Hackney Council defuses neighbour tensions by taking down Orthodox Jewish eruv boundary line
- Credit: Adrian Holliday
Hackney Council has removed a boundary line put up by Orthodox Jewish rabbis, after some people in the street it was in threatened to cut it down themselves.
No planning consent was obtained and residents of Clapton Terrace were not consulted before the eruv – a very thin wire or string – was strung from the lamp posts there last month.
The ritual enclosure is often put up in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods to work around the religious prohibition against carrying things like house keys, tissues and medication or using strollers and canes outside their own homes on Sabbath and Yom Kippur.
Its presence or absence hugely affects the lives of strictly observant Jews who have limited mobility or who care for babies and toddlers.
While there are many eruv in the vicinity already, circling synagogues and their grounds or private housing estates, this one encircled an entire street.
Lynn Altass, who has lived there for 28 years and wanted it to be taken down, told the Gazette: “Evidently members of the local ultra Orthodox Jewish community had consulted their rabbis about the feasibility of putting one up, but they didn’t realise it would be done so quickly.
“Many residents are annoyed at the manner in which it was erected and would have been sympathetic to it being put up if there had been consultation with other local residents.
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“It affects what I see out of my windows as the sunlight and streetlights illuminate it and as a member of a secular society I would prefer religious statements to not be so obviously part of my everyday life.”
Others disagreed for a host of different reasons, from its visual impingement on the environment, concerns for flying birds and bats, the rabbis’ “assumption or arrogance” that consultation with the community or Hackney Council was not necessary, safety issues for council staff maintaining street lights, and a lack of recognition of the diversity of the local community.
Such was the outrage, the local vicar had stepped in to organise a meeting to discuss it before the council resolved the issue. “Some residents were threatening to cut it down, but others accused them of sinking to the same underhand level in which it was put up,” said Ms Altass.
A spokesperson for the council said it had been removed because residents do not have permission to attach or interfere with council-owned and maintained street lamps.
They added: “The eruv in Clapton Terrace did not require planning permission as it was made of a thin fishing line attached to existing street lamps, and hence does not fall into what is legally defined as ‘development’. “Eruvs only require planning permission when additional poles need to be installed to which string or wire is attached. As no poles were erected in this case there was no need for planning consideration.
“It was removed by highway engineers in Streetscene and not for planning reasons.”