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Israel's "The Voice of Peace" 'pirate' radio pioneer, Abie Nathan, embarks on final voyage at age 81

Abie Nathan - Israeli peace pioneer, pirate radio station founder and former Royal Air Force pilot - has died in Tel Aviv at the age of 81. Nathan, the communicator who singlehandedly revolutionized mass-media in the Middle-East had suffered 2 strokes over the past dozen years rendering him mute- was hospitalized for five days at Ichalov before his death, Israel Radio reported Wednesday, 27 August.

Nathan burst onto the world of Middle East diplomacy in 1966 with a dramatic solo flight to Egypt in a rattletrap single-engine plane, more than a decade before Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty.

Although he had failed in his initial bid to talk peace with the Egyptians, his daredevil escapade won the affection of many Israelis, and he launched a long (and sometimes eccentric) one-man crusade to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict

Convinced that people power could succeed where the diplomats had failed, Nathan bought a 188-foot, 570-ton Dutch freighter that was partially funded by John Lennon. He anchored it off the coast of Tel Aviv and turned it into radio phenomenon, The Voice of Peace, playing a mix of Anglo pop songs and peace messages.

"Shalom, salaam and peace to all our listeners," Nathan declared in his maiden broadcast in 1973. "The Peace Ship is a project of the people. We hope through this station we will help relieve the pain and heal the wounds of many years of suffering of the people of the Middle East."

With its famous jingle, "From somewhere in the Mediterranean, we are the Voice of Peace," the station broadcast from a ship anchored 7-miles off Israel's coast in international waters.

It was launched with John Lennon and Yoko Ono's song 'Give Peace a Chance.' Daily at "Twilight Time" it paused for a memorial moment of silence. In its heyday, its all-music format attracted a listenership of tens of millions throughout the Middle-East.

Apart from his peace efforts, Nathan flew or shipped emergency supplies to victims of war, earthquakes and famine around the world, including to Biafra, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Lebanon and the former Zaire.

After spiraling operating costs of the ship, coupled with declining advertising revenues, The Voice of Peace saw its debts mount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rather than sell it, Nathan elected to sink the ship in 1993.

He saw the first wish come true when Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979.

He suffered a stroke in 1996 which left him partly paralyzed, and a second stroke around a year later left him without the power of speech.

Confined to a retirement home, he had rarely been seen in public. In a 1996 interview with The Associated Press, Nathan said that during one of his prison hunger strikes, he was certain he was going to die. He bought a grave and a tombstone.

When asked what he would want written on the stone, he replied "Nisiti" - the Hebrew for "I tried."

(Combined sources, including AP via Ha'aretz)

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