Friday, December 03, 2004

Call Me Stupid

They banned TV and we all understood. They banned video and we went along. They banned the Internet and it is difficult not to accept that they have a point. Now it’s the mobile phone they have in their sights and it is time to say no.

For as long as any of us can remember there was kosher business and the business of kosher. Sadly it has been obvious for almost as long that the latter is no more a part of the first than vice versa. It is no longer even worthy of note in our community when the Rabbinate ‘discovers’ some product we have been using for years is no longer kosher, days before a kosher equivalent emerges. We acquiesce without a murmur as products are pushed in and out of our plates at the whim of the Hechsher givers, blessed be they.

As the store shelves swell with the welcome additions that really do make life easier we tend to keep mum as all our favourite brands are replaced by low quality, higher priced kosher versions. I do not need a hechsher (kosher certificate) on my sweet corn or my candles. I was happy drinking Ribena and using black pepper from goyishe sources.

All these however are relatively minor irritations.
I can still drop into my local supermarket and buy what I want. Provided of course, if I am not bothered by those besnooded, busybody, yachnes who stare at every product I bought as it sails past the checkout and exchange knowing glances with their equally dowdy counterparts further behind in the line.

Bank Leumi in Israel is about to launch a Shomer Shabbes credit card. Two of the eminent Rabbis behind it have already proved their worth – literally – in the kosher market before. Now they have come up with a credit card that only works in the weekdays and can only be used in stores that keep shabbes. The Haredi community in Israel does not use credit cards for whatever reason. The Rabbis are hoping with this new product to introduce the 21st century’s spending models into our community. If this scheme is successful I have no doubt it can be expanded, not only to encompass the Diaspora with its vastly superior spending habits, but also the snooping can be widened to include having spot checks on all our spending to make sure it is in accordance with the latest rules. It is certainly reassuring to know that their concern does not end on our plates.

The Chachamim seem to have discovered their economic muscle and they have to be stopped before it is too late. The mobile phone might have inherent dangers to those who seek to control lives and I did not argue when the school insisted the children were not allowed to use them, even though I would have been happier if my daughter had one when she walks home in the dark. The Israeli Rabbis have recently banned all mobile phone adverts in religious publications. The rumour mill talks of the big companies scrambling to get Rabbinic approval for a phone service with a hechsher. The new service will be stripped of all those filthy pornographic services like text messaging and service info. Wap GPRS and all other services will of course be blocked and –so as not encourage young people to use it too much - it will also be somewhat more expensive that the others. A minor detail really seeing as the bills are to be paid by credit card and Orange is open Shabbes…

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