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Arutz 2000 - History

During the early summer of 1995 interest in offshore radio circles in Britain began to centre on a former Trinity House lightship moored in a scrapyard in Portsmouth.

Various rumours circulated that the ship would be converted to become a new offshore radio station broadcasting to Europe. In fact the former Towers Lightship (known as Light Vessel Number 3) had been purchased by an Israeli group who also purchased a former inshore tug, Tamar, to tow the engine-less lightship to her eventual location off Israel.

The group behind the station, an ultra religious Sephardic Jewish organisation linked to the Shas political party who held five seats in the Knesset, had been operating Arutz 2000 as a land based pirate station in south Tel Aviv since the spring of 1995.

The station broadcast religious music, which is popular with the Sephardic Jewish community and claimed to be transmitting from the International waters of the Mediterranean. In June 1995, however, police raided the land based transmitter site in south Tel Aviv and confiscated the equipment, but the station very quickly resumed broadcasting. By the end of July the station had been raided six times by police and it was because of the frequent raids that the owners raised money to transfer the station to an offshore base,

Worldwide Broadcast Consultants (operated by former Radio Caroline and Laser 558 DJ/engineer Paul Rusling) were engaged to advise the Israeli group on the conversion of Light Vessel Number 3  - now re-named King David - to a floating radio station. However, the consultancy subsequently withdrew from the project.

Nevertheless conversion work continued throughout the summer of 1995, but came to a halt towards the end of the year when resources apparently ran short. The unusual activity on board the ship had come to the attention of the British Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) who mounted a surveillance operation in Portsmouth Harbour. Once satisfied that the conversion work meant the ship was intended for use as an offshore radio station they decided to raid the vessel.

The raid, allegedly at the request of the Israeli Embassy in London (although this connection was strongly denied) was carried out on Friday 12th January 1996 just after sundown when the orthodox Jewish backers and workers were observing Shabbat. DTI officials claimed that the timing of the raid was not deliberate, but the practical effect was that because of religious observance by the crew they met with no resistance from those on board the King David. Sections of aerial mast which had been stored on the deck awaiting erection were removed and confiscated by the authorities, but the transmitting equipment was left on board because the DTI officials could not gain full access to the ship..

Following the raid, and fearing that the ship herself may soon be impounded, the owners arranged for the King David to be towed away from Britain immediately by the tug Tamar. However,  after crossing the Bay of Biscay problems were experienced with the towing cable and both ships had to enter port in Lisbon for repairs.

Shortly after the ship was towed out of Portsmouth the still landbased Arutz 2000, started making references on-air about the impending arrival of its new radio ship en-route from Britain. By 27th January 1996, however, the station was making emergency appeals for financial donations to 'rescue and salvage' its ship which had got into difficulties at sea, somewhere near Gibraltar. Reports in the early spring of 1996 indicated that the King David had reached Cyprus and by the end of May she was reportedly anchored some 15 miles off the coast of Israel.

Although Arutz 2000 was claiming to be broadcasting from its offshore base at this time in reality the station was still relaying its programmes from landbased studios. During these broadcasts further appeals were made on air for listeners to make donations to the station and announcers  frequently referred to the King David and plans to start offshore transmissions.

On 3rd May 1996 the Arutz 2000 land based transmitter site in south Tel Aviv was raided again by Israeli police and on 10th May the station  announced that they were broadcasting from the King David, although this was not true. During the day they asked for donations to replace equipment that had been confiscated in earlier raids, but they were still broadcasting from land, and were raided once again by Israeli police, allegedly because they were interfering with air traffic control at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport.

By 13th May 1996 Arutz 2000 had resumed broadcasting from their land based transmitter and were still asking for donations to replace confiscated equipment. They also started announcing that their ship, King David had arrived off the coast of Ashdod.

On 20th May 1996 Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport was forced to close for a couple of hours due to serious interference from a pirate radio station in the Tel Aviv area and as a result most of the other land based stations surrounding Tel Aviv, including Arutz 2000, temporarily closed down.

Test broadcasts for Arutz 2000 from the King David eventually started on 28th August 1996. The ship was anchored twenty miles off the coast of south Tel Aviv, opposite the Jaffa Port.

However these test broadcasts stopped suddenly the following day and didn’t resume again until 20th October, but the signal was very weak. Regular broadcasts began on 17th December 1996, although the signal was still very weak and by late December the station changed frequency to 101.8 Mhz (formerly used by Radio Gal), although this frequency change only lasted a few days.

On 22nd February 1997 Arutz 2000 closed down from its offshore base due to severe weather conditions, but was able to return six days later, although it later transpired that these broadcasts were from landbased studios and transmitter site.

By June 1997 the Arutz 2000 signal had  improved and it was rumoured that this was due to broadcasts resuming from the King David, but in reality the station(which was now in severe debt) was still broadcasting from land based studios and transmitter site in the religious town of Bnei-Brak near Tel-Aviv.

By October 1997 the station was known to be trying to find a buyer for the King David, which was still anchored off Tel Aviv. However no purchaser was found and the ship remained at anchor, but inside Israeli territorial waters off the coast of Jaffa port.

In December 1999 it was reported that the vessel’s owners planned to scuttle the ship although this would have been against the law in the shallow waters where the King David was anchored. The vessel was not lit, and  was causing a hazard to shipping at night  so representatives of the shipping and port authority of the Transport Ministry, along with a police escort, went out to the ship, but the crew refused to let them on board.

On 5th January 2000 the King David ran aground on Tel Baruch beach, near Tel Aviv, in heavy storms. The King David remained abandoned on the beach for several months  and became a safety hazard, with children climbing aboard it and diving into the water. The police were unable to locate the owners of the vessel, so on 28th August 2000 the Shipping Authority in conjunction with the Environment Ministry towed the vessel from the beach  to a secure place in the open sea  where it  was finally sunk.

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