New communications minister, Haredi parties reach deal to nix ‘kosher’ phone reform

New Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi (Likud) reaches understandings with the Haredi parties to cancel the previous government’s kosher phones reform, with the leaders hailing the cooperation, as opposed to previous minister Yoaz Hendel’s attempt to “force a change of lifestyle on an entire community. “

Many in the ultra-Orthodox community use so-called “kosher” phones, stripped of features such as internet and messaging apps, in the attempt to avoid content deemed inappropriate. These phones all have numbers with a distinct beginning, so that examining the phone number can determine whether the person has a kosher phone.

Hendel’s program would enable holders of kosher phones to switch to a regular mobile phone, without changing their phone numbers, allowing those interested in having smartphones to use them, and weakening the tight intra-community regulation on the matter.

The coalition deals signed last week included a pledge to nix the phasing out of old 2G and 3G cellular networks in Israel, due to the kosher phones’ reliance on those networks.

A compromise has been reached on that front, in which the phasing out will happen, but with a delay of six months — through the end of 2025 — to allow for the preparation of kosher phones with 4G reception.

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