Sania's son, Ayman

One Digit

Ayman S. (Last name removed for privacy)

As told to Donia Jarrar

Phone numbers in Ramallah were only 4 digits. My family’s number was 2255. The neighbors, 2102.
2501. My father’s store.

My grandfathers number in Kufr Rayi was 1 digit.

7.

We would dial the switchboard and ask for number 7. There were only 9 phone numbers in the whole village.

In Jenin, it was 3 digits. My grandfather’s number was 147. In the villages, one digit. In the main cities like Ramallah, four digits. Nablus, four digits. Gaza, four digits.

It took so long to dial on an analog rotary phone, your finger was sharpened like a pencil.

Before the Palestinian Authority came into power there was no direct connection between any Arab country and Palestine, the West Bank and Gaza. You had to dial a switchboard in Cyprus and ask them to dial the number for you in Jordan or Saudi Arabia. There was no direct call whatsoever. Nothing. You have to go through hell to dial out an international call.  It was prohibited by the Israeli authorities. We would dial out to Cyprus first, and they'd make the call from there. You would take the plug and join it with another plug, joining two cables together from two different sources. We used to pay huge amounts for international calls. Double the price. The sound was horrible.

(in arabic) Your generation of course has no idea about this stuff. What it was like.

We got our own switchboard in 1997. Before that we used to go through Jordan. Before Jordan we used to go through Cyprus. And there was no communication between Israel and the USSR either during the Soviet Union era. I went to the Soviet Union and I stayed there for six months to do my studies, but when I used to call my parents it was really difficult. Faxes also were not allowed, although they were invented in the eighties, we still were not allowed to use them ten years later. They were considered a security threat by Israel. If you wanted to send information you would have to go to a certified office in Ramallah and send a telegram.

We weren’t allowed to use cellular phones until 1999, and we don’t have 3G networks.

Why?

Who knows.