Special Interview Abie Nathan Seeking to Build More Tent Cities in Ethiopia

Abie Nathan, Israeli peace activist and philanthropist, has appealed to the United States government and the American Jewish community to provide additional support and financial aid for the establishment of five more “complete tent cities” in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, he said today in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, has requested the construction of five more tent villages similar to the one he already helped to establish last month in Harbu, some 400 miles north of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

An additional five tent villages, proposed by the government for Adona, Axom, Senbete, Metem and Agordit, will cost an estimated $1 million, according to Nathan, who was here in New York for several days following a short visit to Washington where he met with government officials involved in African famine relief efforts.

‘FROM JERUSALEM WITH LOVE’

The camp in Harbu houses anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 persons and includes family tents, hospital tents, kitchen tents, mattresses, cots, kitchen equipment, generators for electricity and other items. The 43 tons of equipment for the camp at Harbu cost some $250,000. Each tent bears a Star of David and the legend, “From Jerusalem with Love.”

The 57-year-old Nathan was born in Iran and emigrated to Israel in 1948. Since then he has gained international headlines for his Mideast peace efforts and particularly for his Voice of Peace ocean freighter that has cruised the Mediterranean for the past 10 years broadcasting music and programs in Hebrew and Arabic to Israel and its Arab neighbors.

His relief efforts in the past have taken him to Nigeria, Cambodia, India, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Now it has taken him to famine-stricken Ethiopia, a country that broke diplomatic ties with the Jewish State in 1973.

Nathan, however, doesn’t want to get involved in the political aspects of his relief efforts. “It is mainly humanitarian in the belief that by making such efforts, we can come to terms with many other issues, national and otherwise.” He said the camps serve two purposes.

One, he said, is simply to help the international reliel agencies that continue to aid the Ethiopians with facilities and work areas for food supplies and medical treatment centers. But, moreover, he added “It is for the people there to live as human beings and not as cattle. “Before going to Washington earlier this week, Nathan was presented with a check for $50,000 by Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Schindler said the funds had been contributed by Reform synagogues and their members, and by individual Jews in response to the UAHC’s continuing Ethiopian relief fund drive.

The UAHC has raised nearly $100,000, and some $25,000, according to Schindler, had been sent to Nathan’s operation–dubbed the Fund for the Children of Ethiopia–to rent the cargo plane that brought the tents and other relief equipment to Ethiopia last month. Schindler said he was confident the organization’s initial goal of $250,000 in contributions would be met.

Nathan said he met with officials of the Agency for International Development that have conducted and coordinated U.S. famine relief operations in Africa. “I was here a few weeks ago, ” he said. “They didn’t take me seriously. Now I think they do.” He said he has not received a formal response to his request for aid for the proposed five new tent villages.

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