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The obscure eruv of amsterdam

looking for an enclosed area with invisible boundaries

I’m not a religious person, but I’m very interested in different religions, their origins and their impacts on society in the modern day. So when I heard about iron lines or fishing lines encompassing thousands of areas in the world for religious reasons I was intrigued. With my summer holiday sadly over and my cabin fever still having me in it’s stronghold I decided to find out more.

First; An eruv is an enclosure or wall around an area that make it possible for (Orthodox) Jews to do certain activities during sabbath that are normally prohibited, most importantly carrying objects from a private domain to a public domain.1 I will not go into all the specifics of “Hotzaah” - the rule that prohibits carrying objects between domains - but it’s a very intriguing and very specific rule of the 39 activities prohibited during sabbath that’s very interesting to read about. I’ve only learned about this rule today so will not write about it here.

Not a lot of info about Dutch eruvins can be found. The English wikipedia page mentions there is one in Amsterdam, and the Dutch one gives some more information about it. Apparently Rotterdam, The Hague, Den Helder and Leeuwarden had one as well before, but I can’t really find any reliable sources on that. The Dutch institution that apparently manages the eruv has some information and a phone number on it’s website, but the map they talk about on that page doesn’t work2. After some more searching the one on their home page does though3. There is also a partial map available in PDF format on the site of NIK4.

But after all this research, not a single reference to how this boundary is created - no pictures of strings, fences, nothing. It doesn’t really happen that much that not a single obscure blogpost talks about something that should physically exist, so I decided to find and document any physical thing related to the eruv boundary I could find. With the boundary map sent to my phone and the airco turned on to battle the onging heatwave, I arrive at my first destination “Leimuiden” after a short drive.

With the rivers and bodies of water doing the gruntwork for the eruv - we’re in the netherlands so what do you expect - any physical representation should be in the form of “beams” over bridges, mostly made of wire. The idea behind this is that those wires represent the cross beams of a door, with the poles they are attached to representing the side posts.

The two bridges over the “Drecht” form the starting point for my journey for the next couple of hours. But there’s nothing to see here. No unfamiliar structures, fishing wire or anything abnormal to see here. I’m beginning to doubt the map or if any of the structures are actually visible. They should be here, right? While searching on my phone for anything related to physical changes, I find a page on the site of the NIHS saying: “Where required, provisions are made to enable the eruv”5.

“Huh, nothing must be required here then”, I think optimistically, and drive on east. To get to the next part of the eruv, I have to drive along the “Amstel”. The road next to the “Drecht” has a dead end before joining the “Amstel”, so I have to take a small diversion before rejoining the eruv border.

As I drive north along the Amstel, it takes a while to get to the first bridge. I’ve never been in this area, and the countryside vibes are really making me someday want to live here. No busy streets but quiet nature with some beautiful houses sprinkled in. With the heatwave going on, a lot of people are on their boats or in the water enjoying the weather. I’m almost forgetting what my mission was today when I arrive at the first bridge; no unfamiliar structures here either.

While getting nearer and nearer to Amsterdam the excitement for a bridge and subsequent disappointment about lack of abnormal features keeps repeating itself until I decide to just enjoy the view. After a while I arrive in Amsterdam. Also nothing to see here. After a really hot and beautiful daytrip I came back empty handed, even after covering almost 75% of the eruv borders’ length. Honestly, It’s been a really interesting day, but the lack of result bothers me. Do I have the wrong map, the wrong expectations or is there really nothing to see? Maybe this story will get it’s sequal in the future.

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