JERUSALEM, Israel - Soldiers in Israel are making waves - radio air waves - that have captured the imagination of Israel's public and continue to bring down all the competition.
Israel Army Radio is the kind of dynamite the Middle Eastern media needs.
Galai Zahal - or "army waves" in Hebrew - is "the most popular radio station in Israel." It continues to conquer the hearts and minds of the Israeli public, according to an editorial in The Boston Globe (July 8, 2007).
The secret weapon that makes this high-flying multi-cultural radio program so powerful is the 18 to 20 year-old soldiers who man the station. These young recruits interview dignitaries, politicians, prime ministers and prime suspects. With their free-thinking and youthful enthusiasm, they offer a fresh look at the complexities of the Middle East.
Reporting on everything from the latest incursion into the Gaza Strip to the inner workings of the U.N. Security Council, this fighting machine of young reporters are pushing back the frontiers of traditional media. Armed with these candid and provocative troops, Galai Zahal has topped the media charts for more than 50 years.
The Early Days
Prime Minister David Ben Gurion established the station in 1950 to provide information and entertainment to the soldiers in the field. During the 1948 War of Independence, it kept the Jewish public informed, and in 1956, the ">Israeli Broadcasting Authority (IBA) defined the station's status by the giving the Israel Defense Forces a free hand in determining the programming.
From its inception, Galai Zahal has never been dependant on commercial advertising, enabling it to incorporate new and challenging programs without having to make a budget or please a critical public.
In 1982, during the first Lebanese War, Galai Zahal introduced Erev Hadash (literally, "New Evening" in Hebrew). The open forum, live talk show format invited both Arab and Jewish commentary on the conflict. The concept changed the face of news broadcasting in Israel from anchorman monologue style to an open debate on the hot topics of the day.
Erev Hadash was later purchased by a local television station. It is now the most popular news and talk show on Israeli television.
Israelis Still Like Radio
Because of the Galai Zahal phenomena, radio remains very popular in Israel today - quite an accomplishment in the modern world of digital media wars.
Galai Zahal is even popular among the deeply divided religious and secular populations of Israel. Some of the station's most popular talk shows feature both religious and secular hosts. These programs stir heated and informative debates on the hot topics of the day. They create an atmosphere for dialogue and mutual respect - an uncommon occurrence in the battlefields of the Middle East conflict.
The saying goes in Israel that "every citizen is a soldier." Perhaps it's not odd that Israel's Army Radio has become the station for every citizen.