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Orthodox Jews in North London Lose 5-year Battle for an Eruv

A 5-year-old struggle by North London’s Orthodox community to erect an eruv was dealt a bitter blow this week when a local planning council rejected the plan.

After weeks of controversy, the planning and research committee of the Barnet Council on Wednesday evening voted 11-7 against the establishment of what would have been Britain’s first eruv.

An eruv is a continuous boundary marker used to define an enclosed area in which traditionally observant Jews are able to carry objects on the Sabbath, an activity that would otherwise be prohibited.

The North London eruv would have consisted largely of man-made boundaries such as a local highway and train tracks.

But to make the boundary continuous at other points, supporters of the eruv had proposed stringing wire between 85 poles at certain locations.

Barnet’s public works committee had already approved the plans for the eruv. But a majority of the planning and research committee felt the necessary posts and wires would disfigure local scenery.

Frank Davis, one of six Jewish council members, said the poles required for the eruv would be a cause of “demonstrable harm to the environment of a conservation area of national importance.”

Rabbi Alan Kimche, who originally started the campaign for the eruv, said he would appeal the decision to Michael Howard, the secretary of state for the environment.

“There certainly will be an appeal,” Kimche told reporters after the vote was announced.

WOULD HAVE HELPED THE DISABLED

The eruv was to have covered 6 square miles, including Hendon, Golders Green, Hampstead Garden Suburb and parts of Finchley.

The case has drawn widespread attention after a petition signed by 3,500 supporters of the eruv was submitted to the Barnet Town Hall.

Hendon Synagogue’s Rabbi Sidney Silberg, who presented the petition to an official at the Town Hall reception desk, said the eruv was vital to enable disabled congregants to attend Shabbat services.

“We have a number of members with disabilities who we would love to come to shul. We even have a wheelchair ramp,” Silberg said.

Without an eruv, it is forbidden under rabbinic law to push a wheelchair or baby stroller on Shabbat.

Eruv supporters also disputed assertions that the eruv would mar the region’s scenery.

Alan Perrin, technical adviser to the United Synagogue’s eruv committee, pointed out that there are already 50,000 lampposts and telegraph poles in the borough of Barnet.

“Eighty-five thin poles in 6 square miles is hardly a significant change in the street scenery,” Perrin said.

David Schreiber, chairman of the eruv committee, said he had sought advice from Jewish communities in Washington, Los Angeles, Boston and Melbourne, Australia, which had all won municipal approval for eruvim.

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