Jews and Arabs have found a new issue over which to argue — the “eruv” that marks the limits where Jews can carry objects on the Sabbath without violating a Torah prohibition. The eruv can be a natural boundary, such as a river or cliff, but in urban areas it often is a high wire.
It has been the focus of several secular-religious battles, both between Israeli secular and observant Jews and between Jews and non-Jews outside of the Jewish State.
Now it has reached Abu Tur, a mixed Jewish-Arab community in metropolitan Jerusalem and which sometimes is hailed as a model of mutual recognition. Los Angeles Times journalist Edmund Sanders, who lives in Abu Tur, wrote Monday that many Arabs, not understanding the religious significance of the wire, keep tearing it down.
The eruv is examined before the Sabbath begins, and Jews cannot even push a baby carriage or carry prayer books on the Sabbath if the eruv is reported to be in disrepair.
Noting that the view from the hills of Abu Tur often shows blue and white Jewish flags by day and green-lit mosque minarets by night, Sanders wrote of the “mysterious” eruv. “Ultra-Orthodox Jews keep putting it up. Palestinian kids keep tearing it down," he wrote. "It's become a kind of neighborhood barometer. Every morning I glance out the window to see who's ahead.”
Before the writer learned of the meaning the wire, which includes red ribbons tied in the middle so it will be noticeable to Jews, he talked with Arab neighbors. Many of them thought the wire, held together by high poles, served as a “secret border" to separate Jews from Arabs or was a warning to Jews to stay out of Arab neighborhoods.
Even several non-observant Jews, not knowing about the Jewish law, opined that that the red ribbon was a marker for visiting tourists who might get lost. One foreigner’s knowledge of Jewish law was even worse. Sanders quoted a German neighbor as saying the wire probably represents the border of a “blessed zone” for Jews during Jewish holidays. In fact, there is no prohibition against carrying on the major Jewish festivals, except for Yom Kippur.
The wire also gets in the way of Arabs trying to fly kites, Sanders added. As in areas outside of Israel, opponents to the eruv also complain that the wire ruins the view and lowers property values.
Meanwhile, the latest battle between Jews and Arabs continues without violence, at least for now.