Those of us blessed not to live in cities where you live and die by the car may be unaware of Los Angeles’s impending Carmageddon—the closure, on Saturday, July 16, and Sunday, July 17, of the 405 Freeway, which is guaranteed to usher in the Four Horsemen, who will proceed to get stuck for five hours on the 10 (oh yeah that’s right a little SoCal inside joke for everyone). But there is a further complicating factor! And guess which ever-complicating people it involves?
Turns out that in places the 405 serves as the boundary of an eruv—the enclosure within which (and only within which) observant Jews may perform certain tasks during Shabbat. In fact, the eruv formed in part by the 405, with a 40-mile circumference that stretches from Los Angeles proper into the San Fernando Valley, is one of the largest in the country.
And, inevitably, the story of the 405 renovation—they are widening it to ten lanes (finally, amirite?)—has become a warmhearted tale of interfaith tolerance. “The level of help we’ve had,” reports one volunteer eruv administrator, “from the Roman Catholic permit people at Caltrans … to the Muslim line inspector along the freeways who gave us engineering help.…The level of deference and courtesy and kindness—it makes you feel good that you live in America.” Sure, but does it make you feel good that you live in L.A.?