Hanukkah Candles as Collateral Damage

Judaism.com was attacked, allegedly from an Iranian IP address, on Thursday, December 1 according to Shlomo Perelman, who owns and operates the company. That same evening Mr. Perelman notified my wife via email and a telephone call, suggesting that she inform our credit card company of this. He assured her that the Hanukkah candles that she ordered would be shipped in a timely manner.

Judaism.com sells what it calls “essential Judaica,” which includes items such as imprinted kippot (skullcaps) for weddings and bar mitzvahs, kosher wines and a small but amusing collection of “pet Judaica.” The site was completely inaccessible on Friday. On Saturday typing “Judaism” into your browser displayed a message claiming that the site was down because of “routine maintenance” and that Judaism.com would be operational on Sunday. The maintenance must have been more difficult than anticipated. The site was not restored until Tuesday afternoon. There was neither mention of Iran or hackers nor any indication of the four-day disappearance of Judaism from cyberspace.

I understand that I could be accused of taking pleasure in someone else’s troubles, but I found this incident risible. Could the cyber-attack on Mr. Perelman’s web site be a small part of a larger organized government campaign from Tehran to retaliate for the Stuxnet virus and various other assaults which are now generally recognized to be part of an American/Israeli effort to punish or overthrow the Iranian regime? Or could the attack have been perpetrated by a young Iranian seller of Islamic religious paraphernalia who erroneously believes harming Judaism.com is an appropriate Muslim response to the Israeli threats to bomb Teheran nuclear facilities? The possibility that my Hanukkah candle order could become collateral damage in a nasty covert war being waged between Israel and the United States against Iran made me laugh.

I have had three short telephone conversations with Mr. Perelman who refuses to be interviewed about the attack. He did tell me that he had informed the FBI and that they were currently attempting to find the culprit(s). I wonder what the Feds would be able to do if they located the hackers in Iran.

When I first heard Shlomo Perelman had called about the digital intrusion, I imagined newspaper headlines such as “Iranians Attack Judaism, Israel Vows It Will Retaliate.” Shlomo, not surprisingly, did not see the humor in the situation. Although his website was fully restored on Tuesday afternoon, December 6, and he indicated that the monetary lose incurred was not too bad, Shlomo Perelman still feared that if the cyber-attack became widely known it would somehow hurt business and the image of Judaism.

To my Jewish readers: Judaism.com actually has some nice stuff. Check out the menorahs and Jewish calendars. Just remember to observe the Palestinian boycott campaign and make sure nothing you buy is made in Israel or by settlers from the Occupied Territories.

Ira Glunts first visited the Middle East in 1972, where he taught English and physical education in a small rural community in Israel. He was a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces in 1992. Mr. Glunts lives in Madison, New York where he operates a used and rare book business, writes and is a part-time reference librarian. He can be reached at: gluntsi@morrisville.edu. Read other articles by Ira.