New Web portal lets haredim have their Koogle and eat it, too

Kosher search engine created at the behest of the rabbis for the haredi community.

koogle website 248.88 (photo credit: )
koogle website 248.88
(photo credit: )
Looking for something on the web? Koogle it! No, that's not a typo; it's the name of the recently launched Hebrew Web portal, which is targeting the haredi community. Hence the name: Koogle, a popular Jewish food, and also a take-off on the popular search engine Google. But Koogle is not just a search engine. It's a portal that functions more like a kosher Yahoo or Walla. That means that among the car rentals, shopping bargains and news links, there are few, if any, images of women. Shopping on the site cannot be done on Shabbat. "They have Walla," said Itzik Shilitz, director of the Petah Tikva-based Koogle. "Now there's a Walla for the haredi community - that's Koogle." Even though haredim are a relatively insular community, they sometimes need or want to take advantage of what the outside world offers, said Rabbi Mordechai Bloi of the Guardians of Sanctity and Education, a Bnei Brak watchdog organization that works to uphold haredi modesty standards in Israel. Bloi explained that Internet use is dangerous. "With the Internet, in one click you can be in the worst place in the world," he said. Sometimes, it's unintentional - an errant link can take you to a pornography site, or a photo on a valid news site may be inappropriate. According to Shilitz, haredim are using the Internet with increasing frequency, usually for their jobs. And once someone is online for work, it doesn't take long to start using the Web to buy airline tickets, catch up on the news and shop for clothing. Last year, mastermind Yossi Altman, Shilitz, a few others, and a group of haredi rabbis got together and decided to make the Israeli Internet experience more palatable for the haredi user. It took about a year to get the project off the ground, and last month, Koogle made its official debut. The site currently boasts 50,000-70,000 users a day, Shilitz said. It has a sparse English section that offers just the basic indexes, but the Koogle staff has plans to develop it further, said Shilitz. Even though Koogle was created at the behest of the rabbis for the haredi community, the site's administrators have gotten letters of appreciation from secular users as well. After all, anyone - especially a parent - can appreciate a framework that can prevent an innocent bout of Internet surfing from turning into something inappropriate or even dangerous. "The Internet is a world without borders," lauded Bloi. "Koogle lets me benefit from the technology in a way that befits my religious world."