Israel's bid to quiet mosque calls to prayer may be revived


A controversial Israeli bill to limit the volume of calls to prayer at mosques may be revived after it appeared to have been buried thanks to opposition from ultra-Orthodox Jews, reports said on Thursday.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, from the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, may now lift his objection to the bill if an exception can be included for Jewish rituals, the Jerusalem Post reported. The minister had feared that the bill, approved by a government committee, would also limit sirens and trumpets used for Jewish holidays or the Sabbath, the weekly Jewish day of rest.

"Discussions are ongoing," Litzman's spokesman told journalists.

The lawmaker sponsoring the bill, Moti Yogev of the hardline Jewish Home party, says it is meant to target noise at night, which would exclude Jewish rituals. According to the Jerusalem Post, Yogev also told Litzman as part of discussions to gain his support that depriving a person of sleep is considered theft in Jewish law "since it cannot be returned," in a reference to Muslim calls to prayer awakening residents.

If Litzman removes his objection, the bill could go before a government committee on Sunday and Israel's parliament for an initial reading as early as Wednesday.

The proposal has outraged Palestinians and Arab Israelis, while government watchdogs call it a threat to religious freedom and an unnecessary provocation. The draft law would also apply to east Jerusalem, occupied and later annexed by Israel and where more than 300,000 Palestinians live.

Israeli Jews living in settlements in the east of the city had protested against the volume of prayer calls.    (AFP)

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