Kosher Smart Phone Arrives as Ultra-Orthodox Tech Taboo Shifts

Israeli Rabbis Approve Phones That Don't Surf Web or Call

Not Too Smart: New rabbi-approved ‘kosher’ phones are being marketed to ultra-Orthodox Israelis. They are like their high-tech treyf cousins, but disabled to avoid the internet or even phone calls.
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Not Too Smart: New rabbi-approved ‘kosher’ phones are being marketed to ultra-Orthodox Israelis. They are like their high-tech treyf cousins, but disabled to avoid the internet or even phone calls.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published September 18, 2013.
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The taboo among the ultra-Orthodox in Israel about using smart phones is no longer, with the launch of models deemed appropriate for the devout.

That’s a real milestone for Haredi leaders, who have denounced the technology as a new form of evil. Last year the renowned rabbi Chaim Kanievsky declared the destructive capacity of smart phones to that of weapons, and another rabbi, Lior Glazer, publicly smashed one.

But on October 22, the cell phone company Rami Levy Communications will start selling niche Haredi smart phones, complete with a certificate stating that a rabbi has inspected the technology.

So how does a smart phone cross from treyf to kosher? It has to be de-smarted.

The Haredi objection to smart phones is that they allow free access to the internet, putting all aspects of secular thought, culture and media, as well as sexual content like pornography, at the fingertips of the observant.

“We get new cell phones in the shrink wrap, open them, and modify them,” Rami Levy Communications’ manager Shlomi Gulian told the Forward. The alteration completely disables web browsing. It is, Gulian stressed, irreversible.

And which model of telephone is his company modifying? “We’re selling the Google Phone — without Google,” he revealed.
The LG Nexus 4 is widely known as the Google Phone because it was developed by the internet services giant and configured especially to showcase its products, including its search engine — all of which are deactivated by Rami Levy.

Though there’s no web browsing, the neutered Nexus allows users to do far more than the existing “kosher phones” which only allow communication by voice calls. Users can send and receive text messages and emails, and use apps.

The phones have access to a special application store that contains only applications that Rami Levy’s rabbinic advisors have deemed appropriate. Digital banking, satellite navigation, interfaces for booking health appointments and Haredi-style religious reading are in; secular news and most other general content is out. There are currently 600 approved apps, and the company hopes to increase that eventually to 20,000.


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