The radio went dead the morning the arrest warrants were
The religious pirate ration station operators made a wise
move to get off the air when they did, for unbeknownst to
them, unmarked police vehicles equipped with sophisticated
tracking equipment had begun trolling the streets at dawn and
were already closing in on their targets. To broadcast under
those circumstances would have been suicidal, but by then
radio operators had pulled the plug and vacated the premises.
They still remain in hiding.
What's the big deal? Why does the religious press continually
dwell on this subject? Let's not get the issues confused,
some are saying -- banning religious entertainment may be
undemocratic, but to call it "religious persecution" -- isn't
that a bit extreme?
Not by a long shot. Entertainment is just a by-product of
religious radio -- at least from the Torah point of view. The
fact -- the undeniable truth -- is that these networks are
the spiritual lifeline for hundreds of thousands -- some say
for millions -- of Jews.
Many people do not realize that the real objective of many
religious radio stations is to unify a huge subculture, a
group comprised of the overwhelming majority of Israelis who
are aching to reconnect to their abandoned heritage. They're
out there, all right -- each one searching alone, wandering
aimlessly, buffeted by the winds of change, sweeping across
Israel's spiritual wasteland like lost sheep in search of
water. Pathetic as it may sound, religious radio was, for
many of these searching souls, their only window to the light
of Torah. It is not directed at the mainstream chareidi
community, many of whom do not even have radios.
Rabbi Uri Zohar's daily ninety-minute talk show on Radio 10
was by far the most popular program on religious radio,
drawing a listening audience of approximately a quarter of a
million. He never peddled the cheap brand of pop Kabalah that
beginners love to gobble up these days. Instead he devoted
his entire program consistently and exclusively to the
importance of a Torah education for children.
After he developed his daily theme -- comparing the rate of
violence in non-religious schools with that in religious
schools, for example; or blasting yet another myth concerning
the curriculum of religious institutions -- he would urge
listeners to call Lev L'Achim's school enrollment hotline and
request additional information. Hundreds of parents followed
his recommendation, and in a matter of hours these parents
would be visited by a member of Lev L'Achim's school
enrollment staff. As many as a third of the 1,400 children
that Lev L'Achim has enrolled to date for the coming school
year were reached by means of Rabbi Zohar's program.
The morning the police surveillance units rolled into action,
Radio 10's general manager sent Rabbi Zohar an urgent
message: "Don't come anywhere near the broadcasting station;
lie low for a while."
But getting arrested in a police raid was the least of Rabbi
Zohar's concerns. The thought that plagued his mind was: "All
those children! They must be reached!"
Nevertheless, religious radio remained silent for seven days,
giving religious politicians an opportunity to lobby on
behalf of the religious channels, but their efforts failed --
despite numerous surveys demonstrating wide public support
for the outlawed stations. Both the Attorney General and the
Police Commissioner dug in their heels, refusing to call off
the surveillance vehicles. The situation remained a
Coincidentally, that week a wave of violence swept through
public schools all over the country, and dominated the
On June 4, using screwdrivers as weapons, five schoolmates
stabbed fifteen-year-old Yevgeny Yakobovich to death in Upper
Nazareth. Yevgeny had insulted one of the boys, they claim,
calling him "fat" and "a miser."
A few days later, sixteen-year-old Gilad Raviv was stabbed in
the chest by another high school student in the Yerushalayim
neighborhood of East Talpiot.
Several days after that incident, reports reached Jerusalem
police that a major rumble involving students from two junior
high schools was scheduled to take place that evening in a
vacant lot on the outskirts of the city. Each school was to
be represented by forty-five fighters brandishing knives,
brass knuckles, metal clubs, nunchaks and an assortment of
other weaponry capable of breaking bones and shattering
skulls. A panel of a hundred "judges," consisting of students
from other junior high schools in the city, would be on hand
to keep score and determine the winner.
Just a few days later, a sixty-year-old man in Netanya was
attacked by a pack of local teenagers and left in a gutter to
die. He was rushed to the hospital and remains in serious
condition. Eyewitnesses say the teenagers surrounded the
victim and toyed with him before stabbing him with shards of
At this point, Rabbi Uri Zohar decided he had enough. Fully
aware of the danger involved in going back on the air, he
made the decision to resume his broadcasts. His children
needed him; he refused to abandon them now.
What followed was a coup d'etat of the hearts of the
Israeli population, in the spirit of the do-or-die rebels of
the past who risked life and limb to help their fellow Jews.
Yes, there are still people today who are willing to
sacrifice anything and everything when the destiny of Klal
Yisroel is at stake; Rabbi Uri Zohar holds a high place
among them. Hard to believe? Those who have had the merit of
seeing him in action know that it is true.
In the small hours of the morning last Sunday, a group of men
quietly entered the abandoned radio station and removed
recording equipment and transmitters. They set up shop in an
alternate site, and that afternoon, at precisely four
o'clock, Rabbi Zohar's voice went on the air for forty
minutes, pleading with parents to transfer their children out
of the public school system, rife with violence, and enroll
them in Torah schools. Following that broadcast, the radio
team quickly packed their equipment and fled, leaving behind
a lone observer to time the arrival of the police
department's surveillance van.
The public's response to this broadcast was awesome. Hundreds
of calls jammed Lev L'Achim's switchboard solid for over two
hours. As might be expected, not all of the callers were
parents interested in enrolling their children in Torah
schools -- many just wanted to thank whoever had been
responsible for the broadcast, and to express their
frustration at the government's fascist tactics to stifle
freedom of speech.
The daring Zohar broadcast opened the floodgates of courage,
emboldening many of the pirate stations to go back on the air
with a spirit of festivity and wild abandon. It was a bad
Rabbi Zohar's broadcast had been meticulously planned. It
included a series of contingency plans and precautions
designed to minimize the risk factor. Unfortunately, the
other stations were not nearly as careful, and they suffered
the consequences -- police raided three "pirate" radio
stations last week in Jerusalem, making arrests and
confiscating a large haul of valuable equipment.
Nevertheless, the Zohar broadcasts continue, going strong,
keeping Lev L'Achim's enrollment personnel hard at work. They
don't always start on time, and they don't always continue
for the same amount of time, but people keep their radio
dials tuned to the right frequency, and even if there is a
delay, they wait for Rabbi Zohar day after day.