Warning: if your religious sensibilities are easily upset, please don’t read this post.
Trafford Council Planning Application Number 88955/FUL/16
Erection of supporting poles and linking wires associated with the creation of an Eruv (a continuous boundary designated in accordance with Jewish Law) works to also include provision of c.700 metres of replacement/new fencing, erection of new pedestrian gate and associated development thereto. Development across 50 separate sites around Hale and Altrincham.
I first moved to this area in 1986, lived here until 2001, trotted the globe and then moved back in 2011.
The first orthodox synagogue was founded in South Manchester in 1872 and moved to new premises in Bowdon in 2002, opened by HRH The Prince of Wales (the only synagogue in the UK opened by a member of the royal family).
When I moved here in ’86 it was to live alongside a large and successful Jewish community along with a few other minority ethnic groups.
Since then, the popularity of Trafford for schools and environment and the growth of Salford and Manchester as a major European centre for a range of professions and industries has ensured ever-upwards spiralling house prices and an influx of further ethnic groups from around the Northern Hemisphere.
Some describe it as a rich tapestry of cultures, much the same as many other UK locations.
Much (justifiable) fun is poked at the plastic ladies of The Real Cheshire Housewives and I’ve written here about my frustration with the effects of affluenza on our urban villages of Bowdon, Hale, Wilmslow and Alderley Edge.
The nouveaux rich remain a minority.
However, there is a silent majority who lead “ordinary” lives and just go about their business in a civilised way. We simply step out of the way of the supercars that roar down our suburban streets, inwardly smile as the assortment of V8 and V12 4×4’s compete on the school run and avoid the over-priced and over-rated restaurants in which they clamour to “be seen” and be parted quickly from their money.
The first planning application for The Eruv was submitted a couple of years ago and resulted in residents meetings booked in local hotels at which, with hindsight, the case FOR The Eruv was handled about as well as the Remain vote.
Now, after a respectable lapse of time, we have the subject back on our agenda – although it seems with even more emotion than before.
For those who are wondering what the heck I am talking about:
An eruv ([ʔeˈʁuv]; Hebrew: עירוב, “mixture”, also transliterated as eiruv or erub, plural: eruvin[ʔeʁuˈvin]) is a ritual enclosure that some Jewish communities, and especially Orthodox Jewish communities, construct in their neighborhoods as a way to permit Jewish residents or visitors to carry certain objects outside their own homes on Sabbath and Yom Kippur. An eruv accomplishes this by integrating a number of private and public properties into one larger private domain, thereby avoiding restrictions on carrying objects from the private to the public domain on Sabbath and holidays.
The eruv allows these religious Jews to, among other things, carry house keys, tissues, medicines, or babies with them, and use strollers and canes. The presence or absence of an eruv thus especially affects the lives of people with limited mobility and those responsible for taking care of babies and young children.
I’m an agnostic former member of The Church of England.
I find the concept of poles and wires being blessed about as daft as worshiping a prophet who is alleged to have walked on a lake and changed water into wine.
(an aside – I’ve often pondered that the latter of those events would have ensured a healthy and thriving membership into the present day if it had formed a central tenet of the religion and not just a wedding party trick. Mind you, Brussels would by now have stepped in to insist that the resulting product wasn’t called wine – but spiritually enhanced fortified water).
So – what we are discussing here is 95 poles and some thin wire that are unlikely to be noticeable unless you know what you are looking for.
There are 6 Eruv’s in the Greater London area and two in Greater Manchester.
They exist in 15 countries around the world.
My opinion is very simple.
I don’t have a problem with freedom of expression, provided nobody is harmed.
If Jewish people believe that by blessing some poles and wire, they have a way of carrying their kids and pushing their incapacitated relatives to weekly worship, I’m all for it.
If they wanted to crucify Christians outside Costa every weekend, I’d have a problem with that.
Similarly, if other religions have rituals that they wish to uphold, same goes, provided nobody gets harmed.
I seem to recall some indoctrination in my youth to the effect that I should “turn the other cheek”, “live and let live” and, of course, The Golden Rule: “do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Well, The Eruv seems to have emotions running high here in leafy Cheshire.
I’ve overheard conversations that indicate a fear that the Eruv will create a ghetto (their words, not mine) and will force house prices even further upwards (no doubt the local estate agents will have their fingers crossed).
The “no” voters have visions, no doubt, of men and women dancing along Ashley Road to selections from Fiddler on the Roof whilst they gaily push their buggies and zimmers with a new-found sense of liberation.
Normally, I refrain from political or religious comment as I’ve seen it bring internet trolls out to play.
(and I have permission to share this story with you)
A few days ago the front doorbell rang early evening.
I was away (as usual) and Annie waded past the frenetic dogs barking at the window to answer the door.
There stands Mrs Ordinary English Local Inhabitant (OELI).
No rosettes or badges, no clipboard.
Annie had been pre-warned by a fellow dog-walker earlier in the day that canvassing was taking place.
So here’s what happened next:
Annie: “I suppose you are here about The Eruv?”
OELI: (smiles) Yes!
Annie: “Well I don’t have a problem with it.”
OELI: “Oh – I’m sorry. I didn’t realise this was a Jewish household.”
You know – one of those moments when time stands still and you can hear the Earth revolving?
Now at this point my own inclination would have been to respond with:
CB: “It isn’t and I didn’t realise that you were a Nazi.”
But of course, my esteemed partner in life is more mature than I and a pragmatic Scot who simply thanked her for her time and shut the door.
Recounting this story to me later that evening on our twice-daily FaceTime call, I was as incredulous as her.
Like I said earlier, I have no problem with freedom of expression as long as nobody gets hurt.
I do, however, have a problem with English lower middle class bigotry.
We need to concern ourselves with HS2, which is going to carve a path of destruction through our post code so that business people can get to Euston in 59 minutes instead of 1hr 40.
We need to concern ourselves with mobile masts.
We need to concern ourselves with the systematic destruction of local businesses as M&S get planning permission to open a store alongside giant Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrison and Booths as well as the recent opening of a huge Amazon distribution centre 8 minutes away.
We need to keep an eye on the growth of Manchester Airport (10 minutes away) from 17,000 to 47,000 employees and the creation of a new £800m Airport City, funded with 100% tax breaks given to Chinese big business.
Do we need to concern ourselves with 95 poles and some string?
Even if we do (and I have no idea why we would), does a “yes” vote make me a Jew?