Two Visits With Our Son in Prison

by Nicholas and Mary Eoloff

We were full of anticipation as we finished the security search and gift tally at the prison. For the first time, everything that had been brought was recorded and a copy made for Mordechai. Included was the beautiful award presented to Mordechai on May 4 by the Lakes and Prairies Life Community at their semi-annual gathering near LaCrosse, Wisconsin (see story). Mordechai received the first ever Sam Day Memorial Peacemakers Award in a very moving presentation by Joe Gump. Kathleen Day and her son Josh were present and Nick and I received the award on behalf of Mordechai. The framed award had been designed by Bonnie Urfer while she served prison time for an anti-nuclear action. How we would loved to have shown it to him ourselves!

Mary and Nick Eoloff with the Sam Day Memorial Peacemaker Award for their adopted son, Mordechai Vanunu.
We walked with the male social worker, Ronen, toward the small visitation room where Ronen would record every word that we said. From a distance of a short half block we spotted Mordechai, looking fit and tan. It was a surprise to see that he is letting his hair grow long - something he intends to do until his release. Then we were able to hug him and tell him how wonderful he looked. Very thoughtfully and graciously, he set out bottled water, chocolate wafer cookies, and Pringles for us, and gave us two bags of candy to give to our grandchildren. All of these he had purchased at the prison canteen.

We talked about his days - a good part of which he spends walking. He refuses to work since they didn't allow him to work for 11 1/2 years. He also decides when he will eat lunch - at 2 p.m., even though it is delivered at noon. There is so little about which he has a choice. The guards awaken him at 6 a.m. for count after which he goes back to sleep. When he is not walking, he naps, reads and writes letters. He has to be present for count twice more during the day. More and more we appreciate how controlled and boring his prison life is.

We learned that he receives the London Sunday Times, but not the Washington Post. He had received a renewal notice for Newsweek magazine which we send him, and since it had an identification number, we requested permission to take the notice with us. No way. Prison officials wouldn't even let us copy down the number. It's a cruel world in there. Gail Vaughn had sent him the book Angels Don't Play This Haarp, a critique of nuclear weapons and he was thoroughly enjoying it. Another friend had sent a copy of Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio and he could identify with the story and its central character who is unjustly imprisoned. Mordechai said that when he is discouraged, listening to opera lifts his spirits.

He told us that he was scheduled to go to Jerusalem the following day to petition for a copy of the protocol of his trial. We phoned his attorney to see if we would be allowed in the courtroom, but, not surprisingly, Avigdor Feldman told us that it would be a closed court. When we returned on the 14th, we found a jubilant prisoner. Mordechai was exceedingly pleased with Feldman's representation of him in the courtroom. Feldman had argued that the law was supreme, not security. The judge has taken it under advisement. (see story). That day we were severely reprimanded by a young prison officer for talking about the kidnapping during our first visit. The discussion had centered around the lack of intervention by the Italian government after his kidnapping in Rome. The officer warned us that if we spoke of it again or about Dimona, the visit would be ended abruptly. Needless to say, the three of us obeyed the orders.

We talked about the future and learned that Mordechai would like to teach American History when his English is adequate. He has read volumes about it so he has a good background. He repeated that he would not agree to a secrecy agreement upon release because his greatest achievement has been to demand that the court recognize his right to freedom of speech. Sadly, Mordechai feels betrayed by the London Sunday Times newspaper staff that did not come to his aid during the early years of his imprisonment. Probably all of us wish that we had acted sooner. He receives fewer letters now so in addition to a real appreciation of those who write to him, he would love to hear from others.

Our visits were warm and always too short, but we carry his words in our hearts.

[Nick and Mary Eoloff, from St. Paul, Minnesota, became the adoptive parents of Mordechai Vanunu in the fall of 1997, and since then have occasionally traveled thousands of miles to visit him at Israel's Ashkelon Prison.]