Search for “beef” and you’ll find listings for two restaurants and four butchers. Search for “bacon” and you’ll get no results.
Doesn’t sound like Google? It’s not.
Now Internet users can use Koogle (www.koogle.co.il), the newly launched search portal that caters to Orthodox Jews. The Web site, which filters out any objectionable content, provides observant users with a place to shop online, find a kosher restaurant and plan a vacation — without risk of seeing inappropriate material. The Web site, based in Israel, is primarily in Hebrew with a mirror English site.
There are links to news, a business index, restaurant and hotel listings and a Craigslist-style forum for buying and selling secondhand goods, including electronics, cars and furniture.
“Our goal is to match the wealth of information found on existing sites that reflect our values,” says the site’s mission statement. The site will provide “information from different web sites that are relevant to our target audience in a way that does not contradict the values of our traditional Jewish audience.”
Koogle, whose name is a play on the popular Web site Google, isn’t a search engine in the traditional sense. It doesn’t search the entire Internet for results, but a select group of listings and Web sites. The site also does not allow users to purchase items on Shabbat.
This is hardly the first Web site catering to the Orthodox population. Vos Iz Neais (Yiddish for “what’s news?), is a popular blog that calls itself “the voice of the Orthodox Jewish community. It delivers news and commentary relevant to the frum world.
“I definitely believe we’re going to see in the next few years a lot of sites catering for the Orthodox religious community,” said Shloma Shamos, a pen name for the chief editor of Vos Iz Neais. Shamos does not disclose his real name, because he often writes about controversial issues on the site. “All those people in the past who have a very strong opposition to it eventually are going to have to change their tone.”
Other products, like The Jnet, offer a pre-filtered Internet connection for homes, businesses or schools, providing either exclusion filtering, which blocks offensive sites, or inclusion filtering, which allows only select material to be viewed.
Yossi Markovitz, the co-founder of OnlySimchas.com, a site that provides users a place to announce and share photos of their engagements, weddings and bar mitzvahs, says that the trend of banning and restricting Internet usage will likely reverse.
“I think there are always going to be people who will try to ban it, but really nowadays since it’s become a necessary tool for so much of life — work, paying bills at home, budgeting, planning trips — every part of life is really done on the computer,” said Markovitz. “It’s less of a question how to ban it and more of a question of how to use it appropriately.”