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A Near Trafic Jam On Otherwise Low Profile Jewish Websites

by Savitha C Muppala on December 2, 2008 at 2:15 PM
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 A Near Trafic Jam On Otherwise Low Profile Jewish Websites

Following the blood bath at chabad house in Mumbai, many low profile jewish websites witnessed a surge of visitors, that caused some of the websites to crash with the unprecedented load of user traffic.

The dramatic events in India have highlighted the web's growing role in the reclusive ultra-Orthodox community, which had long shunned the Internet as a potential threat to its traditional way of life.


Some websites have crashed as readers sought updates on the attacks that left more than 170 people dead, including six Jews who died in the cultural and outreach centre run by Chabad, one of the world's largest Jewish religious movements.

The couple who ran the cultural centre, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, were killed by their captors as commandos stormed the building to rescue them on Friday.

Dozens of Chabad websites based in Israel, the United States and other countries have posted near real-time news, pictures and videos of the attack and the repatriation of the victims' bodies.

Chabad webmasters say the coverage has drawn hundreds of online comments.

"We have had unprecedented exposure in recent days. The entire world has visited our websites," said Menachem Mandel, a spokesman for Chabad's headquarters in Israel.

Members of the ultra-Orthodox community expect ratings to reach a peak during Tuesday's funeral ceremonies at the Chabad centre near Tel Aviv, which will be broadcast online.

Headlines on all the Chabad websites screamed horror as the standoff at the Mumbai building unfolded and the extent of the tragedy was revealed to the world.

Pictures of the bullet-riddled and blood-splattered walls and synagogue of the Jewish centre quickly made their way to the homepages of the sites.

The horror gradually gave way to shock and disbelief after the identity of the victims four Israelis, one US citizen and one Mexican citizen were revealed.

"What has happened here?!" was splashed across the Chabad On line Website (www.col.org.il).

"Why?" cried a headline on www.chabad770.org against the backdrop of a blood-soaked floor of the cultural centre in Nariman House, one of several sites targeted by the militants.

A video clip in memory of the victims featuring a religious festival at the Mumbai centre became so popular that the Chabad On Line site collapsed for several hours.

Prayers and lessons by Chabad rabbis have drawn dozens of responses from readers who posted their thoughts and condolences to the victim's families.

Founded in the 18th century in Russia, Chabad is one of the largest Hassidic sects, whose members remain profoundly attached to their traditions and keep televisions, and in many cases computers, out of their homes.

Unlike other ultra-Orthodox movements, however, Chabad leaders approve of the use of the Internet for non-entertainment purposes.

"Of all the ultra-Orthodox communities, Chabad was the first to adopt the Internet as a work tool," said Rabbi Menachem Brod.

"We follow the teaching of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson who said that technology was invented to serve positive needs and one should use it for the general good."

Chabad uses its website as an effective way to communicate between the movement's more than 3,000 centres similar to that in Mumbai across the world, which draw many Israelis and other Jews.

"The Internet is not recommended for homes. If someone needs it at home he must have his rabbi's approval. But for some families whose children live abroad, this is a most effective way to keep in touch," Brod said.

"The Chabad communities across the world are like a family, and the Internet is the easiest way to communicate news and information which everyone wants," he said.

Source: AFP

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