Man arrested for arson attack on Haredi phone shop in Jerusalem

A man has been arrested in connection with an arson attack that destroyed a cellphone store in Jerusalem earlier this month, police said Sunday.

The suspect, in his 20s, was arrested at his home in the central town of Beit Shemesh.

He was due to appear in court later Monday for a hearing into his detention.

No injuries were reported in the October 3 fire, but the store was destroyed and several adjacent businesses were damaged.

At the time of the fire, the store owner claimed his company had been attacked for its refusal to stop selling a certain device considered by some to be “unkosher”.

Many ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, Jews use “kosher” phones — either older devices that don’t have internet access, or smartphones with restricted access to certain websites, apps and features like social media and text messages – on the instruction of the rabbis.

The issue and its regulation are largely controlled by a body called the Rabbinical Committee for Communications, which holds strong influence over the “kosher” cellphone trade across the country, as well as powerful tools that have societal and commercial effects. .

The fire broke out at a shop called Kosher Phone, located in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Geula in the capital. Similar incidents have been reported in the city before, particularly at companies that refused to cooperate with the committee.

The store owner was certain he was a target of extremists after recently losing a certificate provided by the rabbinical committee.

Owner Itzhak Deri, 26, said he used to work closely with the committee and follow its instructions. But his refusal to stop selling a smartphone deemed by the committee to be “non-kosher” meant losing a certificate issued by the committee and widely accepted by the community as necessary to operate cellphone stores in haredi neighborhoods.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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