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Our January Trip to Israel:
A Visit with Mordechai and a BBC Interview

by Nicholas & Mary Eoloff

In January, we went to Israel not only to visit Mordechai, but to be interviewed by a BBC crew for a documentary involving Mordechai and Israel's weapons of mass destruction. The trip was filled with some anxiety and apprehension because we had not received permission in advance from prison security for a visit.

In fact, we did not hear from the prison until January 15, the day before our scheduled departure. In desperation we presented ourselves at the prison door with two members of the BBC staff and told the office guards that we were there to see Mordechai Vanunu. While waiting at the prison door for the English-speaking prison secretary, we happened to meet Michael Sellors, an Anglican priest, who had just completed his sacramental visit with Mordechai. A good-humored sort of person, Reverend Sellors said that Mordechai was in good spirits and looking forward to his release and freedom.

The prison secretary appeared and Reverend Sellors, in jest, said that she can work miracles. With that comment, the ice was broken and the secretary told us that she only obtained clearance from one of the two Israeli agencies that must approve of our visits and that she would actively seek permission from the second agency.

Clearance came late that afternoon with a call from the secretary. Our anxieties disappeared. After the usual searches, we proceeded down the road to the usual meeting room, but much to our surprise, Mordechai was not waiting for us at the red line as usual. We arrived at the room and waited while the guard called for someone to escort Mordechai. Mordechai was utterly surprised to see us! He knew we were coming to Israel to visit him, but he was not told about our arrival at the prison. After hugs and embraces, we settled down for our one-and-a-half hour visit. He treated us to chips from the prison canteen and candies for our grandchildren. Mordechai looked well and was in good physical health.

Stylized portrait of Vanunu behind barbed wire

We talked about our lives back home and the grandchildren. We also asked him questions about his time in prison. He said that the first years at Ashkelon Prison were the hardest, when he did not know that there was international interest in his imprisonment and his anti-nuclear cause. Why did he stop writing for five years early in his sentence? It was his way to protest the severe censorship his letters were subjected to. The kidnapping, the secret trial and his work at Dimona remain forbidden subjects of conversation. Would he ever do it again? Yes, but at this late stage in his imprisonment, he gestured with his hand and shoulders, indicating some uncertainty. God love him for such a commitment; so much of his life has been stolen from him.

What message does he want the world to know? He remains strong and determined. He has put the past 17 years behind him. He believes in nonviolence. And he wants to begin a new life. Mordechai keeps himself keenly aware of current international events through newspapers and magazines sent to him. He appreciates these items and all the letters and cards that his supporters continue to send him. He is very much upbeat for the future and his release.