Orian Deutsch, a resident of Kfar Vradim near the Lebanese Border in northern Israel, a religious woman who has been fighting to establish an eruv in her village, told a Knesset committee on Tuesday: “We and 50 other religious families do not receive religious services in our community. And so, because we do not have an eruv, I can’t go out of the house with the smaller children on Shabbat, to host or take a walk, we are under siege.”
“As a private association representing the religious residents, we’ve applied twice for an eruv budget and been denied both times,” Deutch told the committee.
An eruv is is a legal fiction by which Orthodox Jewish communities turn the public areas into a private domain for the duration of Shabbat, which permits them to carry where otherwise they couldn’t. Erecting the eruv—commonly a fishing line tied to poles around the location, involves initial as well as maintenance costs.
The Knesset Committee for Distributive Justice, headed by MK Mickey Zohar (Likud), on Tuesday debated inequality in budgets for eruvim between periphery communities and the center, and it became abundantly clear that small communities that do not belong to a religious council suffer from budgetary discrimination.
Chairman Zohar said: “This is a clear example of secular coercion. Many municipalities are not interested in having an eruv, and the religious minority suffers. The Ministry of Religious Affairs gives the Eruv budget to anyone who asks for it, but a municipality that does not ask does not get.”
It should be noted that in parts of the US, local resistance to constructing an eruv, which is barely visible, on aesthetic grounds, is usually a form of discrimination against Orthodox Jews – often by non-Orthodox Jews – to prevent their buying homes in a given community.
Natan Nathanson, representing the Religious Council, advised the committee that “just as the High Court of Justice ordered the Kfar Vradim Local Council to establish a mikvah, it should order it to establish an eruv.” He added, “We need to find a way to monitor this issue.”
Chairman Zohar suggested that the Ministry of Religious Affairs, with an annual budget of close to $2 million and some 40 employees dedicated to erecting and maintaining eruvim, should not wait until every municipality applies for an eruv buy go out there, armed with executive orders, and cover every Israeli community with an eruv, whether they’ve asked for it or not.
The Committee will approach the Minister of Religious Services and ask him to act to change the protocol and allocation of resources for eruvim. The Committee will also ask the Ministry to prepare an updated list of the budget for the eruvim in the various communities, as well as information on how many miles of eruvim are missing and the budget required for their completion.”