Haredi lawmaker halts progress of ‘Muzzein bill’ over fear it would limit Shabbat siren

Marcy Oster

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

Known as the “muezzin bill,” the measure passed the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. It had been scheduled to move to the full Israeli parliament.

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism Pary on Tuesday filed an appeal with the ministry to prevent a Knesset vote on the bill, and sending it back to the government for review, citing concerns that it would also prevent the siren that sounds in many communities to herald the start of the Jewish Sabbath.

He cited the possible damage to the “status quo” as a reason to send the legislation back to the community.

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“For thousands of years, different instruments have been used for this purpose, including the shofar and trumpet. 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.”” Litzman said in his challenge.

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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