All these friends are on FaceGlat – the haredi version of the Facebook social network, in which Mandy and Chaya Mushka are not even allowed to meet.
Yes, the Jewish mind doesn’t rest. Technology keeps presenting new wonders, and there's always someone ready to take the challenge. This time it's Kfar Chabad resident Yaakov Swisa, 25, who founded a "kosher" social network with complete segregation between men and women and free of any immodest pictures or ads.
Special features prevent impersonation
The new website includes a "word filter" system for blocking comments or statuses users don't approve of, and a system blocking accounts opened by men in the women's section (and vice versa).
Plans for the future include different developments to prevent impersonations, a "mikveh room" with the sector's hottest news, and more.
Swisa said he learned to build websites on his own and has always been trying to come out with ways to meet the special needs of the religious and haredi public. He realized that an entire sector is in need of a social network which does not contradict its values, and decided to do something about it.
The FaceGlat manager says his motives are more ideological than economic, although he would be glad to get something in return for his great investment – time, efforts, energy and money.
Swisa says hundreds of accounts have been opened on the website since he began advertising it, and some 100 join every day.
"It's not an alternative for Facebook, but something intended for a particular public," he explains. "I believe that it would be much more convenient for a haredi man or woman to publish pictures and all kinds of other things to people of the same sex only.
"People who are God-fearing and care about their children's education – cannot tolerate the ads and pictures one sees on the regular Facebook. I personally know people who have deteriorated spiritually because of all kinds of things they were introduced to there."
'No religious coercion'
Swisa stresses that there is no "religious coercion" in the website and that the only content supervised is that available to all users. Pictures and statuses that do not appear on a person's profile page will not be blocked, as those who don't want to be exposed to them can remove the person who published them from their list of friends.
The FaceGlat procedures are not final yet and may change if needed – for example, if the website in its current format leads to "negative activity," as defined by Swisa, or attracts people who don't even own a Facebook account at the moment.
"We're not making it kosher, but reducing the prohibition," he explains. "We want to provide a different, cleaner option for those who are already there. If it encourages people to open accounts or waste their time instead of studying Torah – it's a failure. It's not worth a thing. I promised myself that if that happened I would close it down."
And why can't a husband connect with his wife on FaceGlat? "We thought of that option, allowing friendships between men and women who are members of the same family, but we feared that would lead to impersonations and people making up names.
"In the end we decided to leave it as it is, and let the couples meet at home, on the sofa in their living room."
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