The eastern suburbs of Sydney have a significant Jewish population, and some of these Jews live out their Orthodox faith. Waverley and Woollahra councils are in the process of installing two Kosher pedestrian crossings at intersections on Old South Head Road.

These crossings will allow the Orthodox Jews to cross the road on the Sabbath without pressing a button, between sunset Friday and sunset on Saturday, which would be considered a breach of religious law. An original proposal by council was to re-program the traffic lights to allow regular pedestrian friendly signal changes, but the RTA was concerned about unacceptable traffic and public transport delays. Read more after the jump…
The agreed upon solution, at a cost ten times of the re-programming option features high tech sensors which will passively detect the presence of waiting pedestrians. Most importantly to the Orthodox Jews, no button will be pushed and it doesn’t involve any conscious decision to activate the signals. The Sunday Telegraph reports:


Rabbi Dovid Slavin [is] seeking more information about how the new crossing system would work. He said the compromise solution’s compliance with religious law could depend on whether it worked with infra-red motion sensors or with heat sensors.

Source: Sunday Telegraph: Green Light for…

Photo Credit: rao.anirudh via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: rao.anirudh via Compfight cc

Now I don’t claim to know the ins and outs of Orthodox Jewish Law, but surely if the intent is to change the behavior of something, by your presence or by pressing a button, you would be breaking the Sabbath law? Is this a case of over-zealous legalism? The councils are playing right into their hands and allowing the Jews to feel good for finding a way around the law that they are suppose to observe.

Are there solutions for this problem in other urban areas or cities around the world where there are larger populations of Jews?

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.