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Arutz Sheva - History

Towards the middle of March 1988 a Jewish religious organisation, Gush Emunim had approached Abie Nathan about the possibility of  hiring the Voice of Peace's transmitters to broadcast an hour of programmes every week. After being  refused airtime by Nathan the group then offered to buy the entire Peace ship from him. When this request was also refused they went on to purchase a ship and set about planning the launch of their own offshore station later in the year.

The station's owners Yaakov "Ketzaleh" Katz and Ze'ev Hever, represented the West Bank Settlers and the policy of the station was declared to be "to advance the ideas of Settlement and Eretz Yisrael Hashlema (Greater Israel)". The new station was to be established because the Gush Emunim organisation believed Israeli state radio was biased against their right wing ideology.

At 3.00am on 21st October 1988 the new radio ship, Eretz Hatzvi (Land of the Gazelle) arrived off Tel Aviv, anchoring three miles further out to sea than the Peace ship and just outside Israel's six mile territorial limit.

Test transmissions under the call sign Arutz Sheva (Channel Seven)  started at 8.00am the same day using a 10KW transmitter. The tests consisted of non-stop Hebrew/Hassidic music, with occasional announcements and, as with the Voice of  Peace,  relays of the Kol Israel news at the top of the hour. These test transmissions continued daily from 7.00am - 10.00pm until the end of October 1988 when the ship raised her anchor and entered Haifa to have some adjustments made to the  transmitter.

No more broadcasts were heard from Arutz Sheva until 18th November 1988 when the Hatzvi returned to her original anchorage and resumed test transmissions. Regular broadcasts then started shortly after 2.00pm on 20th November 1988. A Ministry of Communications spokesman, commenting on Israel's second offshore radio  station  said:-

“The law forbids transmissions from inside Israel that are not licenced by the Communications Ministry, but the Gush Emunim ship is outside our territorial waters. Although this is contrary to international law, there is nothing we can do.”

Unlike the MV Peace the Hatzvi did not go into port to refuel, she received supplies from up to twelve small tenders each day. The station had two on-board DJs and the remaining programmes were taped in land-based studios. Arutz Sheva's managers and DJs were all practising ultra-orthodox Jews and programmes initially consisted largely of Hebrew music and material with a religious and nationalistic (Israeli) bias.

1989

Arutz Sheva grew from strength to strength rapidly establishing a large audience with its mix of traditional Israeli music and 'positive' talk programmes,  equalling Kol Israel's Radio Two service in terms of audience level at many times of the day. Station Manager Shulamit Melamed said: "The message we wish to impart is love for the land, people and faith of Israel. We are consciously gearing our message not only to the religious listener. We are following a middle road, one on which everyone in this nation can feel at ease". Despite its background Shulamit Melamid claimed Arutz Sheva was not a mouthpiece for Gush Emunin, saying: "We are not formally or financially linked to the Gush. We are private people. Many of us are Judea and Samaria residents and true we have friends in Gush Emunim, but we are not its voice."

A survey by Telseker in late 1989, after Arutz Sheva had been on the air for just over a year, showed that only 30% of its listeners identified themselves as 'religious', 25% secular and the remaining 45% claimed to be 'traditional'.

To begin with the station had only attracted small, largely religious based advertisers, but once the significant audience levels had been established Arutz Sheva quickly became a recognised advertising medium.

In June 1989 Arutz Sheva, brought its ship, Hatzvi, closer to shore, anchoring near the MV Peace. Three months later it acquired a new FM transmitter and increased its broadcasting time to 17 hours a day. However it still  did not broadcast at all on Shabbat (dusk on Friday evening until dusk on Saturday) or on religious holidays. In order to ensure that no unauthorised broadcasts were made during these periods engineers cut all power to the transmitter at the start of Shabbat and it was not restored until the following night.

1990


1991


1992

By 1992 Arutz Sheva had widened its programme content to include a mix of traditional Middle East and Jewish music with some 'western' easy listening material (mainly  from musicals and stage shows), the only criteria for inclusion being that the music should be "happy and optimistic". On the information side of its output the station claimed to only broadcast reports which looked at Israel through positive, healthy  eyes."

1993

In June 1993 the Arutz Sheva ship, Hatzvi was given permission to anchor a mile offshore, near to Tel Aviv Marina. The station now broadcast on two medium wave as well two FM stereo frequencies and a public opinion poll in mid-1993 showed that it had a listenership of over 300,000.  

A second service, Arutz Sheva Bet, was also started about this time directed specifically at 'religious listeners'. This second service included items on Jewish philosophy and history as well as public information programmes interspersed with what was officially described as "genuine Israeli music". Plans were also in existence to establish a third separate service from Arutz Sheva broadcasting in Russian and directed at the 600,000 Russian immigrants living in Israel.

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