Northwest London Finally Has Its Eruv

The much fought-over London eruv will go live for the first time this evening if its designated team of supervisors are able to confirm that it is fully intact prior to the start of the Sabbath.

The boundary, which uses wires and poles to notionally extend the private domain, thereby allowing 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, head of the United Synagogue movement which led 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 in more than 150 towns and cities around the world, pro-eruv campaigners in London were accused of separatism, circumventing their own laws and even violating human rights. Some of the most vocal critics were secular Jews living inside the area of Northwest London enveloped by the eruv.

Zneimer says that those who intend to make use of the eruv may 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.