LEFT: Israel’s Minister of Communications Yoaz Hendel (Photo by Flash90), RIGHT: Kosher Phone
LEFT: Israel’s Minister of Communications Yoaz Hendel (Photo by Flash90), RIGHT: Kosher Phone


JERUSALEM — After deciding just prior to Pesach to cancel the kosher cellular monopoly by allowing full mobility of kosher numbers, Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel is now enabling those with the “kosher” numbers to exchange their sim cards for a “non-kosher” phone which may be open to inappropriate content.

Over the past decades, the kosher phones, under supervision of a committee which blocked numbers deemed inappropriate, were always recognizable by the ubiquitous prefixes used by their customers. Hendel’s decision, which he claims will increase competition and help the chareidi community obtain better prices for communications, cancels this unique feature and is sharply opposed by chareidi leaders.

The reform, due to take effect on July 31, will allow each subscriber to choose to remain with his existing package or join another more liberal package using the same number. The reform follows intense lobbying by LGBT groups anxious to see hotlines affiliated with LGBT organizations unblocked to kosher phone line subscribers. Such content is anathema to charedi Jews.

“The role of a government minister is to make decisions, even when there are those who oppose them, and to promote the welfare of all citizens and not just the welfare of a specific sector,” Hendel said on Sunday. “These reforms will grant freedom of choice to the haredi public and create additional competition which will lower prices and improve service.

“Until now, the kosher cellular market has constituted a monopoly whose conduct has hurt competition, restricted number mobility, and caused prices to rise. Where there is chaos and consumer injustice, we will fix it. Each person will be able to choose the cellular company, the type of package, and the type of device he wishes to use.

“Anyone who wishes to do so will be able to stay with the cellular company where he currently subscribes to the kosher service, for himself and his children, which includes blocking services and applications on the telephone and blocking Internet access, and will also be able to transfer his phone number to the kosher service at another cellular company. If he wishes, he will also be able to transfer his number from the kosher service to any other program offered by his cellular company, or offered by other cellular companies. In the State of Israel, there should be one law and equal conditions everywhere. It is important to emphasize that no one should be forced to do anything,” Hendel said.

“Only the account holder will be able to transfer his number, and no one under the age of 18 will be able to do so,” he added.

Chareidi politicians sharply opposed the move, with MK Uri Maklev calling it a “serious blow to a huge community…this is the act of a dictator imposing his will on a responsible sector of the population, telling them how to behave.”

Chareidi attorney Zalman Black sent a letter to Hendel prior to petitioning the Supreme Court. Black said that the decision to prevent kosher levels of phone numbers harmed the free market as it forced companies to stop providing these levels and caused a significant loss to those who specifically bought kosher phones and now find themselves with a regular phone in their hands.

The petition says that the decision is akin to preventing a company from branding since the kosher phones “help maintain chareidi cohesion and supervision of education in the institutions. Just as the transport minister would not prohibit car manufacturers from displaying the brand of their cars, chareidim who see the kosher numbers as a positive aspect of their lives should not be prevented from branding themselves in this manner.”

The petitioners said that if the minister would not accede to their request they will petition the courts for assistance on the matter.

As reported by Vos Iz Neias