Sabbath Prisoners!

Here’s a tale from The Times:

A Jewish couple are suing neighbours over motion sensors that turn on the lights in their communal stairwell, which they claim make it impossible for them to leave their flat during the sabbath.

Like many Orthodox Jews, Dena and Gordon Coleman will not use electricity between sundown on Friday and Saturday night, which they regard as a day of rest. But since the sensors were installed at Embassy Court in Bournemouth, the lights come on as soon as the Colemans set foot outside their front door — which they say makes them responsible for switching them on and therefore prohibits them from leaving the building.

The couple are suing their neighbours, saying that their human rights are being breached, and are claiming up to £5,000 damages. If their claim is successful, the owners of the 35 flats in the seafront building will be liable to pay the couple’s costs as well as any damages

Wow. This is Leslie Bunder’s view:

Leslie Bunder, the editor the Jewish community website, claimed that the Colemans were over-reacting. He said: “As long as they are not physically doing the act of turning the light on, it’s actually not against the rules.

“They should not be putting the onus on their neighbours to change. It’s a bit arrogant really. It’s an embarrassment, it’s giving reasonable Jews a bad name.”

There is another way to solve this kind of dispute if the Colemans of the world won’t budge. This is the view of Chanie Alperowitz, a director of Bournemouth Chabad:

“I think the neighbours and management company should revisit their decision and accommodate their beliefs. It is not going to inconvenience anybody, especially if [the Colemans] have offered to pay for the override switch themselves. A small consideration offered in an atmosphere of give and take would help to make the world a better place.”

Well, what would be wrong with the Colemans paying for an override switch?

According to The Times, this idea was turned down by the Embassy Court management company because it would set an “unacceptable precedent”.

I don’t know what exactly that means or anything more about this case than what is written in the article. Perhaps some of our readers do.

What it does bring to mind is the British art of muddling though social conflicts. You know, a bit of embarrassed shuffling and mumbling. No one being too forceful. Eventually a “so that’s alright then” messy compromise emerges, to great relief. None of the crushing clarity of, oh, Sarkozy.

No one directly involved has done that on this occasion, going by the Times report. It leaves me with a sense of Britain becoming more brittle, even in the most trivial affairs.

I think that’s a shame.