He sits alone in a wheel chair in one of metropolitan Tel Aviv’s many “parent’s houses”, otherwise known to Westerners as nursing homes. The man, Abie Nathan, who formerly dedicated his life to promoting peace between Israel and her neighbors as well as helping to alleviate the suffering of fellow human beings the world over, recently “celebrated” his 80th birthday as a sick and crippled pensioner. His main wish, as sadly noted in a feature article in last Friday’s Yidiot Ahronot newspaper: to be provided with a pistol in order to end his personal suffering.
How could his have happened to a man, a former IAF and El Al pilot and Tel Aviv restaurant owner, whose AM/FM radio station broadcasted daily for so many years from “somewhere in the Mediterranean”, and whose good deeds became known by many unfortunate and disaster stricken people who had long given up hope â€“ until he entered their lives? Abie Nathan was simply a very unique human being during the years that he invested so much of himself and his limited resources into trying to make the world a better place. These efforts were especially prevalent during the 1970’s and 80’s when his Peace Ship sat anchored less than a mile offshore Israel’s largest city, and whose bright and breezy radio broadcasts brought not only the latest pop tunes to his adoring listeners, but messages of hope, peace, and reconciliation to everyone in the eastern Mediterranean: From Greece to Egypt.
Abie could have made a sizable profit from the advertising revenues he received, as well as various donations to his various causes. Instead, he spent his entire revenues not only to promote his message of peace, but to provide food, medicines and other assistance to people as far away as Biafra Africa, Mexico and Nicaragua, whenever a natural or man-made disaster struck and caused so many to suffer. News clips of him walking among children, passing out toys, candy and other items to their smiling faces, often brought smiles to many. His philanthropic projects were in fact so numerous that it eventually bankrupted him and forced him to shut down his radio station and even scuttle the very ship where his crew had mostly been made up of young volunteers who often put in 16 hour days without any financial compensation.
Abie Nathan’s efforts to promote peace between his adopted country and her hostile neighbors often got him into trouble with various Israeli governments, who viewed his clandestine meetings with Palestinian and other Arab personalities as seditious and even traitorous; and prevented him from receiving any formal recognition from his own country. These rejections resulted in him being prevented from nomination for such prestigious awards as the Israel Prize, and that “jewel in the crown” that is awarded annually in the city of Oslo, Norway, the Nobel Prize.
For many people, particularly we “Anglos” who gave up the comforts of Western countries to settle in Israel, Abie’s daily broadcasts from the Peace Ship made our lives more tolerable and helped us to persevere in spite of being so far away from our former way of life. Whether it was listening to the latest rock and roll and other pop music hits, or to the VOP’s evening Twilight Time mellow renditions of earlier more tranquil years, Abie Nathan’s comforting voice was appreciated by all who listened to his message.
And now, near the end of his long life, Abie sits alone and dejected; a forgotten crusader for humanity, unable to function, and barely able to speak after two paralyzing strokes â€“ his only wish now is to be able to die with what little dignity still remains still remains in his aged, frail body in a country that has passed him and his dreams by in this ‘brave new world’ of religious and secular extremism that is now threatening to engulf us all.
Is this a proper and fitting end for a man to whom so many owe so much, and whose tireless efforts are only now beginning to be appreciated? Surely someone in the world, especially in Israel, will finally decide to give this great man the long delayed recognition he deserves â€“ and hopefully while he is still alive to receive it.