Abie Nathan Brings Relief to Ethiopia Abie Nathan. Photo: Israel National Photo Collection

December 16, 1984

Israeli humanitarian and peace activist Abie Nathan arrives in famine-struck Ethiopia with a plane full of relief supplies donated by Jews worldwide. The $300,000 shipment includes equipment to build a refugee camp for 8,000 people with a hospital, kitchen tents, cooking equipment, two generators, and more than 600 family tents with cots and mattresses.

The famine began in 1983 after several years of political crises, economic disasters and drought, but the Ethiopian government demonstrated an unwillingness and an inability to respond effectively.

Nathan first traveled to Ethiopia, which cut off diplomatic relations with Israel after the October 1973 Middle East war, in November 1984 to assess the situation and the needs. Upon returning to Israel, Nathan initiated an international fundraising campaign. Nathan described the effort as a project on behalf of Jewish people around the world to help reinstate a level of humanity within Ethiopia.

The famine continues through 1985, killing as many as 1.2 million people, according to estimates.

After Nathan’s death Aug. 27, 2008, Israeli President Shimon Peres remembers him as “one of the most prominent and special people in the country. … He is the man who dedicated his life for other people and for a better humanity.””