London Eruv Goes Live After 15 Years of Raging Controversy

The much fought over London eruv went live for the first time Friday evening after its designated team of supervisors confirmed that it was fully intact prior to the start of the Sabbath.

The boundary - which uses wire and poles to notionally extend the private domain and thereby allow Orthodox Jews to be exempted from some Shabbat prohibitions - has been the subject of a raging controversy in the British capital for some 15 years.

"We are delighted after so many years of preparation, we've finally got the eruv up and running," says Rabbi Saul Zneimer, chief executive of the United Synagogue movement which lead the pro-eruv lobby and finally received planning permission for it last year.

With the eruv in place, Shabbat-observant families inside its 17 kilometer perimeter will be able to push children in buggies and carry babies, and those in wheelchairs will be able to get out and about, says Zneimer. "Shabbat is so much about family and friends and community that it will add a dimension to their lives that many have been missing," he added.

Although an eruv exists without contention in more than 150 towns and cities around the world, pro-eruv campaigners in London were accused of separatism, circumventing their own laws and violating human rights. Some of the most vocal critics were secular Jews living inside the 17-kilometer perimeter area of Northwest London designated for the eruv.

Zneimer says that those who intend to make use of the Northwest London eruv will be able to call a telephone hotline, visit a Web site or receive a text message prior to the start of Shabbat in order to be sure that the eruv is intact before venturing out.

Britain's Jewish community numbers nearly 300,000 and is the second largest in western Europe after France.