Photo: Dudu Azulay
Photo: Dudu Azulay

Jaffa: Neighborly noise dispute turns nasty

Hundreds of Jaffa Muslims, Christians to protest against complaints from neighbors over noisy churches and mosques. 'It's an integral part of city, these complaints reek of racism,' protesters say

Jaffa Arabs against Jewish neighbors: Hundreds will protest on Friday in front of the exclusive Jaffa Andromeda Hills residential project to convey their message: 'Jews endanger religious activity in Jaffa, we will not be silenced'.


The protest, scheduled for last week and postponed due to the Carmel fires, is against Jewish residents who have complained that the muezzin's calls in the mosques and the bells from the church are disturbing the peace in the neighborhood.


Over the last few weeks, the heads of mosques were summoned to the 'Green Police' offices of the Ministry of Environmental Protection. There it was claimed that the muezzin's calls to prayer, which can be heard from the Siksik mosque and the Jebalya mosque in the Ajami neighborhood, disturb the other residents in the area and make too much noise.


St. George Church on Louis Pasteur street also came under scrutiny. Police officers are sent there regularly during prayer time to request that the priest and that the scouts choir lower their voices, because of complaints from Jewish residents in the area.


The issue came to a head last week when Yoav Shnitzer, a lawyer representing the residents of Andromeda Hills which is adjacent to the church, approached the church's management. He threatened that if the noise continued, lawsuits would be brought against those responsible for the devaluation of the property.


'Church here since 1870'

The steps taken by the Andromeda Hills residents have led the Muslim and Christian communities in Jaffa to join together and demonstrate in a vocal protest march around the exclusive project.


"The last time the police came I told them: 'Are you crazy? Do you think I would go to the police over a cantor's prayers?'" Chairman of the Jaffa Orthodox Church Association Gabriel Cadis noted angrily. "This isn't Ramat Aviv or Ramat Ha'sharon."


Cadis told Ynet that the church had been there since 1870, long before the Andromeda Hills project. This is a major threat to religious activity, he said, and an attempt to prevent freedom of religion which is prescribed in the Basic Laws.


'Integral part of city'

There are 25,000 Arabs in Jaffa today. Some 7,000 of them are Christians; 5,000 belong to the Orthodox Church. Leaders of the Muslim community, including local council member Omar Siksik, will be taking part in Friday's protest. Siksik was interrogated by the 'Green Police' due to complaints made over the noise in the mosque his family has been running since 1883.


Next week, Siksik is to meet with the 'Green Police' in order to try and solve the conflict. "They need to understand that even if we lower the decibel level, the muezzin's call will still be heard in nearby buildings in the early hours of the morning," he said.  


"Mosques and churches are an integral part of the Jaffa scenery, just as much as the old framers and cobblers. There are many veteran Jewish residents who live near the mosque and with whom we have had good neighborly relations for years; they aren't bothered by the noise.


"There is no doubt that these complaints reek of racism. Anyone who comes to live in Jaffa and thinks there are no mosques or churches, is an ignoramus who should go live somewhere else".


'The noise in intolerable'

Mr. Shnitzer, representative of the Andromeda Hills residents, explained the other side of the story to Ynet: "The State has rules against noise disturbance, and it doesn’t matter if these disturbances are 500 years old.


"We understand the sensitivity of the issue, and for the most part, there are good people there, but after being there a few times, the noise is simply intolerable. Legally, when there is a nuisance or injustice then an attempt to sue those responsible is allowed."


Shnitzer claims that the church has yet to answer his calls. "We cannot continue under the precincts of the community committee," he says. "If it doesn't end well, we will have to go to court and no one wants this to end up there. The main problem is the use of loudspeakers by the church choir. Every resident in Tel Aviv and in Israel is entitled to live in peace and quiet.


"Our goal is to end this in the best way possible, in a neighborly and friendly fashion, and we fail to understand why the noise levels can't be lowered. Every expert we have brought in, on a number of times, has stated that the noise levels exceeded the standard."



פרסום ראשון: 12.09.10, 23:14
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