Most people who live in countries at war look to their leaders to bring peace.
But if those leaders fail to bring peace, they claim it’s because the enemy is evil and a dire threat to the people’s survival and therefore the war must be fought until it is “won.”
No price is too great.
To please the leader, the war news is often censored. Those enemies never have children, never have parents, never have feelings or lives or dreams and are just one dimensional killers, usually called “terrorists” or “militants.”
Failed leaders claim “victory” is near if they just keep killing them and with it so will be peace and prosperity.
Instead thousands of innocent men, women and children are killed or severely injured as the wars continue endlessly, draining the financial and moral capital of everyone involved. And the seeds of bitterness are sown for future wars.
In Israel one man got so sick of war and so tired of the unfulfilled promises of the political leaders he took matters into his own hands. He was Abie Nathan, a former British Royal Air Force World War ll fighter pilot and an Israeli immigrant who fought for Israel’s independence in 1948.
As a businessman Abie thrived. He flew for El Al the Israeli national airline, and he owned an art gallery and a popular restaurant.
Most successful people such as Abie do little to end Israel’s perpetual state of war with their Arab neighbors for it is easier to accept the fighting, enjoy their lives and allow other people’s children to shed their blood.
Not Abie. He was determined to do something about it. In 1965 he ran for Parliament promising to try to negotiate a peace agreement with then Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser. To voters it seemed too good to be true and they didn’t elect him.
Undeterred, in 1966 he jumped in his own small plane, a bucket of bolts he named “Shalom 1,” in Hebrew and “Peace 1” in English and illegally flew to Egypt. Nasser did not meet with him but the Egyptian government treated him cordially and then sent him back to Israel.
While his mission did not succeed, it captured the hearts and minds of many Israelis as Abie had begun a long term one man mission to end the Arab-Israeli conflicts.
Later that year, Abie talked peace with world leaders in the United States, the Soviet Union and in Europe. In 1967, he again flew to Egypt but Nasser did not meet with him. The Israeli government was not amused and this time threw him in jail for 40-days.
As for Egypt, Abie was a man ahead of his time. Twelve years, two wars and a river of blood later Israel and Egypt signed a peace accord that is honored by both nations today.
Abie also focused on the brutal Palestinian war, a war which continues. He appealed to people’s consciences to try to stop it and he fasted for peace.
In 1973, he bought an old 188 foot freighter, partly paid for by John Lennon and anchored it offshore of Tel Aviv. There he setup “pirate” radio station, “The Voice of Peace,” playing popular music and delivering his messages of peace.
Over the next 20-years “The Voice of Peace” built a devoted following not just in Israel but elsewhere in the Middle East as many people were attracted to his message of peace.
As an activist Abie met repeatedly with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat and in 1989, the Israeli government jailed him this time for 122-days. They also gave him a one-year suspended sentence as a warning not to do it again. Abie ignored that warning.
Finally in 1993 when Israel and the PLO reached an interim peace agreement, known as the Oslo Peace Accords, as a hopeful symbol that peace would last, Abie sank the “Voice of Peace” ship.
As Abie pressured the Israeli government to seek peace, he was busy with his other humanitarian causes. He raised money to help the victims of hunger and war in such troubled nations as Biafra and Ethiopia in Africa, and in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Columbia.
In Israel, he donated to the Cancer Association, llan (helps handicapped children) and Yad Sara (a volunteer network that cares for disabled, elderly and homebound shut-ins) and other charities.
After having spent much of his life trying to bring peace and helping those in need, recently Abie passed at the age of 81.
In his memory, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued this statement: “Abie Nathan loved life, loved mankind and loved peace. He painted Israeli society with a unique shade of humanism and compassion.”
Those are nice words but I believe Abie would trade them in a heart beat if Israel would sit down with its Palestinian neighbors and sincerely try to reach a peace agreement so that the children of both nations could live peacefully together.