God Speaking

Pelephone announced a new service last week, inviting subscribers to read the Koran on their cellphones. The service, which costs NIS 5.90 a month, comes on the heels of the cellular version of the Bible, which the company launched about six months ago.

Though you may want to ask what a cellphone has to with sacred texts, it turns out that the service appeals to quite a few people.

"A year and a half ago we decided to move closer to the world of texts because technology allowed us to create a unique reading experience; to flip through pages exactly as if they were a book," says the director of Pelephone's content department, Motti Cohen.

"We have thousands of users who enter and read the Bible, and now the Koran too. Apparently we are providing something to subscribers who want to be connected to these texts at any time and any place. We are thinking of expanding the pool of texts available based on demand."

So could cellphone users here soon be reading more Kafka or Bialik?

"Bialik seems a bit problematic, but children's books or a first-aid guide could really be an option," Cohen said.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a researcher of Islam at Bar-Ilan University's Arabic department, also welcomes the new service.

"I'm not a subscriber yet, but I think it's a very practical idea. As a researcher, I can see myself going into the Koran via a 3G phone and urgently retrieving a specific verse. It's certainly something accessible and good. I also think that the Muslim community very much likes all the technological innovations on the market," Kedar says.

"The integration of Muslim ideas that were born in the seventh century with 21st century gadgets is a welcome phenomenon. In my class, for example, there are Arab students who download ringtones from the Internet that are the Adhan, the chant the muezzin uses for reciting the call to prayer. When they forget to turn off their cellphones, I suddenly hear the muezzin in the middle of my class."