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May 26, 2008

Yossi Sarid gives the Haredim legitimacy

I am using a 6 year old cellphone. People see me pull it out of my pocket and they think I am crazy. They see the broken keypad, the cracked face and they ask why I am still using such an old cellphone. They saw me replace the keypad and the panel for just a few shekels (bought over the internet from ebay UK because I could not find replacement parts anywhere else) and scream at me to get a new cellphone.

My response is that this phone works great. All I use it for is voice and a little bit of sms. I have no need to spend 1500 NIS, minimum, on a new phone. I don't want internet access on it anyway and for voice, my phone is great. So I spent a few shekels in replacement parts.

Yossi Sarid, former head of the left-wing and possibly anti-religious political party Meretz, wrote an article last week about how his wife was the first non-religious person, at least according to the sales rep at the Pelephone company, to purchase a "kosher cellphone".

To remind you, a kosher cell phone is an invention demanded by the Haredi public. The phone has access only to phone calls - no sms, no internet, no email - just voice. Basically nobody except a Haredi consumer has any reason to buy such a phone.

The catch is that there are some people who don't use any of the other services anyway, but they are not offered to purchase such a phone because it is designated for the Haredi community. These phones are cheaper, much cheaper as Mrs. Sarid saved over 1000nis by buying it. The only thing is that if you use it on Shabbos, you pay a very high per-minute fee.

So anyway, Sarid writes this article how the salesman offered her the cheapest phone and then she asked about this kosher phone she heard was cheaper. He would not sell it to her because she is not religious, but when she insisted he finally worked it out and she bought it, saving 1000NIS.

For a few days now, this has been the topic of discussion in the Haredi news world. All the Haredi papers wrote about it and the Haredi forums on the internet exploded on this topic. They seem to be taking great pride in the fact that Mrs. Sarid has purchased a kosher phone.

As if that gives the Haredi public, and the Haredi methodology, legitimacy. The fact that a secular Jew, a public figure no less, went out and bought a kosher phone, that means kosher phones are legitimate and even an ideal.

Now, why is legitimacy dependant on what the secular Jews think? The Haredi community, the Haredi culture, does not need to get its legitimacy from any outside sources. the Haredi society has much to offer and it has its own ideals it believes in. Granted it might not be perfect. Nothing is. Sure, there is room for improvement. But if Haredi society believes something and thereby creates a system around that belief, it, in my mind, does not need approval from outsiders in order to give it legitimacy.

And please stop getting so excited everytime a secular Jew says how Haredim are good or right about something. Especially if it is only being said indirectly, like by Mrs. Sarid who really only bought it because the price was cheap, not because she believes the regular phones are destructive.


  1. I want a phone that can call people and tell me the time. Pretty much everything else is just extra stuff that I don't want to pay for. If buying a "Kosher" phone will save me 1000 NIS I would pick one up no problem.

    The modern do everything phones are cool, but lets be honest I don't need most of those features, and the tiny keyboard and screen makes them hard to use

  2. I find this similar to the Haredi attitude to science.
    On the one hand they dismiss scientists as godless people who challenge Judaism, and should be ignored.
    But they just love it when scientists 'prove' something that is found in the Torah. (eg when Nasa gives the time of a lunar month as exactly the same as we count it,) and many other examples.

    They say "Look! Scientists proved it so we are right all along!"
    Again, seeming to need legitimacy from scientists that they do not consider legitimate!!

  3. Zach - I agree 100%. The problem I have is I use sms. To pay all that extra money just for sms seems ridiculous. But I have no need for internet on my phones. That is why i do not upgrade.

    RW - precisely

  4. so despite all the apparent hostility towards secular culture, the episode shows a kind of ambivalence--to put it mildly--about the secular and secular culture. I think in this ambivalence there's hope for greater unity; they i agree we shouldn't look for their approval. Having said all that the midrash says that when Naomi teaches Ruth the laws of Torah, she starts with the admonition not to go to theatres and circuses of the nations of the world... Not specific legal issues, but laws about maintaining the cultural practices specific to the jewish people...


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