with societal norms. In the Jewish State, you see, the people who comprise the majority have the right to be asleep at 4:33 AM, if they so choose, without having loudspeakers coercively blaring Muslim prayers in their ears. And enforcing this right to quiet and a good night's sleep is just what this bill aims to accomplish. It goes beyond the worthless bill limiting volume, and puts an end to the practice of using loudspeakers altogether.
Which makes that IDI policy statement really smell. Which is no surprise. Author Yitzchak Klein said, in a 2009 article about IDI entitled The strange case of the Israel Democracy Institute, "If the Church of England was once described as the Conservative Party at prayer, IDI is this country's secular left-wing elite thinking out loud. The IDI's ideal model of Israel is a secular, nonnational, economically and socially liberal society with its Jewish character and ethic pressed as much out of view as possible."
In other words, if you're with the IDI you think that it's fine to be Muslim in Israel, but don't anyone dare try to be Jewish! (Loudspeakers YES, Jewish sleepers, NO.)
And by the way, this isn't the first time the IDI has attempted to undermine and override the rights of Jews in the Jewish State. IDI also worked in tandem with the IDF to develop a strategy to carry out Disengagement. An article in Mida by Ran Baratz describes the outcome of this alliance:
In any well-governed country, the working paper which the IDF issued together with the Israel Democracy Institute would have become a major scandal. For example, under the general heading “Army-Society Relations in the Disengagement Process”, under the sub-heading “Purpose of the Teamwork,” the document identifies three different populations within the general public: (1) Those who accept the Disengagement; (2) Those who are severely opposed to the Disengagement; (3) Those who have reservations about the Disengagement (whose position is not clear cut). With respect to those who have reservations the document states (emphases added): “, because it may be possible to influence their positions and behavior.”
The scandalous discussion on influencing positions and behavior of the public is not accidental. “ by means of an advocacy campaign” is an important objective that is explicitly designated in the document.
We’ve found a definition of political objectives already in the Introduction: classifying the public according to attitudes concerning a political program, and marking one segment of the population as a target for activities designed to “shape consciousness.” The document continues to detail the objectives and the means of advocacy, including roles designated for the political echelons:
The document is an example not only of political action, but also of political commentary. It also presents the position of the YESHA (Judea and Samaria) leadership concerning a referendum – an idea that the IDI decisively rejects (after all, for the champions of “democracy” in Israel, there could be nothing more “anti-democratic” than an act of direct democracy, which renders superfluous all the power hubs the left so diligently maintain):
The IDI, in its dealings, betrays its desire to ride roughshod over the democratic norms of the Jewish State to impose the will of the Arab inhabitants on the majority Jewish population. The question is why? Why does the left think it's okay to rob Jews of their rights to give Arabs their rights in the Jewish State?
My colleague Myles Kantor says that for at least one public figure to the left of the political spectrum, the new media director of the Times of Israel, Sarah Tuttle-Singer, it's about masochism and wanting to impose that abuse on everyone around her, on an entire country in fact.
An exchange between a guy and Sarah Tuttle-Singer about the proposed muezzin law:
--"Just don't make me deaf or wake up at night?"
--"Learn to live with it- better yet, embrace it."
Healthy people don't learn to live with abuse, much less embrace it.
Masochists do, though. As I wrote about on 11/1, that's a recurring trait of hers.
Tuttle-Singer is supporting widespread aggression that traumatizes kids and damages the general population's health in a fundamental area. A mother stated in 2014:
"From the time she was born until she was nearly two, my daughter woke up in a panic every night from the call of the muezzin."
Likewise in the Jerusalem Post yesterday:
"Yungreiss...said mosques use extremely powerful loudspeakers that are unnecessarily loud, and children in the neighborhood have suffered from a lack of concentration in school due to their sleep being disturbed."
Not content to enjoy suffering privately, Tuttle-Singer wants to impose the sickness upon Israel as a whole.
And, like saying Sgt. Azaria "committed a heinous crime" and "should rot in jail," it's all because she loves Israel so much.
Just like Hamas.
The truth is, I'm not sure why this new bill would work any better than the old bill. If they couldn't enforce the volume issue with the old bill, how are they going to enforce the no loudspeaker thing with this new bill? In both cases, it would seem that in order to enforce the law, the police/army would be required to actually go into the mosques and issue warnings or even arrest worshippers for repeated violations. I can't see the Israeli government being any more brave about dealing with loudspeakers than dealing with loudspeaker volume.
They will be too afraid of the backlash of the UN, the EU, and other assorted anti-Israel abbreviations.
Which is an incredibly sad state of affairs.