It started with music. In January 2004, a radio station based in East Jerusalem made its debut on the Internet [www.allforpeace.org], broadcasting a playlist of global tunes that featured Arab and Israeli melodies. By April, the station was hosting talking radio programs in the mornings ? one hour in Hebrew and one hour in Arabic. ?We deal with education, culture and sport, but politics is out,? explains Maisa Seniora, the station?s Palestinian co-director. ?You are bound to hurt someone when you deal with politics.? The station offers a range of programs for adults as well as for young listeners.
?The equator? is a one-hour talk show broadcast in Hebrew that examines the different social and cultural aspects of life in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The show lets Hebrew speaking listeners get to know Palestinian society. Its counterpart is ?Muhawalat,? another daily program. Broadcast in Arabic, it deals with different aspects of Israeli society and gives Palestinian listeners a perspective on Israeli life.
?Crossing Borders? is a youth program hosted by two young girls, Neta Muray and Shireen Yassin. The show deals with the fears, dreams and hopes of both Israeli and Palestinian youth covering issues that affect their lives such as education, music, violence, drugs and more.
The station broadcasts 24 hours a day and plans to continue doing so once they officially go on air. Run by 12 Israelis and Palestinians ? technicians, producers and reporters ? All for Peace Radio is determined to instill fresh hope in two populations that have sunk into apathy and despair. The dual heritage of their small staff in itself serves as an emblem of cooperation and peace.
Two organizations ? the Palestinian group Biladi (?my homeland? in Arabic) and an Israeli group called The Jewish-Arab Centre for Peace at Givat Haviva ? are partners in the project. When representatives from the groups collaborated to found All for Peace, the European Union believed in their dream enough to fund 80 percent of the project.
The station?s yearly budget stands at $350,000. The Japanese embassy in Tel-Aviv and several private organizations also support the station.
In a relatively short time, this small radio station has built a reputation as a credible source of information. ?While covering recent elections in the Palestinian Authority, we interviewed both Abu Mazen and his political rival Dr. Mustafa Barghouti,? Shimon Malka, the station?s Israeli c0-director, says with pride. ?We were also approached by Israeli media for updates through our sources.?
One of the most fascinating stories covered by the station concerns a Palestinian terrorist who was on his way to launch an attack on Israeli civilians. A sudden moment of reflection led him to the conclusion that nothing useful would come from killing more people. He turned back to his village and eventually started a children?s theater group. All For Peace broadcast this story around the world, inviting the ex-terrorist in for an interview.
?We get about 10,000 daily visitors to the [Web] site,? says Malka. ?I hope the numbers will keep on growing as more and more people hear about us.?
The station?s optimistic vision is all the more impressive considering the hurdles it has faced from Israeli and Palestinian officials. The station originally intended to broadcast via traditional radio waves, but the transmitter it ordered from Italy has been stuck in Israeli customs since November 2003. What seems to be a technical problem is actually a political one ? the Palestinian Communication Office and its Israeli counterpart refuse to communicate since, officially, there is no dialogue between political leaders on both sides.
?This is a very frustrating situation,? says Seniora. ?Since these people are incapable of speaking to one another, the station is stuck as well.?
The Israeli Ministry of Communication responded to questions about the station with a calendar of committee meetings and a saga of missing permits. An ultimatum given by the station?s management to Israeli officials has been ignored. Malka says that at present the station is engaged in trying to purchase an alternative transmitter, a smaller one, but one that will at least allow them to finally go on air. European Union officials have also begun exerting their influence to pressure Israel to allow the station to start broadcasting.
Even though these are not the best of times, Seniora and her colleagues remain determined. ?If there was peace, we would have no work to do. I want to reach the people on the street who are tired of this war. The bottom line is that we are all people who want to live and work and raise our children in peace.?
Sima Borkovski is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. Her articles have been published by various Jewish publications in Europe and the United States. She also writes for NANA [www.nana.co.il], a news Web site in Israel.
Young People's Media Network - Coordinator
c/o ECMC (European Centre for Media Competence)
Bergstr. 8 / 10th floor
D-45770 Marl - Germany
Mobile: +49 176 23107083
Fax: +49 12126 23107083
Mailing list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/youthful-media