Israel: Ultra-Orthodox Group Launches "Kosher Internet"

Maariv, Israel/May 22, 2007

The kosher Internet has been launched. With a host of blocks against surfing prohibited sites, with a small white list of approved sites, and with an identified e-mail address that will enable identifying rogue ultra-orthodox who do not use the kosher Internet, the ultra-orthodox have launched the war against the greatest enemy technology has presented to them: the Internet.

Behind the "kosher Internet" initiative is "the Rabbinical Council for Communication Affairs," which is run by the most important ultra-orthodox rabbis: Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the Hassidic Leader of Gur [Ya'aqov Arye Alter], [SHAS spiritual leader] Ovadya Yosef, hassidic Jewish law adjudicator Shmu'el Halevi Wozner, and Rabbi Tuvya Weiss, the head of the zealots' stream of the ultra- orthodox sect.

Many ultra-orthodox already use the Internet, whose potential educational and spiritual damage is considered far worse than that of television, not only because of the sex websites, but because of the very exposure it offers to the outside world.

"The kosher Internet" is not intended to sanction across-the- board entry into the Web; rather, it stems from the need to provide an answer to ultra-orthodox businessmen, institutions, and the like, who must use it and are already connected to the "dangerous" general Web. The rabbis' committee has recently presented a programme that would allow limited and indispensable Internet usage, while implementing a series of blocks that would prevent the ultra- orthodox users from surfing open websites outside the kosher Internet.

According to the programme, the ultra-orthodox subscribers will be blocked both through the net - by Bezeq or HOT - through the Internet provider, and through a special programme that will disable surfing prohibited sites. The rabbis' programme is being supported and directly accompanied by the Science, Culture, and Sport Ministry, which is interested in allowing limited ultra-orthodox Internet usage while respecting the restrictions imposed by the rabbis.

Apart from the restricting surfing to the websites that appear on the "white list," the ultra-orthodox e-mail addresses will also have special suffixes that will enable controlling which ultra-orthodox was not using the kosher Internet. The special identification formula already works on kosher mobile phones, where the ability to send or receive SMS messages or access the Internet was limited, and where specific prefixes enable the ultra-orthodox leadership supervise who was using a non-kosher cellular phone.

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