Wonderful Neighbors

By Abe Selig, writing for JPost, which I reprint here in full:
While recent rioting in and around Jerusalem's Old City has left religious tensions between the capital's Muslims and Jews simmering, a new dispute - this time concerning the volume of prayers, more than the prayers themselves - is resonating in outlying neighborhoods. Jewish residents of these areas, all of which are in close proximity to Arab neighborhoods in the capital's east, have begun to complain that the adhan, or Islamic call to prayer, which is broadcast five times a day from loudspeakers inside local mosques, has become an intolerable nuisance, particularly when it blasts through their neighborhoods at 4 a.m. every day. "It's as if they took the speakers and put them inside my bedroom," Yehudit Raz, a resident of the northeast Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "And it's not from one mosque or two mosques - we're talking about tons of speakers going off, one after the other, every morning." According to Raz, many residents of Pisgat Ze'ev are fed up with the noise, which they say has only gotten louder of late. And the police and municipality, to which, Raz said, residents have complained a number of times, aren't doing anything about it. "Everyone is shirking their responsibility," she said. "All we want is for them to turn their speakers down. How would they feel if we did the same thing to them?"

Raz added that the gunshots and fireworks that often accompany weddings in the nearby neighborhoods of Shuafat, Anata, Beit Hanina and Hizme were adding to the problem, and that residents of Pisgat Ze'ev felt as if they were under siege."It's like we're living under their rule," Raz said, adding that the Shuafat refugee camp affected her the most. "It's the area that's closest to my home," she said. "And they just don't care.

The mukhtar of Shuafat, Jameel Sanduka, told the Post on Thursday that he and residents of his neighborhood saw the issue quite differently. "We were living here long before Pisgat Ze'ev even existed," Sanduka said. "And this is just a continuation of all the troubles that have been going on in Jerusalem, and on the Temple Mount." He continued, "It's not the noise that bothers these people; Islam bothers them. But there are things that bother us, too. The [security barrier] that has been put up in Shuafat, the checkpoints - these things disrupt our daily lives. So I say, if they have a problem with the noise, it's their problem." "And we did that," he said. "We turned it down a bit. But I can't tell my people to turn the speakers off. THIS IS PART OF OUR RELIGION" (my emphasis added). "When my wife and I lived near the Mount of Olives cemetery, the speakers were always going off, and loudly," said a former resident of the area who asked to remain nameless. "We realized after some time that it was a recording - an mp3 file or something - because a few times, really early in the morning, I guess they had turned the speakers on before they turned on the computer, and the music that comes on when Windows starts up would just blast, really loud, through the whole neighborhood." Benny A., a resident of Gilo, told the Post that the adhan had affected "hundreds" of people in his neighborhood as well. "We hear it every morning. People get woken up, they can't go back to sleep, and then they show up to work just exhausted," he said. "What I don't understand," he added, "is that if this is a religion that says it preaches tolerance, why aren't they being tolerant here? I'm all for freedom of religion and I think they should be able to practice their religion openly, but when it comes to tolerance, they're forcing their religion into our lives, and we're their neighbors!"