In Desperate Bid to Keep Flock Away From Web, Rabbis Denounce Haredi Sites

Ultra-Orthodox Internet forums in uproar over damning letter instructing Haredim not to look at 'terrible impurity.'

Ultra-Orthodox Internet forums are in an uproar over a harsh letter against the sites, signed by leading Haredi rabbis, that is due to be published Friday in the three Haredi daily papers.

The news, appropriately, was broken by one of the sites themselves. The site, called Haredim, reported that the rabbis had denounced the sites as containing "lies and terrible impurity" and instructed all Haredim "not to look, not to cooperate, not to advertise."

Officially, the site managers all told Haaretz that if so ordered by the rabbis, they would shut down.

The letter is the latest move in the rabbis' increasingly desperate battle to keep their flock away from the Web. Haredi sources said the rabbis are very concerned by reports of family tragedies caused by visiting "abominable" sites. But they are aiming their fire at the Haredi sites, because they believe it is these that grant the Internet legitimacy in the eyes of the Haredi public.

The doyen of the sites is Behadrei Haredim. But two new ones, Haredim and Kikar Shabbat, have also been very successful, and there are several popular smaller sites as well. Many of the sites were launched only in the last year.

"We have long been aware of the danger of the Internet; all those who enter it will not return," the letter says. "Many Jewish souls have already fallen into its snare. And private use of the Internet has already been prohibited with a severe prohibition in every house. But recently, the 'Haredi' Internet sites have gone overboard. They bring all kinds of news and gossip and slander against the Haredi public to the outside world and disseminate forbidden slander and gossip, lies and terrible impurity about abominations to thousands and tens of thousands."

The letter's warning not to look at, cooperate with or advertise on the sites - all of which have been predicting nice profits next year - could in theory deal them a blow. But businessmen involved in the sites told Haaretz that the letter was "worth zilch," because most Haredi surfers pay limited heed to the rabbis.