Senior haredi rabbi to followers: Burn your iPhones

Apple’s smartphone market share in Israel suffers potential blow after public censure by Rabbi Haim Kanievsky.

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September 24, 2012 00:48
2 minute read.
RABBI LIOR GLAZER smashes an iPhone

RABBI LIOR GLAZER smashes an iPhone 370. (photo credit: Offer Gedanken)

 
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Apple’s smartphone market share in Israel has suffered another potential blow, following public censure by one of the most senior haredi rabbis in the country.

Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, who ranks in some estimations among the five most influential rabbinic authorities, issued a public notice on Sunday saying that anyone who owns the company’s iPhone device should burn it.

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In the pronouncement, published on the front page of Yated Ne’eman – the most influential haredi newspaper – as well as several other ultra-Orthodox dailies, Kanievsky said it was forbidden to own an iPhone, comparing the device to weapons of war in its potential to cause harm.

The rabbi said his ruling came following several questions put to him by businessmen asking whether it is permissible to use the device according to Jewish law.

Kanievsy’s public announcement is part of a general offensive being waged by many ultra- Orthodox rabbis, who frequently denounce smartphones and the Internet because of the ready access they provide to pornography, as well as to sources of information beyond the strict confines of the ultra- Orthodox world.

Many members of the ultra-Orthodox community have “kosher cellphones” that have no Internet connection and cannot send or receive text messages.

On September 12, Rabbi Lior Glazer held a ritual iPhone-smashing ceremony in Bnei Brak in protest of the supposedly malignant influence of the device, and the hardline Eda Haredit communal organization has also banned their use along with Android smartphones, BlackBerrys and similar devices, because of the “spiritual holocaust” they have wrought.

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According to Prof. Yedidya Stern, director of the Israel Democracy Institute’s project on Religion and State, the open access to unlimited, uncensored information is the real concern of the haredi leadership with regards to the Internet, more so even than access to pornographic content.

“Smartphones offer a gateway to the world through which they can access all manner of uncensored information which might influence their identity, despite living within the haredi ghetto,” he told The Jerusalem Post.

“Haredim seek to isolate themselves from the world, but using an iPhone or any other type of smartphone can, with the flick of a finger and in a split second, give someone access to all kinds of information and values to which they were never before exposed,” he said.

Before the development of the Internet, members of the haredi community were totally beholden to the rabbinic leadership for the information they could access, Stern added, since television, secular newspapers, libraries and any other repository of unapproved information was banned by them.

The growing ubiquity of the Internet and prevalence of smartphones, which unlike televisions are easy to conceal, is proving harder to stamp out, the professor said.

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