Haredi Rabbis Loosen Ban on Internet Use

Leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community are relaxing a blanket ban on the use of information superhighway.

This isn't the first time which spiritual leaders in the ultra-Orthodox community are trying to lay down the law in terms of what is permitted for consumption in the information age.

The latest regulations which were issued Tuesday came against the backdrop of what Haredi media outlets are calling "the struggle for the holiness of education and the purity of the Jewish home."

Namely, the regulations refer to the boycott of Haredi Ashkenazi rabbis against the Internet ? "the destroyer of Judaism," as they term it ? and, in particular, Haredi web sites.

During the initial stages of "the struggle," leading rabbis instituted a wholesale ban on all Internet portals. "All of the bans and regulations that the sages of Israel instituted with regards to television are also in effect on these [Haredi] Internet stations," read the first letter announcing the ban.

Yet, in contrast to the blanket ban on television viewing, the latest edict which was published in the Haredi press regarding the Internet is a small step back from the initial position.

Haredi sites are still off limits, but an individual or a Haredi institution could obtain exemptions in order to pursue a livelihood.

Haaretz has learned that the latest edict was issued in response to hundreds of appeals from Haredi individuals and groups who rely on the Internet for educational and monetary purposes. These institutions pleaded with the rabbis to allow for daily Internet use.

The edict, which was given the title "Regulations from the sages of Israel on practices to prevent the dangers of the Internet," includes a series of rules and stipulations.

One of them states that ultra-Orthodox institutions cannot accept students who come from families that do not adhere to the regulations "so as not to ruin the others."

The rabbis are also requiring students currently matriculated in Haredi institutions to sign a "letter of commitment" to the set of regulations.

"We are living in a generation in which there are cultural dangers lurking at our doorstep, including the media and Internet, and they threaten to break through the walls of our homes," the rabbis wrote.