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Bigotry in the Suburbs

June 30, 2010 – 9:52 pm72 Comments
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By Simon Holloway

As some readers may be aware, the St Ives Jewish community has been petitioning the construction of an eruv for over two years now. A symbolic perimeter around an area, the building of eruvim dates back at least to the early third century, when their construction and maintenance was detailed in the Mishna. By allowing a public domain to be construed as a private domain (even if only in a purely symbolic fashion), the carrying of objects on Shabbat from one’s home into the street, and vice versa, ceases to be problematic.

The many and complex laws that pertain to these prohibitions, and the many and complex laws that pertain to the construction and maintenance of eruvim, have been such that many religious Jews continue to refrain from carrying on Shabbat, despite the presence of an eruv. Nonetheless, for many Jews in St Ives, the construction of a symbolic perimeter would be of tremendous benefit. Kuring-gai Council has been slow to approve it.

Those who wish to view a recent article in the North Shore Times about this eruv can find it here. The comments are, for the most part, appalling. Unable to draw a distinction between supporting local Jews and funding “Israel’s holocaust against the Palestinians”, several individuals (many of whom have wisely, if not cheekily, opted for anonymity) have decried the barbarous religious practises of rabbinic fanatics, and vociferously condemned the usage of public space for the construction of a ghetto.

Let me make this very clear. The eruv will not be noticeable. The eruv will not drive away people who are not Orthodox Jews. The eruv will not even attract additional religious Jewish people into St Ives. Orthodox Jews move to an area on the basis of the density of its community, the location and number of its synagogues, the availability of kosher food and mikva’ot, and the presence of a Jewish school. The existence of an eruv, while a bonus feature (and one that makes life better for those religious Jews who already live there), is not in itself a drawcard. To suggest that Jews will move to St Ives in greater numbers if the eruv is constructed, implies that they might otherwise favour an alternative suburb on the North Shore.

At the end of the day, this should never have been made public. Most of the decisions that the council makes get made without recourse to the knee-jerk opinions of the broader community. I emphatically do not watch TV, but my opinion was never sought as regards the construction of Foxtel cables throughout my neighbourhood. They are an eyesore and they required both the trimming of trees and disruptive construction work. It is absurd that the constituency of Kuring-gai needs to be heard as regards whether or not these cables may now serve a dual purpose. Shame on Kuring-gai council for their insensitivity, and shame on the North Shore Times for their deplorable “moderation” of comments.

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