A new kind of call to prayer

Marketplace Staff Mar 19, 2008


Doug Krizner: This Sunday is Easter. Tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims are expected at holy sites throughout Jerusalem. For those faithful unable to make the trip, a new high-tech service can connect them with the Holy Land for this or any other religious observance. Orly Halpern reports from Jerusalem.

Orly Halpern: Millions of Christians, Muslims and Jews visit Jerusalem’s Old City each year to pray in its churches, at the Dome of the Rock and at the Wailing Wall.

If you can’t make that long and expensive trip, an Israeli high-tech expert, Avshalom Neumann, came up with a unique solution when visiting the Wailing Wall and watching someone pray.

Avshalom Neumann: After you finish prayer, he took out his cell phone from pocket, he dialed his relatives in States and told them, “Now you can pray.”

That was the genesis of a telephonic prayer service.

Neumann: We enable people staying at home saying the prayer. The prayer will be heard in their voice in any holy site they choose.

The company, called Pray Over Internet Protocol, set up webcams and speakers at 10 holy locations around the country. So if you have one of those new third-generation cellular phones that stream live audio and video, then you can get the holy site straight to your screen. And that’s where the company makes its profits.

Neumann: Till now, you got two kind of content — you got naked women and games. We have something which is unique.

To promote its cellular phone live video service, the company offers two other services for free. You can visit their website and see the holy sites live. Or, dial a number in Israel and have your prayer recorded and transmitted to the holy site of your choice — and pay only the price of the call.

By the time the phone prayer is digitized and transmitted, it sounds like this:

[Sound of digital static]

Hmmm. That’s something that maybe only God could understand.

For some, just the act of saying the prayer is what matters.

Ron Buskala: It was very strange doing a prayer, so I did the first time and then I changed it a few times.

That’s Ron Buskala, from New Jersey, who sent a prayer to the Wailing Wall.

Buskala: My wife had a career change, so I gave a little extra so that her new career would be positive.

Neumann hopes to one day have his system set up at every holy site around the world.

In Jerusalem, this is Orly Halpern, for Marketplace.

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