CAIRO: Renowned Israeli peace activist Abie Nathan, whose actions constantly put him at odds with Israeli authorities, died Wednesday at the age of 81.
Nathan, who founded the Voice of Peace radio station, was known for making trips to Egypt. His first visit was on his single engine plane dubbed “Shalom1 to represent a peace flight in 1966. The two nations were enemies at the time.
Egyptian authorities treated him graciously and sent him back to Israel. Although the Israeli government was disappointed with his actions, he was not convicted.
He flew to Egypt again in 1967 where he was quickly sent back to Israel and jailed for 40 days.
The controversial peace activist went on several hunger strikes to protest the construction of Israeli settlements and meeting with PLO leader Yasser Arafat. The latter got him jailed for 122 days in 1989, and a one-year suspended sentence after he repeated the offense.
The tireless campaigner was known to take matters into his own hands and even though he failed to meet Nasser while in Egypt, many people admired his efforts to reach peace.
To further his cause, he founded the radio station Voice of Peace in 1973 on his anchored 188-foot, 570-ton ship on the Mediterranean where he played pop songs and peace messages.
The radio station became popular with the youth offering English music and both Arab and Israeli spoken news for 20 years until Nathan intentionally sank the boat in 1993 after the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords, which he felt achieved the station’s mission.
Nathan also helped war, earthquake and famine victims from around the world by shipping them emergency supplies. These countries included Lebanon, Cambodia and Biafra.
In January 1993 Nathan was overjoyed when parliament removed the law that banned interaction with the PLO as well as the signing of an interim to a peace agreement eight months later.
The activist’s health started deteriorating in 1996 when he suffered his first stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side and wheelchair ridden. A second stroke in 1998 left him speech impaired and he was sent to a retirement home.
Abraham Jacob Nathan was born in Abadan, Persia on April 29, 1927. He joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot in 1944. He volunteered as a pilot in Machal and decided to stay in Israel afterwards.
The Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted by his office praising Nathan for his work. “Abie Nathan loved life, loved mankind and loved peace. He painted Israeli society with special colors of humanity and compassion. We will cherish his memory with love. -Additional reporting by Agencies