(photo credit: )
When the Kassam rockets fall on Sderot one of the first things residents do is turn the radio dial to 101.5 FM.
Radio Darom (South) is a local station based out of Ashkelon and Beersheba with coverage over the southern half of Israel.
For the last few weeks, residents of this region, and especially those of the city of Sderot, which has been under daily Kassam bombardment, have turned to the local station to hear up to the minute news and reactions from the street.
"Radio Darom works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the benefit of the residents of Sderot," Radio Darom director David Yousub told The Jerusalem Post at the first annual Israeli radio conference in Haifa this week. "We dedicate the first hour of our daily news program exclusively to the situation in the region and break the news of attacks immediately as they occur, no matter what."
Unlike other radio stations, Radio Darom employs a crew of reporters and technicians who live in Sderot. Last week a Kassam landed a meter away from their mobile broadcasting station while they were in the middle of a newscast.
"It was really scary, we had just started our daily morning show and were waiting for an interview subject to call in when suddenly we heard a loud boom and felt the shockwave hit the side of the station. We had to cut the broadcast and run to a sheltered area until we heard the all-clear announcement," recounts news editor Irma Shalev.
"Our reporters who live in Sderot are in a difficult position. When a rocket falls they are split between the desire to cover the event and the need to find out if their families are alright," said Shalev.
Many residents feel they have been forsaken by the country and they sometimes turn to the station to vent.
"We have dozens of callers each day asking for advice or for help. They call to vent their frustrations about the security situation and the government, which they feel has abandoned them," said Shalev.
"I got a call from a person the other day who has just come out of an operation. He wanted to know if we could help him find a safe place to stay. This man can't go home alone, his family is away, who knows where they are, what's he going to do, go to Gaydamak's tent city in Tel-Aviv?" Shalev asked rhetorically.
Another man called to share his dilemma on whether or not to attend a reserves training exercise, for which he was called up, reasoning that it was a bit absurd to go to training when his home was under daily attack.
Radio Darom also acts as a community liaison for Sderot and other towns in the region for the provision of aid, publicizes volunteer programs, and sponsors local charities, but mostly it provides a platform for peoples' voices to be heard.
"We have the advantage of being local, the residents know that they can come to us and that we'll do everything we can to help them," said Yousub.
The South has long suffered from poverty and unemployment, problems that are sometimes neglected when the rockets are falling.
"Unfortunately, over the last few weeks since the situation has escalated, coverage of Sderot has overshadowed coverage of other places in the region and other issues," said Shalev.
Another radio station that is showing signs of providing local competition is Radio "Kol Hanegev" (the voice of the Negev). This station, which operates out of Sapir College and is run entirely by students and volunteers, has started operating on extended hours and has breaking news flashes whenever rockets land.
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