Walking the Tightrope of Coexistence

On Tuesday morning, President Reuven Rivlin hosted Jewish and Muslim leaders in a meeting to discuss the Muezzin Law.
In our lives together there are issues which are very close to the hearts of many of the residents of this country. Jerusalem has always brought together various voices, the Jewish prayers, the Muezzin’s call to prayer along with the Church bells. My father translated the Quran and observed the Jewish commandments, and I recognize the need to tread a fine line,” President Rivlin told those in attendance.
“I asked to speak with you to see if there is a way to tread this line even when there are conflicts. I thought that perhaps such a meeting could have an impact on the whole public, and that it would be a shame that a law should pass which impinges on the freedom of faith of a specific group among us. Perhaps the voices heard today can be used to pave the way.”
The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Aryeh Stern told participants, “I see the need for a joint call for dialogue, which should be issued by the highest Jewish and Muslim religious leadership in the country. This, in turn will possibly pull the rug from under the need for such a bill to be passed. I think it should be a joint call, which on the one hand will stop the legislation itself and on the hand will deal with the places where the volume of the muezzin is an issue.”
Sheikh Abdel al-Hakim Samara, the President of the Islamic Sharia Court said, “Through agreement and discussion we can reach solutions wherever the loudspeakers are a problem. Once the law goes through without attempting to resolve the issue through dialogue, it makes us feel that our freedoms are vulnerable. Solutions can be achieved even without the threat of the law looming over our heads. We all agree there is a need to lower the volume in problematic areas and we will act to ensure this, regardless of the law.”
Chief Rabbi of Akko Rabbi Yosef Yashar described the coexistence in his city, saying, “I want to tell you the story of Akko – a city where Arabs and Jews live together as a fact. For years now we have been doing fieldwork in terms of dialogue. This way has proven itself. It is not without problems, but we are talking. Can I say that it is easy? It is not easy. Can I say that there is no hatred? There is hatred. But we’re talking. We are in contact. I do not make them Zionists or Jews and nor does the opposite happen. We too have had provocations of increasing the volume as acts of defiance, but we talked, we recognized the problems and solved them. The problem can be overcome with dialogue and I invite everyone to come and see how it happens on the ground. Dialogue is stronger than legislation. We still have a lot of problems that revolve around coexistence but they will not be resolved with legislation.”
The Imam’s Organization represents around 400 Imams. Its head, Sheikh Mohammed Ciooan, told the participants, “Human dignity should guide us. We’ll watch over each other. We are connected to each other, we have no other choice and I hope we can reach an agreement through talks, without such laws. We have already made a public request to lower the volume in all the communities involved. It will be difficult for us to accept and deal with such a law. We have one destiny and one future. We will continue to act to correct this, through our communities, we will bring engineers that will check everything and we will issue a call to all worshipers to work for consideration and decrease the volume anywhere that constitutes a problem.”
It appears that the President of Israel is encouraging dialogue but not relying on it. The President also called Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on Tuesday night and urged him not to pass the Muezzin Law in preliminary reading, according to Channel 10. Prime Minister Netanyahu supports the law and demands party discipline. For the President to intervene and prevail on MKs to buck party lines and vote against the law is closer to meddling than to democratic practice. It is one thing to encourage dialogue. It is another to mix into partisan politics. President Rivlin's rationale must be that coexistence is so important that the end justifies the means.

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