All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Sunday, 5 March 2006

Radio Days

I remember the time, about twenty years ago, when my father came home carrying a rather interesting looking object. It turned out that he’d found a supadupa Russian shortwave radio, the kind where you could listen to seven different bands and pick up virtually any radio station in the world.

It was a huge, brown hulking thing that weighed a ton.

Each night, he twiddled the dial and miraculously found the ever so slim frequency that enabled the Kol Israel Radio station to crackle it’s way into our living room. For a short while, our hearts lifted up as we heard the wonderful sound of the announcer saying “This is Kol Yisrael, the voice of Israel, broadcasting from Jerusalem”. For, at that moment, although we were two thousand miles away, our ears and souls were right there, in the heart of Jerusalem.

After a while, my father got hold of a nice, dinky little shortwave radio and to my delight, I found myself in possession of the radio. I remember parking it by the window in my bedroom with the antenna touching my window. I twiddled and twiddled looking, sometimes in vain for the 32 shortwave band.

The weather dictated the success of my trials. On cold nights, I seemed to have more luck. Then again, anything could stop me finding the station – be it the rather rude and loud Greek stations that seemed to hog the airwaves or perhaps some radio ham getting a buzz out of sending a signal to his girlfriend in northern Belgium. Additionally, I never did manage to hear the radio before at least 8 p.m.

Occasionally, I might get lucky and eventually hit the station but find that at peak times, it had melted away into the depths of the stratosphere. Then again, falling asleep to the sound of the Hatikvah (the Israeli National Anthem) at the end of broadcasting, was something that I shall never forget. Damn! That old radio had a lot of character.

A few weeks ago, I happened upon an Internet Explorer toolbar that allows you to listen to over 30 Israeli radio stations in crystal clear digital sound. Unlike the old Shortwave radio, I don’t need to wait till dark to hear the news. I can listen for 24 hours a day if the mood takes me. I can also watch some Israeli TV channels, pop in on sessions at the Knesset (The Parliament), find out who is doing what in the upcoming elections and live as a virtual Israeli, listening to the identical sounds that a young soldier hears as he makes his way to his army base at the start of the day.

I have to say that although I am delighted to be able to share in another side of the Israeli experience, strangely enough, I find that it doesn’t give me the same thrill that I used to get when I found the crackling, fading sounds blasting out of the hulk. Maybe it’s because I’m older and I don’t get the buzz that I used to get when I was a teenager – or maybe, just maybe, it’s the fact that the challenge of finding the Israeli needle in the haystack of foreign radio stations is no longer a factor.

I miss that radio and the emotions I used to feel, from it’s presence in my bedroom.

Times might have changed, but I would give anything to be back there, twiddling the dials and waiting to see if that night would bring such a sweet and unforgettable sound.

Radio days indeed.

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