Kosher mobile phone service faces doomsday

In the coming weeks, the Ministry of Communications will hold a hearing for cell phone companies to determine whether or not to abolish the system whereby ultra-Orthodox customers with a “kosher” cell phone number cannot transfer their number to a cell service without rabbinical supervision.

This hearing is part of a larger process that Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel is undertaking to reform what has been described as a rabbinical committee’s monopoly on the ultra-Orthodox kosher cell phone market.

This monopoly has given the Rabbinical Communications Committee, as it is called, strong influence over the kosher mobile phone business, as well as powerful tools that have social and business effects.

The kosher telephones used by the ultra-Orthodox public are designed to prevent their users from accessing the Internet and, originally, telephone services with sexual content.

The approved devices are all “dumb phones”, which means they don’t have internet access and can only make and receive calls, they don’t have a camera and they can’t even receive SMS messages.

“I compare the written law with the iPhone.” (Credit: UNSPLASH)

The phone numbers themselves are also different and have specific digits after the company prefix, which means that if someone calls from a service not approved by the rabbinical committee, it will be immediately apparent that the caller does not have a phone number. supervised phone and device.

Although cell phone users in the general population have been able to transfer their phone number from different providers whenever they want over the last decade due to market reforms, the ability for someone with a kosher phone to switch to an unauthorized service by the rabbinical committee so far it has not been possible.

However, they can transfer your number to a kosher service from a different provider.

Since the rabbinical committee has the power to block the phone numbers of its clients, this has given it a powerful influence over the ultra-Orthodox community.

In addition to blocking the telephone lines with sexual services, commercial businesses of different kinds have also been blocked, while the telephone lines of various social assistance services, including centers for victims of sexual abuse, and even the call centers of health HMOs , have also been blocked.

In addition, a kosher telephone number is used within the ultra-Orthodox community as a kind of “ultra-Orthodox identity pass”, so that, for example, the acceptance of an individual’s children in schools in the sector may depend on the use of a kosher phone.

Allowing people to change their current numbers with supervised rabbinical committee prefixes to unsupervised cell phone service would compromise the ability of ultra-Orthodox sector institutions to maintain this type of supervision over community members.

The minister recently received a legal opinion from the state’s Competition Authority on the inability of customers to transfer their number to another provider without supervision stating that this level of control and monopoly should be broken.

One of the goals of this reform would also be to allow different rabbinical committees to be established, allowing people to choose different oversight standards and weakening the ability of the Rabbinical Communications Committee to assert its own business interests and political interests.

Back in July, Hendel passed reforms that prohibited the committee from blocking welfare services and state institutions, including HMO call centers.

In addition, the new regulations determined that cell phone companies must document any request by the committee to block a number and record the stated reason for the request, while publishing a list of blocked numbers and their associated institution or business on their websites. .

“Those who have suffered the most from the way kosher phone lines are managed are the ultra-Orthodox public, who pay more, receive less and are exposed to arbitrary blockages,” Hendel said.

“Transparency will end the use of outside considerations that have been part of the number blocking mechanism until now.”

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