Haredi lawmaker puts brakes on ‘muezzin bill’ over fear it would limit Shabbat siren


JERUSALEM (JTA) — A haredi Orthodox lawmaker in Israel has halted the advance of a bill that would limit the volume of the muezzin’s call to Muslim prayer.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party filed an appeal on Tuesday with the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation over the “muezzin bill” to prevent a Knesset vote and sending it back to the government for review.

The measure had passed the committee on Sunday and was scheduled to move to the full Israeli parliament.

Litzman in his appeal cited concerns that the measure would also prevent the siren that sounds in many communities to herald the start of the Jewish Sabbath.

“For thousands of years, different instruments have been used for this purpose, including the shofar and trumpet,” the lawmaker said in his challenge. “With the advancement of technology, loudspeakers are now used to announce the beginning of Shabbat while respecting the allowed volume and in accordance to the law. The bill in its current phrasing and following the discussions that it will bring on may harm the status quo, and so in accordance to governmental protocol, this appeal is hereby submitted for further review.”

The Muslim call to prayer comes from a minaret of the mosque five times a day, including very early in the morning. In modern times, the mosques use loudspeakers to assist in making the call.

The chairman of the Joint Arab List party, Ayman Odeh, has called the muezzin bill “racist” and “populist,” and Arab lawmakers have vowed to fight it. The Palestinian Authority has threatened to turn to the international community if the bill becomes law.

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