Ethics

For the week ending 6 December 2003 / 11 Kislev 5764

Defacing the Walls

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: I live in a religious neighborhood of Jerusalem and whenever I stand in one of the bus shelters provided by the municipality I am shocked to see its walls disfigured by all sorts of private announcements advertising sales, services or events. Is it right to exploit public property for such private purposes?

Answer: The municipalitys attitude towards this behavior can be seen in the campaign recently launched by the religious mayor of the city to clean up all the polluted bus shelters and to enforce the ban on posting material on them.

It seems that the people who have been using these city shelters for their advertising the major offenders are the professional sign hangers who work in conjunction with the printers have assumed that since they were not prosecuted for doing so (despite the obvious disclosure of their identity), there was tacit permission granted by the city authorities. Add to this the standard excuse that "everyone else is doing it" and you have a pseudo-moral basis for causing so much ugliness.

A great Jerusalem Sage once wisely remarked that the "posters hold up the walls of Jerusalem buildings". Important as they may be, however, these posters should not be placed where there is an objection from the owner of the space. What you and other citizens should do is petition the city for more public bulletin boards and discourage your neighbors from placing their posters and signs anywhere else!

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