We can now add something else to the long list of things that are not kosher enough for the Haredi authorities in Israel: rape crisis and mental health hotlines.
If you are the victim of sexual abuse or are having an emotional crisis and have signed up for your cell phone service’s “kosher” plan, then you’re don’t expect to be able to anonymously reach out toll-free for help. According to an investigative report by Ynet, a body called the Rabbinical Committee for Communications has threatened to hurt mobile service providers’ business if they do not block the ability to dial these hotlines on “kosher” phones. It seems that so far, the providers have acquiesced to the rabbis’ demands.
The user of a regular cell phone (one that has not subscribed to a kosher plan) can dial toll free to the rape crisis center (1202 for women, 1203 for men) and to the ERAN emotional first-aid hotline, as well as to the country’s other emergency numbers (police, fire, ambulance, etc.). Kosher phones allow calls to the other emergency numbers, but block ones to the hotlines.
Recently the Internet decided it knew a few things about me.
The first was that I’m into Jewish news. Yahoo, a site I visit frequently to check my email, started personalizing the news stories it shows me. (And not just me; the company introduced increased personalization on the site several months ago.) What struck me was the bizarre focus of the customized news in my feed. Interspersed between the usual celebrity gossip and natural disaster coverage, there would be a story or two about Israel.
Now, I am interested in what goes on in Israel. But the headlines on my screen were not the sort I would usually click on — about Israeli tourism, say, or terror attacks, or for that matter Jewish life in America and around the world. Instead, they centered almost exclusively on obscure developments in the Knesset or nasty little tempest-in-a-teapot scandals. At first the stories came from Reuters and AP, but then it seemed any media outlet would do: RT.com, an English-language Russian news site; the Times of India; even the noxiously anti-Israel (many say flat-out anti-Semitic) mondoweiss.net. (The Yahoo newsfeed also now includes “relevant” tweets.)
While this was going on, the Internet suddenly decided that I wear, or at least want to shop for, plus-size clothes. I think I know how this happened.
In the last few weeks, I’ve written about military sexual assault and high-profile gendered kidnapping and rape cases, discussing how they fit into a broader pattern of rape culture in which women are treated as commodities and sex a transaction.
But last week’s shocking stories show how rape culture has seeped into tech and online culture, adding a gross violation of privacy to the inherent violation of sexual assault.