The Red Phones
The Red Phones
I went to the military-run radio station today. These folks swear up and down that although the military runs the radio station, (they don’t even play commercials), they can operate how they want and play whatever music they want, with no interference from the government. I learned how important radio is in a war zone from “Hotel Rwanda.” Israel is nowhere near that serious. But I still doubt that any one who doesn’t support Israel could get a weekend shift on this station, talking shit about how to make homemade bombs and which stores have nails on discount. It’s just not going to happen.
Military service is compulsory for Israelies—male and female. When you turn 18, you go in for three years. A woman is exempt if she’s already married by 18, so of course, there are women marrying dudes just for the exemption and then divorcing when they are too old to go in. During the tour of the station, I hear Biggie’s “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems,” immediately followed by a song sung in Hebrew.
On the way up to the top floor of the station, a soldier shows me how you can send a text-message to a snack machine and get sodas and snacks. The cost is added to your cell phone bill. I’m glad we don’t have that in the states yet.
That same soldier is asked if there are any words that are not allowed on the radio. He said, “well you can’t say fuck or nigger.”
I wince when I hear him say the n-word. It rolls off his tongue like he says that word every morning when he wakes up. “Nigger! Man, I slept good last night.”
White folks in the US know that you have to say, “the n-word.” Having a discussion about the word nigger does NOT give you the right to slip it in to conversation. Cats just be wanting to taste that word on their tongues, roll it around, see what it feels like.
And just who would he be calling a nigger? I can count on one hand the Black people I’ve seen here. But many of the Israelis I’ve seen are darker than I am.
What constitutes a nigger? A black person from the states? An Ethiopian Jewish immigrant? I have no idea. But I think there’s a story there too.
As I leave the newsroom of the radio station, the editors explain the purpose of the red phones. If someone in Israel sees something suspicious, a potential suicide bomber, perhaps, they dial the number that rings the red phones. (The red phones don’t even have Caller ID. And they have those super curly cords that everybody used to have back in the day.) It rings to the newsroom and many times, the radio station is able to have a reporter on the scene of a terrorist attack before the authorities get there. (Which is weird, since everyone who works at the station is in the military, so in a way, they are the authority).
If you call the red phones and you are right about your suspicions about an upcoming attack, you receive 50 Israeli Shekels. I ask how much money that is.
The editor looks up from his computer and snorts. “About enough for two Happy Meals.”