Israel's Civil Administration in the West Bank is looking into ways to use technology to mute the sound volume of electronically amplified muezzin calls in mosques.
Settlement leaders frequently complain about the noise of the muezzins, whose electronically amplified calls to prayer can easily be heard in nearby Jewish settlements, including at night when people are trying to sleep. Usually the Civil Administration's response to such complaints is to forward them to the Liaison Office, which forwards them to the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Waqf (religious affairs ), which then asks the muezzin in question to turn down the volume on his sound system. That usually produces a temporary respite.
But after a few weeks, a Civil Administration official told Haaretz, the muezzins usually turn the volume back up.
Last week, therefore, Civil Administration head Brig Gen. Moti Almoz convened a meeting with some of the army's technical experts. One proposed that the problem could be solved by technology: A system could be placed in every mosque that would measure the volume and automatically reduce it if it exceeded a preset decibel level.
Installing the systems would obviously require the Palestinian Authority's cooperation. But Civil Administration officials said they think the PA would also be happy to find a solution to the issue, because many Palestinians also complain about overly loud muezzin calls.
Almoz ordered his staff to investigate the systems' feasibility. If it appears practical, the Civil Administration will discuss it with the PA, and perhaps also with international organizations.
Almoz also sent a letter to one settler leader who recently complained about the noise from a nearby mosque to tell him about the proposed solution now under consideration.
Such a technological solution could also have implications for mosques inside Israel. Just last month, MK Anastassia Michaeli (Yisrael Beiteinu ) submitted a bill to ban the use of sound systems to amplify muezzins calls entirely, saying "hundreds of thousands of Israelis" were suffering from the noise. The bill was initially supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but was ultimately put on ice due to objections from other ministers in his Likud party.
One place where friction over muezzin calls is routine is Hebron, where the Jewish community began retaliating for the noise by blasting Hasidic music. But since the mosque nearest the Jewish community is in the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is under Israeli control, the Environmental Protection Ministry ultimately stepped in to lower the volume.
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