The smartphone and its punishment: Social distancing of cellular transgressors in ultra-Orthodox Jewish society, from 2G to the Corona pandemic

Hananel Rosenberg*, Menahem Blondheim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

Over the past 20 years, the leaders of Israel's ultra-Orthodox (haredi) community carried out an intensive campaign against the diffusion of mobile phones in their enclave society. It included a variety of resistance strategies that escalated in parallel to the consistent increase in mobile phone penetration into the community. If at first the “cellphone danger” was contained by the successful “kosherphone,” a new threat appeared in the form of the smartphone. In this article we explore the severe rabbinic sanctions directed against those who deviate from the communal norm by using a smartphone. We analyze the general “lawfare” strategy of social distancing they adopted, and offer a close reading of the specific religious-law decrees, interpreting them through the historical and legal lens of halakhah (Jewish law). This socio-legal analysis constructs the way haredi leadership understands the role of the smartphone in two contexts. One is the rapidly changing contemporary media environment; the other is the social dynamic affecting this island community, as it encounters the surrounding national and global culture through digital media. The article concludes with a preliminary analysis of the implications of the Corona pandemic on the campaign against the smartphone.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number101619
JournalTechnology in Society
Volume66
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Corona pandemic
  • Isolated communities
  • Jewish law
  • Kosherphone
  • Religious authority and new media
  • Religious communities
  • Smartphone
  • Ultra-orthodox

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