Law and Order
This morning I was sitting in my grandparents’ living room, whose adjacent veranda perches on the nose of Mt. Carmel, facing the sea. I was reading Danielewiski’s House of Leaves, which I highly recommend if you’re looking for a novel to source-check and cross-reference while on ecstasy. Anyway, in the middle of a three page narrative footnote on prostate orgasms, labyrinths and Dante, I was roused by a sound I wasn’t used to hearing. I soon recognized the call to prayer, haunting its way up the mountain from the lower city like the sound of water burning. It was beautiful and resonant, the words too heavily layered in echo to be disentangled.
I asked my grandmother if somehow, in all these years, I had never noticed the call. She said no, I hadn’t missed it because it wasn’t legal. Apparently, state law stipulates that muslims are not allowed to broadcast the call to prayer over loudspeakers in Jewish cities. They are allowed to amplify the call only in Arab cities. “Sometimes though,” she adds, “they do it anyway just to piss us off. Five times a day, you know, and each call lasts five minutes or more. I can’t concentrate like that. Drives me nuts.” She wondered aloud what the Jews had done to anger Haifa’s Arab population; why they decided to broadcast the call, today of all days.
Can I get a fact check on any of this? I guess I’ll take her word for it.
Haifa is one of Israel’s few cities of cohabitation. Jews and Arabs live together here, peacefully. Once a year, near Hanukah and the beginning of Ramadan, there is a festival of cohabitation in the city’s ancient neighborhoods at the foot of the mountain. The mood is generally jovial, amicable and consumerist. Vendors line the narrow streets, which are packed like sausages with a dense flow of human traffic. Music (live and otherwise) leaks through every chink in the tired mortar, catching its loose sleeves on the chaos of power lines, clotheslines and banners overhead. A menagerie of billboards, bilingual graffiti and scrap iron mod-art decorate the dusty stone walls. I went to to the last couple of festivals. They were unimpressive at best, but I guess it’s the thought that counts.