September 27, 2023

Non-smart cellphones are viewed as ‘kosher’ by ultra-Orthodox leaders as they prevent user from browsing forbidden images.

Some of the policies stipulated in coalitional agreements signed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party to shore up the alliances with far-right and ultra-Orthodox partners have raised eyebrows and serious questions across the Israeli political spectrum.

There is one clause, however, in Likud’s deal with the United Torah Judaism party that affords a window to the parallel reality of the country’s ultra-Orthodox sector. The ultra-Orthodox party demands a halt to a government program to completely phase out 2G and 3G cellular networks gradually, leading up to a total shutdown in 2025, in order to install the more advanced 5G network.

Ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi community insists on maintaining the functioning of the 2G and 3G connectivity systems as the “kosher” phones – those that do not have internet or social media capabilities, preventing users from accessing forbidden videos and images – are typically old cellular models that only run on obsolete networks.

Yitzhak Pindrus, chairman of the United Torah Judaism Knesset faction, told that the continuing availability of kosher phones represents a for the Haredi leadership. “Having phones that are only for picking up and calling, instead of having access to the Internet and all the rest, is very important for us, for our homes, for our education, and that’s why we’ll do anything for that to happen,” he said.

Outgoing Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel slammed the proposed policy, tweeting that “within the coalition agreements I discovered a clause that is going to wreak enormous economic and security damage on Israel. Stopping the transition to generation 4 and 5 and returning to generation 2 and 3 is akin to trying to return to the horse-drawn carriage in the world of digital frequencies. It’s madness.”

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