Visiting Our Son

by Nicholas & Mary Eoloff

Our November visit at Ashkelon Prison began with a change in the usual routine. Visitors are now buzzed through a new heavy steel security gate near the street. Sadly, while waiting for our routine body searches we witnessed a shackled Palestinian youth being led to the prison and then blindfolded as the steel prison door slid open. Once in the prison, our first glimp-ses of Mordechai were from a distance of about one city block. He was awaiting our arrival at the small building within the compound where we had our previous visits, but for some unknown reason that was changed. We finally met in what was described to us as the Red Cross room in the main prison building.

Happy to see each other, we embraced, kissed and hugged. Mordechai smiled broadly and expressed sincere pleasure at our being there to visit him. We sat in our chairs without any table. He brought us water and potato chips that he had purchased in the prison canteen. These tender gestures are very typical of his generous and kindhearted nature.

Mordechai is physically well, still in good rig. He had a medical checkup and dental work done last month, so he is personally satisfied with his health and physical well being. He still enjoys chocolates that he is able to buy in the prison canteen. He said he still walks three hours every day. Mordechai mentioned that he still wears the same drab prison clothes. He informed us that he was permitted to see, but not receive, some personal items sent to him, including clothing, and that the items were being held in "storage" for him. He wants those items and so we met the next day with his attorney, Avigdor Feldman, to see if he can get those items released for him. [Editor's note: We learned in mid-January that Mordechai has now received most of these items.]

He seems much more content with himself and quite serene. He no longer engages in verbal confrontations and basically ignores prison officials, and that posture seems to give him peace of mind. To every extent possible, he takes control of his life and asserts his own schedule. He stays up well past midnight to read and write letters, appreciating the opportunity for "quiet" time.

Mordechai expressed deep gratitude to the University of Tromsų in Norway for bestowing on him an honorary doctoral degree in philosophy last May. The prison permitted him to receive only photocopies of the degree and a program of the Vanunu seminar that preceded the formal service. He eagerly awaits the video from that impressive and moving ceremony.

Mordechai is keenly aware of the events of September 11th and current events in Afghanistan. We discussed these matters at length and the U.S. role in the war. He opposes all forms of terrorism and includes nuclear weapons as one type of state sponsored terrorism. He asks that all of his supporters stand firm with him on the issue of the abolition of nuclear weapons.

At the end of our visits, he always accompanies us to the red painted line beyond which he may not pass. It is an arbitrary point merely to assert authority over him. We hugged again and promised to see him again early next year. His resilience gives us much hope and determination to continue working for his release. Mordechai, like us, is hoping for a miracle before April, 2004, the month when he will have completed his 18-year term.

Nicholas and Mary Eoloff, Mordechai Vanunu's American adoptive parents, traveled to Israel this fall to see their son. They were able to visit Mordechai on November 5 and 6, 2001 at Ashkelon Prison.