New initiative in haredi city (archives)
Photo: Gilad Kavalerchik
The ultra-Orthodox city of Modiin Illit has got its own Internet café for the very first time. The café, an initiative of haredi businessman Yehuda Weisfish, was opened after he received rabbinical approval.
The new experimental store is called "Gilad Net" and is strictly kosher. For the haredi public this is a real revolution, as the Internet has been considered abominable by rabbis for years.
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Every passing day, Weisfish says, proves that progress cannot be made without the worldwide computer network. "We are becoming a small global village, and one can no longer do with just faxes and telephones."
Trying to explain the contradiction between the opposition to the Internet on the one hand and rabbis' approval for his store on the other hand, he says that the haredi public objects to the Internet as a recreational activity.
"But for work purposes and benefits for those who have to use it, there's no problem. We opened the store for people who don't want to bring a compute into their home and don't need Internet on a daily basis. I am referring to people who need the Web to access emails, bank accounts, HMOs and government ministries."
The store, which is located in the most conservative haredi city, is currently undergoing a trial period.
"If it succeeds, spiritually and economically, we plan to open branches all over the country. We have already opened a room for women too, as the store was initially intended for men only, and we are looking into the profitability of this move," says Weisfish.
The store has computers, which the entrepreneur says provide much more privacy than a regular cybercafé.
He received rabbinical approval only after accepting the rabbis' rules and introducing a content-control system which allows surfers to visit specific websites only like Gmail, government ministries and IKEA. News websites like Ynet, and even some haredi sites, are blocked.
"The filtering system activated in the computers only approves necessary websites," Weisfish explains. "As a result, we charge visitors for every 15 minutes due to the reduced time they spend in front of the computer screen.
"People who come to surf here stay for a short while because they're not here to hang out, so we charge NIS 5 ($1.45) for every 15 minutes. So far we've been successful and have already had more than 100 visitors."
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