August 31: Nathan's wartime plea

Throughout the day, Nathan played the Beatles' song "Give peace a chance" and urged Israeli soldiers not to fight back.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Nathan's wartime plea Sir, - "Maverick peace pioneer Abie Nathan dead at 81" (August 28) neglected to mention Nathan's legacy from the 1973 Yom Kippur War. On Yom Kippur, when we heard planes overhead and rumors of an impending war on two fronts, we came home from synagogue and listened to the only station that was broadcasting - Abie Natan's "Voice of Peace." Nathan's message: "Soldiers must refuse orders, and must not fight. Instead, they should extend a peaceful hand to the attacking Egyptian and Syrian armies." Throughout that day, Nathan played the Beatles' song "Give peace a chance" and urged Israeli soldiers not to fight back, pleading, over and over, "Throw down your guns. Do not fight back. Hug the oncoming Egyptian and Syrian troops." This was Nathan's theme on that long Yom Kippur, and in the difficult days that followed. The story receives confirmation from Jim Parkes's History of Offshore Radio: "During the October war the [Voice of Peace] ship moved to the Suez Canal. While the soldiers listened to the station, they only laughed at requests to lay down their arms." A few days into the war, Israeli intelligence closed down Nathan's transmitter, which operated from the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv. On August 2, 1995, Dr. Aaron Lerner, the director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis) asked Nathan about his broadcasts during the Yom Kippur war. IMRA: Did you ever get any flack from people who remember that you called for soldiers to put down their arms at the start of the Yom Kippur War? Nathan: We asked for people on both sides to put down their weapons and many people still remember it. I know many Egyptians who tell me that they heard the broadcast. I was broadcasting off of Port Said. We had just started broadcasting on the ship. It was on Yom Kippur and all the [Israeli] radio stations were silent. Since I was off of Port Said I was really among the first to know that the war had started. No one thought there was anything wrong with calling for the soldiers not to fight. If the soldiers on both sides had only listened to me it would have left the war for the generals.... As Lerner noted, "He wasn't broadcasting in Arabic. It was in English. And while some Egyptians may have heard him, his audience was overwhelmingly Israeli." DAVID BEDEIN Israel Resource News Agency Jerusalem Phew! Sir, - I'm glad that Moscow appreciates "the balanced position Israel ha[s] taken throughout the crisis," as well as its "low profile" ("Israel walks tightrope as US, Russia dispatch warships to Georgia," August 28). If, feeling such appreciation, Russia is moving apace to advance military cooperation with Syria, a sworn enemy of Israel, one wonders what the case would be were Israel bereft of such appreciation! GILBERT SIEVERS Jerusalem It's about dignity Sir, - Re "School year still under threat despite cancellation of cuts" and "10,000 teachers expected to leave" (both August 28): Low salaries are only one reason we are losing good teachers. Teachers' salaries have always been low. The main reason is lack of respect from students and parents. Teaching a subject becomes almost impossible when class behavior is poor and there is no respect for an honorable calling. Restore to the teaching profession the dignity it deserves, and we'll have men as well as women going back into the classrooms. Our children will be the beneficiaries, and we will again be the People of the Book. OLGA P. WIND Holon Reb Arkadi isn't exactly... Sir, - We resent Arkadi Gaydamak's condescending attitude toward modern Orthodox and secular Jews, who he said were welcome to live in Jerusalem while implying that the growing haredi sector observes an authentic Judaism and that haredim are therefore Jerusalem's true and rightful citizens. Since when did Gaydamak become an authority to decide that haredim - who make up only one-third of Jerusalem's population - observe a more "authentic Judaism" than, say, the modern Orthodox, who insist that Halacha address modern problems rather than remain secluded in a ghetto? ("Gaydamak: If elected mayor, I won't allow gay parade," August 26.) SHAINEE AND MILTON H. POLIN Jerusalem ...our cup of tea Sir, - Arkadi Gaydamak states he would ban the gay pride parade if he were elected mayor of Jerusalem. God forbid he should win this vote. Jerusalem and Israel would be better off if we had homosexual leaders who were honest and governed by ideals and not expediency, instead of the dubious bunch who are our present rulers. HENRY TOBIAS Ma'aleh Adumim Devastating 'wonder' Sir, - On August 18 Judy Siegel-Itzkovich reported yet another Israeli scientific breakthrough ("New antibiotic approach outsmarts bacteria that 'play possum'"). Until now these bacteria, known as pseudonomas, were treated by the wonder-drug antibiotic Gentamycin. How many people have been cured by this drug we cannot know, but more than 150,000, my husband included, have been damaged for life through its devastating side effects. The drug can totally destroy the vestibular cavity, turning the patient into what is known as a "wobbler." Without balance and with affected vision and hearing, most people who have been thus damaged can never again lead a normal life. Let us hope that this latest way to tackle the problematic bacteria will succeed without the risk of horrific side effects. ZELDA HARRIS Tel Aviv