Special zone for Jews is rejected by councillors

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The Independent Online
A BITTER two-year dispute over the creation of Britian's first eruv for Orthodox Jews ended last night when councillors in Barnet, north London, voted against the plan, writes Mary Braid.

Members of Barnet council's planning committee voted 11-7 against establishing the eruv, a zone within which Orthodox Jews can move around freely on the Sabbath without religious limitations on pushing and carrying objects or children.

The controversy over the establishment of the eruv, which would have been defined over six-square miles with poles and wires, has breached traditional political and religious lines. It split the ruling Conservative and opposition groups, creating divisions between Jewish members, who form one- third of the council. Proponents of the scheme included Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, while Roy Shutz, the Jewish leader of the Tory majority on Barnet council was a leading opponent.

For supporters the creation of an eruv would have been a blessing, resulting in the easing of Sabbath restrictions. From sundown on Friday to sunset on Saturday, Orthodox Jews are barred from carrying even small items such as keys and spectacles or from pushing prams or wheelchairs outside their homes.

The eruv, now commonplace in countries such as Israel, the United States and Australia, effectively expands the definition of the Jewish home, establishing a large private domain that can be shared by Jewish families.

The proposed eruv would have meant the erection of 85 poles and more than a mile of wire, creating a zone covering Hendon, Golders Green, Hampstead Garden Suburb and Finchley.