The past couple years, I listen almost religiously to two radio talk-shows featured on Galei Tzahal (Galatz): “Tochnit Haboker” with Micha Friedman and “Ma Boer” with Razi Barkai. If you listen to Galatz long enough you begin to notice that many of the words used by their broadcasters aren’t exactly commonplace in the lexicon of the majority of its listeners. A classic example can be found at the end of every show, when the broadcasters announce their email address, encouraging listeners to correspond: the common Hebrew word for the “@” symbol is “shtrudel“, however, on Galatz they insist on using the otherwise unheard of word, “kruchit“. Another example is the word “SMS”, commonly translated as “es-em-es” (genius, I know), however Galatz typically refers to it as a “misron“. Another thing you’ll notice, if you listen as much as I do, is a recurring name in the credit listings, the man responsible for all this: “Yeutz Lishoni – HaDoktor Avshalom Kor” (Trans: Linguistic advice – Dr. Avhsalom Kor).
It’s a commendable duty, advising on linguistics, especially for a station like Galei Tzahal. It’s important to understand that Galei Tzahal (or, Israeli Army Radio) isn’t like most radio stations. Galei Tzahal consists of two radio stations, Galatz and Galgalatz, together responsible for more than 20% of the country’s’ listeners. Particularly popular amongst youngsters and officially a division of the IDF’s Education and Youth Corps, its educational and cultural responsibility is clear. It is thus more than appropriate for Galatz to set the sanctity of the Hebrew language as a top priority.
However it seems that Galei Tzahal’s educational directive has fallen short. It seems that linguistics and education are only important when exercising the Hebrew language, and don’t apply to English. How else can you explain the complete disregard for explicit language (and content), repeatedly uncensored on Galgalatz?
I can think of two possible explanations, neither very comforting.
Possible explanation #1: Israelis are dumb. As far as I can tell, the issue of explicit language and content is most apparent in the English-language songs, primarily but not exclusively, rap. How can any self-respecting radio station, especially one claiming to have an educational agenda and represent Israeli culture, feature songs like “Blow My Whistle, Baby“, a song demoralizing woman, singing the wonders of oral sex? I’m going to afford Israelis the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are just plain dumb, and don’t understand the meaning or the sexual connotations of the song. After all, you can see the same thing in the Israeli fashion industry: I see old woman and mothers with kids all the time, wearing glittery T-shirts which read: “Horny – Have Sex”, or just plain “F**K Me”.
Having discussed the idea with my friends prior to writing this article, I was [naively] shocked that they didn’t see any problem with this: “you are a prude”, they said, “It’s because you’re religious”. However, it has nothing to do with being religious; its about being a mentsch. Even in the heilige United States, censors are placed on explicit content. Nearly every album is released in two versions: censored and uncensored.
Possible explanation #2: Israelis love to miss every possible opportunity to set an example. Let’s take the most recent case, that of Israeli pop-star Eyal Golan. Golan was the undisputed king of Israeli pop-culture, having risen in fame, breaking the social barriers of Sephardi-Ashkenazi and penetrating the highest echelons of the Israeli music industry…but then he decided [allegedly] to start sleeping with minors. So far, Golan has yet to be criminally charged – largely based on a lack of evidence – and maybe he never will be. However, does that mean that as a society we should continue to treat him with the same reverence and admiration we did in the past? Just because something is not criminally wrong, does that mean we want to condone it, socially? Instead of setting an example, hundreds took to the streets to show support for the “poor” artist. This should have been a wake-up call for parents to sit down and talk to their children, to explain that you can enjoy someone’s music without sanctifying everything he does. The 14-year-old girls who [allegedly] had relations with Golan did so precisely for this reason – because they idolized him. But instead of taking this opportunity to teach kids a lesson, one father, that of David Gozali, decided to invite Golan into his home to perform at his sons bar-mitzvah on the night he was released from house-arrest. In an interview on Galatz, Gozali said: “We were worried sick this whole week because we thought Golan might not make it, the whole time we were sure he was innocent – after all, someone so famous, who made it so big, can’t possibly have done those awful things”. This is the message Gozali chose to teach his son – idolize public figures like Golan and sanctify them, because they can do no wrong!
What it comes down to is setting an example, and if we can’t count on parents to do it, we should at least be able to rely on outside influences, such as popular radio stations like Galatz. Galgalatz’s target audience is youngsters ranging from 15-35, twenty-five-percent of which are 18-year-olds. Galatz should take advantage of this to set the right example for its listeners, not only in the way of correct grammar and linguistics but also in the way of acting and speaking like a mentsch.