Remembering Vanunu and Demanding Disarmament
Around the world last autumn, vigils and meetings marked the 17th anniversary of Mordechai Vanunu's kidnapping and imprisonment. Each year, human rights and anti-nuclear activists gather on or about September 30 to demand freedom for the captive nuclear whistleblower.
Worldwide, at least twenty-two different events, more than in any previous year, marked the anniversary of Vanunu's unjust imprisonment - and looked with anticipation toward its end.
In many cities this year, signs and banners displayed a "Countdown to Freedom", noting 205 days until Vanunu's release date, April 21, 2004.
At Hiroshima's Peace Park on September 28, vigilers held signs in Japanese and English in front of the Children's Peace Monument. Afterwards, about 40 people watched the BBC documentary Israel's Secret Weapon, and listened to a speaker report on Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
That same day, in Sydney, Australia, 150 people attended services for Mordechai Vanunu at St. John's Darlinghurst, the Anglican Church where he was baptized in 1986. Seventeen candles were lit, one for each year of Mordechai's captivity, and those who gathered prayed for his release and for the disarming of the world's nuclear weapons.
In the United States, Mordechai's adoptive parents, Nick and Mary Eoloff, joined 75 people at a Minnesota Pax Christi gathering in Duluth. The group prayed for Mordechai, and discussed his courage and commitment. People wrote messages on a card that was sent for his October 13 birthday.
On September 30, noontime vigilers in Washington, D.C. carried signs and banners up the road to the Israeli Embassy. About 40 people gathered across the street from the walled compound to listen to speakers. Vigilers sang songs and signed a birthday card for Mordechai. Afterwards, Kathy Boylan crossed the road and sat down in front of the embassy fence with a sign reading "Free Mordechai Vanunu". As she sat there, several dozen conservative, pro-Zionist Christians, attending a Congressional Prayer Conference, arrived to enter the embassy for a briefing. Kathy spoke to them about Mordechai as they filed past her. Unlike previous years, when people who sat-in on embassy property were arrested, police did not arrest Kathy by vigil's end, so she rejoined the others across the street.
In San Francisco, a group held signs and passed out flyers calling for Vanunu's freedom on the noisy financial district street in front of the Israeli Consulate.
Two meetings were held in Norway on the anniversary date. In Oslo, at the House of Humanism, about 100 people listened to several speakers and watched Israel's Secret Weapon. A choir performed, and Vanunu's poem I Am Your Spy was read aloud. Participants also signed a card to send to Mordechai.
At the University of Tromsø, where Mordechai Vanunu received an honorary doctorate in 2001, fifty people attended a meeting titled "Remember Vanunu." They watched Israel's Secret Weapon, and listened to a talk about "Civil Disobedience and Whistleblowers", before joining in a discussion of the issues.
Vigilers braved blustery weather on September 30 in Ireland, New Zealand and Portugal. In spite of the heavy rain, participants in an all-day vigil outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin distributed 800 leaflets. In the afternoon, a "weapons inspector", dressed in a white coat and helmet, spoke of the reasons for Vanunu's imprisonment and called for his release. In Wellington, 60 people gathered in the wind and rain outside of Parliament to call for Mordechai Vanunu's freedom. They listened to speakers, including a member of Parliament, while passing out flyers and signing a birthday card for Mordechai. Pouring rain also did not deter vigilers in Lisbon, who handed out 500 leaflets in front of the Israeli Embassy and at the entrance to a busy underground station.
A Hungarian translation of I Am Your Spy was read to 25 vigilers in Budapest who were gathered near the Israeli Embassy. They then lit 17 candles, and for a time sat in silence. Also, a registered letter was sent to the Israeli Embassy calling for Vanunu's release.
In England, vigils were held in London, Leicester, Cirencester, Salisbury, Bristol and Manchester. Near the Israeli embassy in London, forty people participated with many signs, banners and leaflets calling for Vanunu's release. A chained Vanunu figure stood inside a mock prison cell on the Kensington High Street sidewalk. For several hours, the group listened to music, statements, and readings from supporters. Cards signed there with messages of support were sent to Mordechai, along with a signed copy of Professor Joseph Rotblat's new book, War No More.
A human billboard was created in front of the Israeli Consulate in Toronto, Canada on September 30. Twenty activists spent three hours on busy Bloor Street holding bright yellow placards, each with a single letter, that together spelled out FREE VANUNU. More than 700 leaflets were handed to passersby, and the Raging Grannies of Toronto sang several songs, including a special one for Vanunu. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed a Middle Eastern feast, and proceeds from the dinner raised several hundred dollars for the Canadian Mordechai Vanunu Trust Fund.
Songs from the Vancouver Folk Song Society and Vancouver Raging Grannies drew the attention of passersby where 30 people vigiled at Robson Square in Vancouver, Canada, to call for Vanunu's release. One included special lyrics about Mordechai Vanunu. People were invited to sign a giant birthday card for him. Nearly a thousand leaflets were handed out. In Brussels, Vanunu's Belgian supporters held a sit-in in front of the Israeli Embassy on October 1. The group distributed leaflets and sent a letter to the Ambassador.
And in Tel Aviv, Israel, there were two different programs held to mark the 17th anniversary of Mordechai Vanunu's incarceration. On September 30, Israel's Secret Weapon was shown at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque to a crowd of 70 people. Speakers included Israeli Free Vanunu Committee co-founders Yael Lotan, who moderated the evening's program, and Gideon Spiro, in addition to Professor Uzi Even, a physicist involved with Dimona in the early years. On October 1, 40 people went to a Tel Aviv bookstore to watch the Israeli documentary The Bomb in The Basement and listen to a talk by Aki Orr about the history of the atom bomb. Participants signed a birthday card that was sent to Mordechai Vanunu.
In many of these same locations, and more, Mordechai Vanunu's supporters will gather again on April 21, to celebrate Vanunu's freedom, or, if necessary, protest any restrictions Israel may place on his liberty.