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Abie Nathan

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Abie Nathan

Avraham "Abie" Nathan (Hebrew: אברהם "אייבי" נתן‎) was an Israeli Zionist philanthropist, humanitarian and peace activist, perhaps best known as the founder of the Voice of Peace radio station.

Abie Nathan was born in Abadan, Iran, (Persia) on April 29, 1927. He spent his adolescent years in the city of Mumbai (then Bombay) in India. He became a pilot in the Royal Air Force in 1944. In 1948 he volunteered as a pilot for the Israeli Air Force as part of the  Machal volunteers in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and became an Israeli.  He worked for El Al airlines and later opened the California restaurant in Tel Aviv

While tensions were building in the Middle East, Nathan resolved to make a bold gesture for peace. He led a party called Nes (meaning  Miracle) in the 1965 Israeli Knesset elections, vowing to fly to Egypt. He missed the electoral threshold by 2,000 votes. After the results were published, he declared he would fly to Egypt anyhow, carrying a message of peace. Flying in his somewhat rickety aircraft, which he named Shalom 1 ("Peace 1"), he landed in Port Said on February 28, 1966. He was arrested upon landing. He asked to meet Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, and to deliver a petition calling for peace between Israel and Egypt. He was denied, and was deported back to Israel, where he was arrested again for leaving the country by an illegal route. He flew to Egypt again in 1967 and later tried twice more to enter Egypt and meet with Nasser, flying in commercial flights. Abie Nathan was dismissed by politicians who wanted to ignore his "gimmick," but the Pope and Bertrand Russell, among others, took him seriously and met with him, lending publicity and prestige to the possibility of peace in the Middle East. 


In 1973, Nathan founded the Voice of Peace radio station. He bought an old freighter with the help of John Lennon, called it "The Peace Ship", and sailed it outside Israeli territorial waters.

The station broadcast mostly English-language programs, especially good English popular music not available on local stations, while usually promoting peace in a low key manner. At first however, Nathan was a bit more outspoken. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Voice of Peace broadcast pleas to soldiers to put down their guns. Israeli authorities closed down the broadcasting studio, which was evidently then in Tel Aviv.

Young people in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt got used to the familiar announcement, "From somewhere in the Mediterranean - This is the Voice of Peace." An international culture of peace was born in the Middle East for the first time.  

In 1978, Nathan began his first hunger strike to protest the construction of Israeli settlements. In the early 1980s, Nathan began meeting officials from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).  Nathan again went on a hunger strike for 40 days to protest the Israeli law which prevented meetings with terrorist organizations. At one point he was close to death during one of his hunger strikes. He told friends that on his epitaph he wanted them to write, "Nissiti," I tried. He ended his hunger strike after the intervention of President Chaim Herzog.

Nathan met again with PLO head Yasser Arafat, and on September 18 , 1991 he was condemned to 18 months in prison. President Herzog cut 12 months from his sentence, and he was released after serving less than 6 months.

In 1993, Abie Nathan decided to close the Voice of Peace station due to economic and legal difficulties. In part, after the signing of the Oslo Declaration of Principless, he felt his message for peace and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians had  been heard. The ship was scuttled on November  28, 1993.

Abie Nathan was also involved in organizing disaster relief in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Biafra, Colombia, and Ethiopia. In Israel he contributed to many organizations, including  the Cancer Association, Ilan (Foundation for handicapped children), Yad Sarah (an Israeli network of ultra-orthodox volunteers aiding disabled, elderly, and housebound people) and many others.

In another anti-war protest, Abie Nathan organized the burial of smashed military toys. In 1996, he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to talk.  A charitable foundation he started continued to bring help to disaster areas including Kossovo and Turkey. Abie Nathan died in Tel Aviv on 27 August 2008, aged 81. He was mourned and lauded by Israelis from across the political spectrum.

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: http://www.abie-nathan.com

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

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Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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Abie Nathan