Voice of Peace in a cupboard

Photos & text: Lydia Aisenberg  
Yuval Danieli is an Israeli artist with a particular penchant for researching the history of art in the kibbutz movement, not surprising when one learns that the kibbutz born Danieli is the Director of Images at the Yad Yaari Research and Documentation Center at Givat Haviva.

“Yad Yaari was established to preserve and promote the intellectual assets of two key movements in Israel’s history, Hashomer Hatzair, the first Zionist youth movement founded in Eastern Europe in 1911, and Kibbutz Artzi, a federation of 85 kibbutzim that was founded in 1927,” explains Danieli, a member of the Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz of Hamapil, founded in 1945.

Nowadays those kibbutzim, although still Hashomer Hatzair affiliated, are incorporated into the United Kibbutz Movement representing a total of some 270 communities throughout Israel.

Danieli’s rather large office at the Givat Haviva campus is crammed with books, files and artifacts of over 100 years of art from the heart and legacy created by scores of talented members of kibbutzim, many of whom initially scorned by many of the fellow hardworking kibbutz members of the early to mid-1900s who were struggling to drain swamps, toil the soil and rear livestock not to mention fending off attacks from unwelcoming neighbors.  Although culture was an important part of their life, the physical work came first.

In present times many of those more than talented, creative pioneers are revered having left an invaluable legacy on canvas, in sculptures, photographs and other art forms – particularly humorous and politically commentating prose, drawings and cartoons - all part and parcel of Israeli culture, particularly that of the kibbutz movement (but not only) during the pre-State of Israel era and first decades after independence.

Yad Yaari’s vast and impressive archives housed at the Givat Haviva Center for Shared Society near Hadera are not only the guardian angel so to speak of the intellectual assets connected to Hashomer Hatzair and the Kibbutz Artzi Federation but also a natural home away from home to incredible collections of personal memorabilia of both Israeli and non-Israeli Jews all of which presented to Yad Yaari over the years by those individuals or members of their families after their passing.

One of those personalities, whose enormous personal archives, memorabilia and even household items can be found at Yad Yaari in Givat Haviva, was the famous, some might say infamous, humanitarian, peace activist, pilot and pirate radio ship operator, Abie Nathan, revered by many, ridiculed by others, but definitely one of the most colorful of characters to be found in Israel of the 1960s through to the early 1990s.

A stalwart of peace and shared society education in Israel, founded in 1949 and named after Haviva Reik (one of over 30 parachutists trained by the British Army and sent on missions to Nazi-occupied Europe) Givat Haviva seemed to be the more than natural resting place of the personal effects and certain belongings of the Iranian born but brought up in India colorful character, Abie Nathan, a Tel Aviv resident and for a period, successful restaurant owner in that city.

When Israelis of the 70 plus age group wax musical nostalgia, then the founding by Abie Nathan (with support from John Lennon) of The Voice of Peace “broadcasting from somewhere in the Mediterranean” rides high on the waves of their then hopes for a more peaceful future, each broadcast beginning with the Beatles belting out Give Peace A Chance over the choppy waters between where the ship was anchored just outside the territorial waters of Israel and their avid listeners all over Israel and also some  who tuned in from neighboring Arab countries.

Many of those who worked for periods as either DJ’s, cooks or crew members over the years came from the ranks of young folks from abroad who were volunteering on kibbutzim, transistor radios tuned to the Voice of Peace for the better part of the day as they picked or sorted fruit and other physical, repetitive and sometimes rather boring jobs. 

The iconic Abie Nathan became a pilot in the Royal Air Force, volunteered in Machal in 1948 and remained in Israel afterwards. He flew a not entirely air worthy light aircraft, named Peace 1, to Egypt in 1966 hoping to meet with the then Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser in order to deliver a peace petition.  He didn’t get to meet the president but was imprisoned for a period and upon return to Israel, once again sent to jail for illegally leaving the country!  He also was arrested and spent further spells in detention for meeting with PLO representatives in Europe, undertook a number of politically motivated hunger strikes, eventually putting his Israel-Arab peacemaking efforts in to the pirate radio ship but was also extremely active in humanitarian efforts, both in Israel as well as in Asia and Africa.

Following the Oslo Peace Accords and finding it difficult to raise funds and find a way around the laws pertaining to pirate radios, Nathan personally scuttled the ship out at sea – much to the disappointment of many.  A few years later he suffered a debilitating stroke from which he never recovered and passed away, aged 81, in 2008.  His memorabilia, including a kiln for ceramics nowadays used at the Givat Haviva Shared Art Center and Peace Gallery, lifted off Nathan’s Tel Aviv veranda by crane, was transferred to the campus under the watchful and much appreciative eye of Yuval Danieli.

The two shorter walls of Danieli’s rather elongated office sport furniture that certainly would not put anybody’s private house to shame and far reaching from what one would expect as office furniture.  Beautifully crafted, sophisticated and decorative classic Italian cabinets, the top half of each sporting crystal glass doors, the handles of which, and of the cupboard sections below, made of brass – facing each other, whilst another wall is covered from top to bottom with drab metal shelving somewhat buckling from the physical weight of Danieli’s fascinating collection of kibbutz art related books, files and albums – all of which a minute part of what is housed in the two-floor archives in the same building.

Tables and chairs of classic Italian style complete the mix ‘n not quite matched Danieli office furniture, creating an intriguing atmosphere that whets one’s appetite to know the story behind the artifacts immediately upon entering.
Danieli’s admiration for Avraham ‘Abie’ Nathan, whom he knew personally, flows as soon as he begins to explain about Nathan’s belongings, whether it be the furniture, film, newspaper clippings and so much more – including the icon’s sea captain hat and awards for his humanitarian work among the items to be found in the cupboards.
“We are honored that Abie chose Yad Yaari at Givat Haviva as the most appropriate archives for the retention and maintenance of not only his personal effects but also of promoting and maintaining his hard held beliefs and messages of non-violence and reaching out,” commented Yuval Danieli.

Upon his passing, Abie Nathan was eulogized by Israeli president Shimon Peres who said that Nathan was “one of Israel’s most prominent and special people who dedicated his life for other people and for a better humanity.”
May, 2017


Popular Posts