Eretz Yisrael Time

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Sunday, May 20, 2007
The Kosher Internet issue is really small fry compared to the current discussions in Chareidi circles on Kosher Cellphones.

I'll be honest, I don't know what exactly they are selling with the Kosher Phone. I've heard some of my Chareidi relatives swear by it, "it's a must, if you are frum", and I've heard some Chareidi relatives swear at it, "the idea is idiotic".

Yet, the notion is now seriously infiltrating the Chareidi world (yes, I know the product is over a year old, but now you see advertisements all over the Chareidi neighborhoods as it makes serious inroads) and will soon become a basic obligation.

I used to think that all the Chumras in America were a result of not living in Israel and the need to do "more" in order to feel religious. Yet, with discussions and proclamations going on here, I am no longer so sure about that theory.

I honestly don’t understand the need for “certification”. If you don’t want 3G features on your phone, then don’t buy a 3G phone. I’m still not sure how SMS isn’t kosher, but I’m sure someone will explain it to me. And from what I recall, legislation passed blocking immediate access to certain numbers unless you explicitly ask for them to be unblocked (or not, I don’t remember for sure) – but either way it certainly requires a conscious decision to make that phone call.

Yet I’ve already heard of Bnei Brak schools not accepting children in if their parents don’t have only Kosher cellphones.

Moving back to the internet issue, CNN has an interesting article on a study done of 40 countries (and the PA) regarding internet censorship (excluding Bnei Brak, Elad, Beitar, Kiryat Sefer, etc.).

The one thing that the PA and Israel have in common is that neither government has censorship/filtering on internet access. Of course we both have internal censorship/filtering and that is what I am discussing now.

So going back to Kosher Internet, I would agree that unlike cellphones, the “risk” is not just of “accidentally” visiting problematic sites, but having those sites forced onto your computer by mistyping, pop-ups and junk mail - which is far more likely, real and realistic scenario – not to mention the wholesale downloading of movies – a not so secret problem in the Chareidi community.

IMHO, the mounting edicts to have computers and internet thrown out of the house are extreme, as there are perfectly fine technical solutions that can solve the problem (and I am not against self-controlled/maintained censorship).

As any parent knows, one can buy software filters that prevent everything and anything from reaching your child (even AOL has children accounts that filter things out before they reach your home), and I am not against “Kosher” ISPs (and they exist) that automatically provide such services.

Of course there is a problem with Kosher ISPs as “Kosher” sites can also (inadvertently) get blocked and you are at the whim of the ISP who decides what you can or can’t have access to – and that might even include basic, required reading sites like the Jerusalem Post or JoeSettler!

(Now, an ISP that gave you a checklist of what to filter out would be very interesting).

But still, it comes back to that ugly problem that it is not you who is controlling your access and limitations when it comes to the internet, but rather an external social structure that forces you to follow them to their farthest extremes if you want to remain an “acceptable” member of the general community.

One of the biggest problems facing the Chareidi community is the social pressure that a few key individuals are able to place on the community as a whole.

I know quite a number of Chareidim who (privately) completely disagree with these pronouncements but feel forced to go along if they want to keep their kids in their schools, or not be social outcasts (and I know others who think these are wonderful ideas).

On the other hand, knowing the severity of the movie download issue in the Chareidi community – perhaps they do have a point there.

But still, it comes down to the fringe in the community doing the policing and creating rulings rather than the mainstream community.

As I said, the Chareidi community has a big problem in that even the nonconformists need to conform.

You would be surprised to learn that certain families/individual carry a lot of weight, not because they are “Big Rabbis”, but simply by their key position as school headmasters (i.e. Beis Yaakov’s such as Wolf and Kahaneman to name two large ones in B”B), and if you want your kid in a good (or the right) school then you must conform to their demands - (“good” and “right” having shidduch connotations).

Who would dare lead a revolution or even a minor disagreement in such a closed knit community knowing that your kid could be expelled and his or her future destroyed, not to mention becoming a social outcast among your friends (who secretly agree with you, but don’t want the same to happen to them)?

Perhaps in a future post I will discuss other closed mostly homogenous communities such as Ramat Aviv and Kibbutzim and how they damage both themselves and the rest of the country, and whether such ideologically closed communities are a good idea or not, but certainly everyone has a right to assemble and live in a community that reflects your value system - but what happens when that community become too closed and also happen to control or have influence in key societal/government positions?

(Kosher) Food for thought.


Anonymous said...

Quite the post, as usual.

Keep up the good work.

Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Ok "Joe"...I'm on to ya, pal. I know how much money you've got stacked away at Le'umi and I'm gonna expose you for what you are...that's right. Just check out my latest post and you'll see sure enough...

Anonymous said...

Since parents have difficulty in censuring and filtering thru the maze of the computer web, the easy way out is THROW IT OUT!

Anonymous said...

I realize that the main issue here is the children. Right??

As an adult, I find it mind-boggling that so many "controls" need to be put in place to preserve a people! What happens to this nation when restriction after restriction squeezes them more and more? Will there be an explosion of resistance? Isn't this a time-bomb waiting for a catalyst?

Why is this even necessary? What is happening here? Where is the self-discipline? Don't they realize what is happening to their lives? How much "control" will it take before there's an eruption?

Looking forward to your critique and future discussions.

I just find it so

Anonymous said... allows you to chose what you want filtered, but they're now only in the US - NY area. when they go global, it should be interesting

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