Yesterday's announcement opens up opportunity for ultra-Orthodox to access the Web. But many believe that the dispensation comes too late: conservative estimates see thousands of ultra-Orthodox households already online.
The rabbinical committee is a body authorized by top ultra-Orthodox rabbis, including the Lithuanian leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, and the spiritual leader of Shas, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, to take steps to establish a 'kosher' Internet. The panel, which started two years ago, talked with Internet and content service companies. Sources in the committee say that their initiative includes technological solutions, and is precisely tailored to the needs of the ultra-Orthodox sector to avoid exposure to pictures of women, and to outside links. The project's pilot has been conducted over recent months with dozens of users.
Initially, the committee called on members of the public wishing to use Internet services to contact a special call center, where personal information would be collected and a user profile would be prepared, designating the level of exposure to content. The committee emphasized again and again yesterday that the Internet services are meant for business persons and those who need the Web for purposes of livelihood, and not for home use.
"We pray and hope that we do not see the day when Internet, even 'kosher' Internet, is in every home," said a senior member of the committee. "Even the secular public is now aware of the level of damage that the Internet does to children who are exposed to sexual and violent content."
One senior source from the committee said that the dispensation constitutes a dramatic breakthrough, and he is proud that "the ultra-Orthodox community has succeeded in modeling technological means to its own needs and lifestyle."