Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gedolim against the Internet


Most leading Israeli haredi Rabbis (Elyashiv, Steinmann, Wosner, Kanievsky, Belzer Rebbe, Nadvorna Rebbe, Rebbe Israel Hager (Vishnitz) or the Chernobyl Rebbe) have been always opposing the Internet. Many times we see Pashkevilim hanging in the streets of haredi neighbourhoods warning against surfing the net. Warning against following one's Yetzer HaRah (evil side in oneself) and, Chas veChalilah, ending up on a porn site or in a secular forum.

In last Friday's edition of the MAARIV paper, we found a long article about Haredim using the Internet. Yesterday a poll on a haredi site claimed that 95% of Israel's Haredim surf the Net. A result I do not agree with because I consider it as too exaggerated. MAARIV claimed that 32% of the haredi population is using the Internet and this figure seems to be much more realistic.

Fact is that technology has reached the Haredim and even if some Rabbis would love to ban everything, no one can stop the progress anymore. Today's Haredim also work with the Internet and, therefore, even many chassidic Rebbes allow it (such as Belz, Gur, Toldot Aharon, Toldot Avraham Yitzchak, etc.) In some Chassiduyot the members have to ask for permission; in Gur, for instance. Otherwise the Gerrer Rebbe put a strict ban on the Internet.

But can one really ban it totally ?
You see Haredim in any Jerusalem Internet Cafe as well as at the National Jewish Library in Givat Ram (across the Knesset). Even or also Gerrer Chassidim. Many male Haredim search for porn sites, other watch the Israeli TV news, surf around in any kind of forum or watch Hollywood movies. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, you name it. Very popular are haredi sites in Israel. Written in Hebrew with colourful modest pictures, the daily news as well as society and "Chatzer - yard" news. MAARIV was reporting about those haredi Sites like the "Chadrei HaCharedim", "Kikar Shabbat", "Ladaat" or "Haredim". The makers of those sites claimed that they provide haredi society with a positive option by surfing around on modest sites.

Now, Israel's "Gedolim - leading haredi Rabbis" placed another ban on the Internet but certain comments on that issue say that the Gedolim only mean secular sites and "closed haredi forums" but not haredi websites in general. Closed haredi forums are mostly used by Haredim talking about their private life, sex issues, thoughts about maybe leaving society or exchanging doubts about religion. Anything you can imagine and people have to sign up for those sites.

Sometimes the Mea Shearim modesty police "Mishmeret HaZniut" shows up at Jerusalem Internet Cafes. They even took pictures of Haredim going in and out and published them on special Pashkevilim. Nothing helped ! Male haredi society seems to be obsessed with the Internet. So far, I have hardly noticed any haredi women surfing on the net. And even if, so the majority I saw were American haredi women or those women in general working in the high-tech industry. I believe that those women do not really go for pornographic sites but rather information. However, too much information would be considered by certain Rabbis as a danger to their society.

One Chassid told me that he favours an Internet ban but, in the meantime, likes to surfe around the Internet by himself: Haredi sites and the news. Furthermore he claims that the ban would be only for the HAREDI society and not a Jew living abroad who hardly has access to a Synagogue or Jewish learning at all. I mentioned to this particular Chassid that there are many Jews living in the Diaspora who have no Synagogue around and thus do not have the luxury of any learning or even the weekly Torah Parasha.
There are many positive sides of using the Internet and one is that you can connect to many other Jews in a friendly way.

Although surfing on the Internet himself, the Chassid told me that there is no need for a any Haredi to know all what is going on. Not even inside the haredi world, as many news / forums are full of "Lashon HaRah – gossip". "Who needs all this, he asked me. The only modest and reliable haredi Site would be "Ladaat.Net" anyway where not everyone can just enter and spread all kinds of gossip (beatings in Satmar in Bnei Brak, etc).

I very much doubt that an entire Internet ban would be successful. Lets say Chassidim need to ask their Rebbe (an internal committee) if they are allowed to use the net; fine, but what about those just buying a laptop and surfing in a wireless area ?
No one is able to ban the Internet but what Rabbis should teach is "How can I control myself better ?". Maybe there is not a realistic way of teaching everybody but, in the end, it depends on every Haredi or any person in this world, how he controls himself. A person, and especially a Haredi, has to have the strength of setting up limits for himself. Someone should know when enough is enough. A younger person or a teenager / child is mostly not able to do that and does not know where to draw the line. Nevertheless, the more Rabbis forbid anything, the more it becomes an attraction to haredi society. Maybe not to everyone but some will secretly have a look at "what this is all about". We live in a time of fast advancing technology and each of us has to learn how to use it and deal with it in the best possible way.


  1. Do you know any Hasidim who learn at Mesivta D'Rav Amram, the Mishkenos Haroim yeshiva ?

  2. B"H

    If you want to study it and you are in Israel: The library in Tel Aviv's "Beit Ariella" as well as Jerusalem's "National Jewish Library" have Rabbi Amram's writings and teachings.

    The Mishkenot definitely teach it but I am not sure if they are really chassidic.:-) It is a mixture of all kinds of people.
    As Rabbi Blau was the head of the Neturei Karta, I am sure that they teach his ideologies. However, the NK is also not necessarily chassidic; neither was Rabbi Blau himself.:-)

  3. a very good frum website, Esrog, www.tog.co.il closed it doors t=oday due to the ban!

  4. B"H

    Only to the ban they closed down ?
    I know this site but don't understand why a religious site has to shut its gates.

  5. B"H

    I was asked to write an article about a certain Chesed organization in Mea Shearim and thus may get to know someone studying there.