Nathan, Abie J. (Israel)
Abie J. Nathan is an Israeli peace and human rights activist. He was born in 1927 in Abadan, Iran, but moved to Bombay India while he was still young and attended the local Jesuit school. In 1943 at the age of 16 he joined the Royal Air Force and served as a battle pilot in World War II. When the war was over he helped evacuate refugees during the division of India and Pakistan. After his service he worked as a commercial pilot for the airline El-Al.
He ran for election to the Israeli Knesset in 1965, on the platform that he would fly a “peace flight” to Cairo. Even though he was not elected, he still kept his promise to fly a “peace flight” to Port Said on February 28, 1966 after receiving over a hundred thousand signatures in favor of his flight. His flight made headlines and launched his quest for Arab-Israeli peace. In 1969 he bought a small freighter and began taking similar peace voyages to Israeli’s Arab neighbors along the Red Sea, as well as the Mediterranean. Afterwards he anchored the boat in international waters and used it to transmit radio programs for peace. He once stated that he hoped his Peace Ship would “help relieve the pain and heal the wounds of many years of suffering of the people of the Middle East." Nathan’s station became very popular among the Middle Eastern youth, as it was the only station to broadcast pop music, as well as having Israeli and Arabic news. All of the radio station’s broadcasts were done in English.
Nathan went on to forge contacts with Arab and Palestinian leaders including Yassir Arafat among others. As a result he has been imprisoned and fined repeatedly by the Israeli government for what they deemed illegal activity.
He also devoted a large amount of his time to humanitarian relief, more specifically he focused his time on disaster relief and eliminating hunger. Nathan continued this work through the early nineties when he received the Bruno Kreisky Prize. A large amount of his effort went to building tent cities to help the Somalian citizens who had been displaced from the civil war. In 1997 Nathan was awarded the Nuremburg International Human Rights Award for his humanitarian works.
In the 1990s Nathan founded the Humanitarian Fund- Kibbutz Movement. Similar to his previous work abroad, this organization focuses on helping citizens after natural disasters. It is still currently operating in Israel, as well as internationally. Their goal is to respond to emergencies quickly and effectively. Recently they have had programs in Turkey, Honduras, Kosovo, Rwanda and Ethiopia in addition to many other countries. Within Israel they support efforts to provide for the underprivileged.
Abie J. Nathan died in 2008 in Tel Aviv at the age of 81. After his death the Israeli Coalition for International Humanitarian Aid was founded in his memory