Looking back now upon the near vanished “frequency” of my youth; through filtered static, “The Voice of Peace” radio ship hauls into view, mist shrouded as memory. A ghost ship.
But in 1979, broadcasting “Somewhere In The Mediterranean” out of the Port of Jaffa, Israel – this was an adventure waiting to happen to a young broadcaster. I had not yet turned 30.
Some years prior to my signing on, an old trawler had been bought and converted into a radio ship by Abe Nathan, an ex-fighter pilot in the Israeli seven-day war against Egypt. His vision was to promote the cause of peace and unity by radio broadcast throughout the region. Apparently, he had made his money through a hamburger franchise called David’s Hamburgers.
This allowed him to purchase an old trawler and so realise his dream of creating a working radio ship. Sort of a latter-day prophet with microphone plus radio frequency afloat at an undisclosed latitude. Well-publicised pirate radio.
Abe wore one colour, and that was black. He stated that he would wear no other colour until peace was declared in the Middle East. He died some years back, but not before he had decommissioned the ship and scuttled it.
The floating radio station had served its time and had its day. There was strong vision behind that radio ship. I was glad to be part of it for a while – before the inevitable claustrophobia set in, surrounded by rivets and metal got to me in the end, and I eventually took the supply boat back to port. For the few weeks I was on board, however, this was an adventure I shall never forget. On “Peace Day” in Israel, I dedicated the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for The Devil to the cause.
The Israeli patrol boats who kept an eye on us would cruise by and hurl empty shell casings with requests tucked inside onto the deck with a resounding crash. For the weeks I worked on board that radio ship, we played everything from classical music to rock`n’roll – along with endless broadcasts in English and Hebrew, recorded by Abe Nathan, promoting the message of peace as he saw it. Payment came in the form of regular meals and a shared cabin, usually with one of the ex-Radio Caroline pirate ship crew – mostly English guys.
Abe Nathan proved a shadowy figure – I had to meet him so that he could check me out. A man with a pre-occupied air, Abe was notable for many things, not least of which was flying over Cairo and bombing it with flowers. Today it looks like that embattled city could do with another dose of pollen!
This year is rapidly coming to a close. I currently do a little part-time contract work with Maniapoto FM, which shares a similar idealism and vision to the old radio ship.
Stephen Oliver has published several volumes of poetry, including Harmonic and more recently Apocrypha. Travelled widely. Freelances as a voice artist and writer. He resides in the north King Country.
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© Waikato Times December 5th, 2011.
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