Kosher cell phones, kosher bus routes and kosher clothing: Israel's Ultra-Orthodox economy
For Jews, not only food needs to be kosher, the New York Times explains in an interesting article about Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox.
There are even kosher mobile phones. You cannot send text messages with them, take photographs or connect to the Internet. More than 10,000 numbers for phone sex, dating services etc are blocked. Calls to other kosher phones are cheaper and on the Sabbath any call costs $2.44 a minute, a steep religious penalty. “You pay less and you’re playing by the rules. You’re using technology but in a way that maintains religious integrity.”
A whole economic system has evolved to meet their needs, as Tamar El-Or, an anthropologist at Hebrew University explains. She has studied ultra-Orthodox shopping patterns. “There are lines of cellphones and credit cards and Internet suppliers and software and DVDs and clothes and so many things produced or altered or koshered for them, because they have a certain organized power to get the producers to make what they want.”
We read about a bus company that has special routes for the ultra-Orthodox, so that men and women are segregated, sometimes in separate buses. There are shops where you can buy special clothing. Movies and television are forbidden by many rabbies - an exemption is made for children if the intentio is educational. So in a video and music store for the Ultra-Orthodox you can find a large stock of nature documentaries: “National Geographic videos are considered fine, so long, as that there is no human nudity or sexuality, or even sexuality from animals.”
As we learn in an article in Science-Spirit mobile use has always been allowed but “it has been difficult to find one that didn’t contain access to the Internet or feature instant messaging plans displaying ads for worldly goods and services.” So, Israel’s ultra-Orthodox rabbis responded by convincing companies to produce a no-frills mobile phone for their community.
The introduction of the kosher phone comes at a time of intense discussion about the community’s future and the practicality of remaining so separate from the rest of Israeli culture:
The Ultra-Orthodox constitute about ten percent of Israeli Jews, or about 600,000 people. (…) They live in their own neighborhoods, have their own school systems, and, as long as they remain in religious school, are exempt from the military service required of all other Israeli citizens (except the approximately 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs living in the state). Ultra-Orthodox families have an average of seven children and most of the men study religion rather than work, relying on stipends from the government. (…) But in recent years, driven by rising poverty, cuts in government stipends and their own expanding population, the ultra-Orthodox have slowly begun to increase their participation in the largely secular Israeli society.
I’ve found one article by anthropologist Tamar El-Or online:
The length of the slits and the spread of luxury: reconstructing the subordination of ultra-orthodox Jewish women through the patriarchy of men scholars (Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Nov, 1993)
See also Wikipedia on Orthodox Judaism