Los Angeles is a city infamous for many things – traffic, sprawling masses, Hollywood – but woven in and among its streets is something unexpected.
There’s a religious, symbolic wall erected for the Jewish community that snakes around the city, forming a huge uninterrupted border. Most people in LA don’t even know it’s there.
Check out the video to see the map – it’s staggering to see its size. In fact, it’s the biggest wall of its kind in the world.
This religious border is called an Eruv. Observant Jewish communities use Eruvs to be capable of adhering to the rules of the Sabbath, or Shabbat/Shabbas, but the structures still exist in the modern world.
Observant Jews have to stop all work and travel during Shabbat, and there’s a long list of things they can’t do in that 24 hour period.
The list is extensive, but that’s where the Eruv comes in. Everything they’re prohibited from doing on Shabbat, they’re allowed to do as long as they’re inside the borders of the Eruv. It’s both convenient and a way to foster and encourage a sense of community.
The attached video explains how the border is constructed and what various elements make it up. It also illustrates what I mean when I say “hidden in plain sight.”
We additionally spoke to Howard Witkin, the man who built Los Angeles’ Eruv. He elaborates on why he started the Eruv and how he completed the barrier, which was a behemoth task, seven years in the making.
The city of LA not only knows about the Eruv, but various departments in there work closely with Witkin and the Eruv Association to make sure municipal expansion and projects don’t interfere with the borders. The video goes into greater details about the various ways the two sides work in harmony.
In a city that is often criticized for being too sprawling, too crowded, too insular, and for lacking a sense of community, it’s a remarkable thing that LA’s Jewish community has managed to quietly construct a symbolic wall that creates a community within a community within one of the world’s most bustling cities.