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Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
Work begins on UK's first Jewish boundary
Eruv meeting
Eruv campaigners have fought for 10 years
Construction work has begun on Britain's first Jewish boundary or eruv.

The area is in north west London covering Golders Green, Finchley, Mill Hill and Hendon, where Orthodox Jews can carry out tasks normally banned on the Sabbath.

For 10 years there have been several campaigns for and against the wire boundary.

An eruv defines the boundaries of an area within which observant Jews can treat "public" spaces, shared by all the community, in the same way as "private" space at home.

Community values

In practice, it means observant Jews can carry out some normal tasks away from home during the Sabbath, such as the carrying of personal items like keys or even the pushing of a wheelchair or a pram.

Jewish communities maintain eruvs in scores of cities around the world, including New York, Boston, Sydney, Venice and Johannesburg.

But opponents in London, Jewish or otherwise, say the physical creation of an eruv would impose a small part of the community's values on other groups.

The 11-mile perimeter is almost entirely defined by rows of houses, major roads, train lines or other landmarks.

However, part of the perimeter would be marked with poles with nylon wires connecting them, where there are no existing landmarks.

Anushaka Levey
Anushka Levey: "A prisoner" in her home

The three metre posts, which bear no symbols, would be fixed into the pavement.

Barnet Council gave planning permission months ago but delayed the go ahead until the style and colour of the posts and wires was agreed.

Among those set to benefit are the Levey family, practising Jews who have recently moved to Golders Green. They are expecting their second child later this year.

On the Sabbath they want to meet friends and go to the synagogue but without an eruv, mother Anushka cannot use the pushchair outside the home.

She said: "It will mean that we are no longer prisoners in our own home."

"The Sabbath is a wonderful time that is meant to be shared with family and friends.

"But if I have a new born baby who obviously can't walk and I can't push a pram, it means for 25 hours - between sundown and sundown - I'm stuck at home."

'Tremendous lie'

But eruv opponent Madeleine Simms said: "The question that we have constantly asked is what happens when that belief infringes on the rights of others not to be party to that belief.

"It is quite wrong that residents should have to see these poles go up."

"If we were to allow any group to do what they wanted, we would end up heading for the same kind of division that we see every day in Northern Ireland - and that should be a lesson to us all."

Edward Black, spokesman for the United Synagogue Eruv Committee, said the scheme had been wholly misunderstood and inaccurately portrayed by opponents.

He said suggestions by some campaigners that poles would be placed in gardens were a "tremendous lie".

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09 Aug 02 | England
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