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'Telephonetto' stays both smart and kosher

The Telephonetto has a camera and audio player, but turns off videos and Web access to help religious Jewish teens resist digital temptation.

Because phones can be both smart and kosher. Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

It's probably no longer a stretch to say the media overload we wade through each day of the Information Age can begin to eat away at the soul. In fact, some rabbis in Israel believe that's actually the case.

Enter the Telephonetto, which seeks to eliminate much of the temptation religious Jewish teens might encounter on a typical smartphone with access to the Web, mass media, and the many, er, less-than-kosher forms of content one might be able to consume via that tiny screen.

The phone, which has no Internet access and won't play videos, is the product of a collaboration between Eurocom Mobile Communications and some religious organizations in Israel. While it won't grant the kids access to Facebook, it still has other smartphone features like an audio player and camera.

No word yet on pricing or availability for the new phone.

Earlier this year some Israeli rabbis gave their blessing to a kosher cell phone developed by religious leaders and engineers that could be used on Shabbat by emergency personnel and others who need to be on call of the Jewish day of rest without breaking the laws. But the Telephonetto offers more features and was developed specifically with students in mind.

"Mobile phones enslave teens and lead to destructive social detachment," Rabbi Avinoam Horowitz, principal of the Kiryat Arba religious high school and one of the leaders of the initiative to create the phone, told "They stop playing with their friends; everyone dives into his or her phone."

Not to mention that the phones are also a portal to blasphemous content and are "mutilating students' souls," according to Horowitz.

It's admirable to try to balance technology with tradition, but I can't help but think this might be overkill -- why not at least allow an exception for access to FaceGlat, the kosher social network? Oh, maybe this is why.