Hopeful campaigners for a more peaceful "Jah-rusalem" rely on the Rasta sounds of Bob Marley plus old Beatles medleys to help soothe over the decades of rancour. Eric Pfanner, advertising columnist in the International Herald Tribune, reports how Issie Kirsh, a South African Israeli, wants talk radio to bridge the divide between Ramallah's listeners and the audience in Jerusalem with tunes. The posters definitely show a stamp of approval for the late, great dreadlocked one.
Amid another flare-up in Israeli-Palestinian violence, there are plenty of raised, partisan voices on either side. A new ad campaign suggests a different way to address the divide: speak, or even sing, to both sides at once.
The campaign is for a radio station, 93.6 RAM FM, that broadcasts from Jerusalem and Ramallah, reaching Israelis and Palestinians alike - in English rather than Hebrew or Arabic. The station was set up last year by Issie Kirsh, a Jewish South African. The idea came from a similar station, Radio 702, that he set up in the apartheid era of South Africa, allowing blacks and whites to speak on the same call-in and talk shows.
The station, 93.6 RAM FM, underlines its neutrality by avoiding Israeli or Arab songs and featuring the music of American, British and other English-speaking artists.
Some of them, including Bob Marley and the Beatles, feature in the ad campaign, which recently started to appear on billboards, in newspapers and magazines and on buses. The portraits are rendered through a kind of pointillist technique that uses the stamps applied to passports at border crossings, to reinforce the idea that music can surmount such barriers.
Unusually for an ad campaign in the region, the same images were used in Israeli and in Palestinian areas.
"The station views music as being a universal language that can cross all borders and reach all people, all nations and all religions," said Guy Bar, creative director of Gitam BBDO, the ad agency in Tel Aviv that created the campaign.
The station was spending about $400,000 on the campaign, a spokeswoman said. So far, she said, 93.6 RAM FM has attracted only small audiences, but it hopes those will grow, so that it can start selling ads, too.
Something's gotta give soon. The latest weekend violence near my mixed Jerusalem neighborhood was orchestrated by right-wing groups, who led a mob of angry Jewish teens downhill into the village Jebel Mukaber. There they flung stones at Arab houses and vowed to pull down the family home of the slain gunman who recently killed eight students at the uber-Zionist Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. (No seminary students were said to have taken part in the reverse-intifada tactics used by these vigilantes.) Police broke up the scuffle after 23 arrests, and were aided by colleagues in helicopters. All the Sunday papers had run corrective articles that emphasized how, despite early reports, no violence was sanctioned by any rabbis to avenge the mass murders of Jewish students.
At first, I'd assumed that all the extra security was in place to protect the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, from those who consider her presence in the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of the Jewish State to be an abomination. And tomorrow we must add candidate John McCain into the security mix, followed by VP Dick Cheney and ex-VP Al Gore. That's one overriding common reaction: we all dread the lockdown, man. Israelity bites.