Saturday, September 25, 2010

Inter- no-net

A major concern for the religious community in Israel surrounds the fact that it’s not much FUN being religious. You only read from the Bible (or other religious books), women are always covered from head-to-toe et cetera. The most frightening thing for the community is that a member will discover how much fun it is being secular, and decide to abandon religion and the community. To prevent that, it’s very important to them to keep their people from being “tried” – they close themselves off in their own neighborhoods and try to shield the residents from any clue of the outside world. As part of this, TV has traditionally been forbidden, and since the introduction of the internet, it has been a source of controversy. On one hand, they realize their businesses, which do have to sell and buy to secular businesses, need the web, but the web also provides access to everything that is forbidden – pictures, information…and even PORN!

Naturally, they started coming up with various crazy work-around “solutions”. One company will receive letters and faxes from religious people, type them into a computer and send them out as Email. Another company provides heavily censored internet connections, with proxy-servers that block 99% of the web except specific sites deemed permissible. The craziest idea, though, is something that started about 2 years ago…it’s a CD that contains cached copies of pre-approved websites, and sent to subscribers monthly via the post. The disc has about 3500 websites, and even a search component. The entrepreneur says he has about 200,000 subscribers, and that they also allow them to update their content using public terminals and a USB-drive, in case you want to be updated more than once a month. I’m wondering how come nobody thought of having a pay-per-minute search service, where someone reads out censored results to you over the phone…that way, you wouldn’t even have to have a computer (which many religious folk are extremely against even without the internet)

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