Apple’s Jerusalem Problem

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, an influential ultra-Orthodox rabbi, says it is forbidden for religious Jews to own an iPhone and has instructed his followers to burn the device if they own one. It’s not that Kanievsky sides with Android in the smartphone war, but that he’s concerned about what observant Jews will see with such a device. Burning ones iPhone seems a drastic measure, but Kanievsky wasn’t the only Jewish leader with angst against Apple’s iPhone this week.

The Algemeiner was the first to report this week that Apple’s new operating system, iOS6, does not show Jerusalem as the capital of Israel although every other country on the map has its capital listed. Further, when iPhone users go to the built-in World Clock app that is included in iOS6 they will see that Jerusalem is the only city to be listed without an affiliated country. Some users of the new operating system also noticed an inability to locate Jerusalem hotels using Apple Maps, while finding hotels in other Israeli cities like Tel Aviv was possible.


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Apple found itself facing several problems as it released the new operating system and began shipping the new iPhone 5 device. Not long after the media reported that the map application, which comes standard with the new operating system, had several bugs and provided inaccurate directions came a story of a worker riot at an Apple production factory in China which led to a halt in production of the new iPhone 5.

Millions of Apple devotees were excited to download the new operating system, but now Israelis and Israel supporters are wondering about Apple’s political views toward the Jewish state. The fact that the maps application as well as the World Clock both omit Israel from being associated with Jerusalem might be telling. The U.S. government recognizes Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel, but Apple is a corporation and can render its own decision on the issue. Perhaps this decision was the company’s intended way to remain neutral on a touchy political situation. listed the Apple’s omission of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel as one of the six epic fails of the new Apple operating system. Peter Cohan opines in the article, “Let’s hope this Apple Map epic fail does not set off another Middle East conflagration.” While this story is making headlines, it is not the first time that there have been questionable omissions of Jerusalem in mobile apps or on the Web. This summer the BBC’s website originally didn’t list Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in its Olympics coverage, but did list East Jerusalem as the “intended seat” of Palestine’s capital. Following public outrage and a campaign by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, the BBC altered both pages with the Israeli Olympic team page reading “Seat of government Jerusalem, though most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv” and the Palestine team’s page reading “Intended seat of government East Jerusalem. Ramallah serves as administrative capital.”

Apple’s top competitor in the smartphone market is Google, which makes the Android operating system for mobile devices including phones and tablets. All Android devices use Google Maps, which lists Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On the web version of Google Maps when the user selects Jerusalem a description from Wikipedia appears stating, “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, though not internationally recognized as such, and one of the oldest cities in the world.”

The irony in this story is that without Israel there would be no iPhone. The newer iPhone versions use a microchip that was developed in Israel by Qualcomm Israel, which operates a research and development center for advanced wireless communications systems in Haifa, Israel’s northern port city.

Apple has declined to comment on the Jerusalem matter in Apple Maps.