By Michele Chabin
JERUSALEM (RNS) A long-standing row between the Jerusalem municipality and Muslim officials over the decibel level of prayers emanating from the city’s mosques at prayer times intensified this week after reports that the city will begin monitoring for noise pollution.
While the issue isn’t unique to Jerusalem, it is a particularly sensitive matter in this city, where Jews, Muslims and Christians live in close proximity; both Israelis and Palestinians claim it as their capital.
The call of the muezzin, broadcast by loudspeakers on nearly 200 minarets, can be heard across Jerusalem’s hills and valleys, especially in the middle of the night, when the rest of the city is asleep.
News that the city’s municipality plans to create a task force to measure noise levels in the city’s mosques angered the city’s most senior Muslim official.
“Mosques in Palestine in general, and in Jerusalem in particular, have been targets of a vicious campaign by the occupation authorities,” Muhammad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, said in a statement Sunday (March 2), according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.
Hussein accused “the occupation authorities” of trying to “efface all Arab and Palestinian landmarks in Palestine and replace them with Jewish landmarks.”
A Jerusalem spokesperson said the city has received numerous complaints about excessive noise from mosques through the years and has earmarked $57,000 for a pilot noise-monitoring program to begin later this month.
Israeli media reported that mosques exceeding legally permitted noise levels will be given devices to lower the volume.
Moshe Mordechai, a resident of Armon Hanatziv, a Jewish neighborhood situated next to a couple of Arab villages in east Jerusalem, said the prayers and sermons broadcast Friday from the mosques over huge PA systems is “deafening.”
“I believe in freedom of religion,” Mordechai said. “But this is truly noise pollution.”