The Israeli Battle Over "Kosher Cellphones" P-admin Atheist Republic

Read More Atheist Republic Many smartphone stores in Israel have been attacked. With store property damaged and customers assaulted, riots broke out in the country. The religious leaders of the Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the “Haredi,” are agitated as non- “Kosher” smartphones are now readily available in the country.
In Bnei Brak, a suburb just a few miles away from Tel Aviv, the economic center of Israel, riots occurred, and many cellphone stores were vandalized. Bnei Brak is the epicenter of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Israel. The Rabbis of the communities are said to have orchestrated the riots as they are against the availability of smartphones that are not “Kosher.” They have demanded that the government of Israel halt the planned changes that would make smartphones readily available to the Haredi community.
In April, Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel announced that smartphone companies must allow full accessibility on the so-called “kosher” lines, a move that many ultra-Orthodox rabbis from the Haredi communities are against.
These “kosher” devices are devoid of most of the necessary features that a smartphone has, including access to the internet, social media, and useful apps. This was done on the advice of rabbis who claim that phones with these features are against their way of life. The phone numbers associated with these devices and lines are easily identifiable with the prefix 05311. These devices can only make or receive calls from similar devices.
39-year-old Uriel Diament said, “The strategy is to go shop to shop and intimidate the sellers. The [demonstrators] are lied to, they tell them I’m selling iPhones with internet access to 13-year-olds, but that’s not true. It’s not about serving God; they’re a mafia,”
Diament is the owner of a small cellphone store on the main shopping street in Bnei Brak. He had his kosher certificate suspended when he spoke against the Rabbis, which dictated the medium of communication. His stores have been vandalized on numerous occasions by groups of angry mobs incited by their Rabbis.
A country such as Israel, nicknamed the “start-up nation,” has a booming technological sector. The communities that use these Kosher cellphones are at a disadvantage as essential services such as making bank transactions, filing for taxes, and municipal services are mostly done online.
The ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities make up one-eighth of the total Israeli population. This rapidly growing community with several diverse sects adheres to conservative Jewish laws. The Rabbis reject the liberal Western sensibilities and force these laws onto the people’s lives, which concern “modesty of women,” health, and relationships, among others.
The Rabbinical Committee for Communications that controls the Haredi communities’ means of communication has stalled decades of technological progress. Since the later half of the 20th century, the Rabbis have vehemently protested against television, calling it an “evil box,” which resulted in less than half of Haredi households owning a television today. The Rabbis even forbid selling secular newspapers and introduced their Haredi newspapers and magazines. In modern times, the Rabbis have also tried banning the use of computers and the Internet, but that has been less successful amongst the masses.
They initially tried completely banning the use of the Internet, but due to its necessity in the daily lives of the common folk, they allowed highly filtered content for home usage.
The Rabbinical Committee for Communications that has issued certificates for an estimate of 500,000 kosher mobile phones can control the flow of information and monitor the use of these devices.
Many from the Haredi communities are against such radical views that the Rabbis have as they are slowly getting accustomed to using the Internet daily.
Israel Cohen, a Haredi political commentator, said, “The rabbis used to say: ‘Stay away from Allenby Street in the middle of Tel Aviv, it’s sinful.’ But now, anyone can go to Allenby Street on their phone. The idea originally was to keep the community safe from impure culture” … “It is rare for the Haredi community to agree on anything, but many people think the committee is out of touch.”