An Eruv is described http://www.
secularism.org.uk/news/2013/ 09/controversial-eruv-given- go-ahead-by-local-authorities as a symbolic boundary, consisting of poles connected by wire to form ‘gateways’, which will turn Bushey into an area where strict Sabbath rules are relaxed for orthodox Jews. They won’t now have to worry about being forbidden to carry or transport items like wheelchairs, pushchairs and handkerchiefs. The application was made on behalf of the Bushey United Synagogue.
The actual Planning application describes the scheme thus… “Erection of supporting poles and linking wires associated with the creation of an Eruv (continuous boundary designated in accordance with Jewish Law) in 25 locations around Bushey”.
The paperwork goes on to explain that “Jewish Law prohibits Orthodox Jews from carrying or transporting on the Sabbath day, but carrying is permitted within the defined boundary of an Eruv (plural: Eruvin), as is the use of pushchairs and wheelchairs.
“Although symbolic, an Eruv boundary has to have a physical continuity. It is formed by utilising continuous local features such as fences or walls alongside roads, railways or terraced buildings. However, where this continuity is breached, e.g. by roads or footpaths, then such a gap must be closed by the erection of a notional ‘gateway’. A gateway can consist of poles linked on top by a wire crossing the highway at a height of 5.5 metres in order to clear all vehicle traffic. Where the wire only crosses a pedestrian footpath the height of the wire is 2.5 metres.”
The Bushey Eruv is only the latest of several in North London. An Eruv has been approved and implemented in Borehamwood/Elstree. The London Borough of Barnet has approved two Eruvin, the first covering much of Hendon, Finchley and Golders Green, and the second, within Edgware and Hale wards. Further Eruvin are planned for Woodside Park and, further afield, in Greater Manchester.
Strong objections have been voiced and these include….
It would impose religious practices on the non-Jewish community.
The Eruv would promote one faith which is a minority in Bushey.
The Eruv would promote social exclusion.
The Eruv would impact property values.
The Eruv would creation a sense of ownership over the land within the Eruv.
The planning committee dismissed all these concerns and passed the proposal unanimously. The agenda papers included this officer comment: “As a symbolic boundary which only has spiritual significance, the Eruv itself is not a structure which requires planning permission and it is not for the Planning Committee to refuse or approve the Eruv as such.”
Hertsmere’s Portfolio Holder for Planning & Localism is a councillor who was educated at JFS, which describes itself as Europe’s largest and most successful Jewish secondary school and “committed to the development of students… who have a strong sense of identity with Judaism and Israel”.
The Watford Observer reported that the proposals met with fierce opposition from some residents. A public meeting was attended by hundreds, who called on Bushey United Synagogue to defer the Eruv application and allow for greater consultation between the orthodox Jewish community and wider Bushey population. “There was an overwhelming feeling that these discussions were too little, too late, as the meeting fell just nine days before the application was due to be heard before Hertsmere Borough Council’s planning committee,” said one resident.
She complained: “Sadly they decided not to give us more time, which has had all sorts of implications… One of the big issues from the beginning was the way it was getting pushed through without a proper consultation. They could have deferred the application and that would have made the difference to all of us.”
John Dowdle, Chair of Watford Area Humanists, said: “An Eruv enforces a religious identity on all others living within the religious boundary, whether they share those beliefs or not. I have serious concerns about the detrimental impact this could have on social cohesion. In Israel, people driving cars on Shabbat (Saturday) are subjected to stone throwing by ultra-orthodox religionists. Are we opening the way for this kind of behaviour in Britain?”
A Bushey Synagogue board member rejected claims that the Eruv would have an impact on the locality or create a Jewish exclusion zone. “Our application will benefit a significant number of people in the local Jewish community, without having any detrimental effect on the wider population or the visual amenity of our area.”
Hertsmere Council said there would be “no unacceptable adverse impact”.
Thin end of the wedge?
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