Rabbis Want Cell Phone Stores Supervised

The Rabbinical Committee for Communication Affairs is demanding that the prominent ultra-Orthodox Eda Haredit organization employ inspectors to patrol authorized cell phone stores in haredi neighborhoods and ensure that the devices sold in those stores are indeed “strictly kosher” – with no camera or Internet access.

The committee is active among the haredi public in a bid to convince the sector’s members to use their cell phones for conversations only. In addition, it acts as a control system of cellular companies in terms of filtering and blocking content services which are perceived as unsuitable for the haredi sector, and occasionally warns against cellular providers who fail to meet the criteria.

The rabbis’ demand to employ inspectors follows several incidents in which workers of cellular stores in haredi neighborhoods were caught selling unauthorized devices or tampering with devices which appear “kosher,” allowing customers to surf the Web on their phones.

In one incident, the Rebbe of Strykow staged a protest outside a cellular store selling Internet-supporting phones. He stood outside the store with his followers for an hour, trying to convince customers to avoid buying there.

The move’s supporters argue that the lack of supervision could create a breach, with stores selling under the table like in the kosher food industry. On the other hand, there are those in the committee who believe that the supervision alongside the rabbinical boycott of Internet-supporting cell phone users are sufficient, and that adding inspectors would boost the non-profit committee’s expenses.

The debate between the rabbis has been joined by interested parties criticizing the committee’s representatives. Street ads distributed in haredi neighborhoods claim that due to the lack of supervisors, many stores tamper with cellular phones, allowing yeshiva students to evade the rabbinical ban.

“Yeshiva students are seen visiting impure and detestable stores on Bnei Brak’s Jabotinsky Street and in the Davidka Square in Jerusalem, buying devices without any supervision and protection,” the ads state.

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