In Israel, Rabbis Defend Communities From a New Evil - the iPhone

The struggle of ultra-Orthodox rabbis against smartphones and the Internet is being escalated ahead of Yom Kippur.

Yair Ettinger
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Yair Ettinger

On this Yom Kippur, ultra-Orthodox rabbis seek to banish a certain evil from their community - the iPhone. As worldwide worship of the gadget expands, Haredi rabbinical leaders are ramping up their struggle against smartphones and the Internet.

This week the newspaper Yated Neeman published a ruling by Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a leading ultra-Orthodox rabbi. His front-page article, published under the headline "Burn the iPhone," caused a stir.

Kanievsky's words are an attempt to intensify the struggle against smartphones, which have done well among Haredim despite bans on television, text messaging, the Internet, video and pornography. For several months now Haredi rabbis have been increasing their opposition to technology that is becoming ever more advanced.

At a ceremony to mark the completion of the reading of the entire Talmud at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium, several Shas rabbis condemned the iPhone. About two weeks ago rabbis met at Kanievsky's home to discuss the alleged corrupting of young Haredim due to exposure to modern gadgetry and the Internet.

The struggle is being escalated ahead of Yom Kippur. On Monday, Yated Neeman quoted a long list of religious leaders denouncing smartphones and the Internet during their Shabbat sermons.

"He who stumbles into the Internet loses his eyes, heart and feelings toward all that is holy," said Rabbi Shmuel (HaLevi ) Wosner. "Users have no place in the next world."

A poster in Jersualem calling on God-fearing people not to use Apple’s hugely popular smartphone.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi