Meeting Mordechai Vanunu

21 June, 2005 at 10:48 pm 2 comments

I was staying at St George's Cathedral, Jerusalem, when the Israeli nuclear whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu, was released from prison. I had gone out to arrange a visit to the Windermere Centre by Suheil Dawani (the newly-elected Bishop of Jerusalem). Yeah, yeah – I know it sounds like name-dropping, but it was all purely coincidental. The trip turned out to be something more than I ever expected. The experience of spending time among the indigenous Palestinian Christian community is a subject for another post. The first I'd heard of Vanunu's impending release was sitting on the plane. Two people behind me were vaguely familiar – people whose faces I knew, rather than people I'd met. They turned out to be Bruce Kent and SusannaYork. They were on their way to Jerusalem for the release.

I missed all the hype around the press conference, tempting though it was to rubber-neck. But I figured that Vanunu needed time with his friends, rather than with some admirer who happened to be there and would just be taking up space. Vanunu's presence shaped our stay at St George's. There was high security. The press were camped outside the locked gates, pressing for interviews whenever we emerged abut Vanunu. The Israeli Secret Service were there, too.

I'd see him every day a breakfast. I had a brief chat with him one morning, and then a much longer one. He told me about his capture, and his years in solitary confinement, about the attempts to break him, and how his Christian faith kept him going. He told me how he was regarded as a traitor not only to his country (for blowing the whistle on the nuclear programme) but also to his faith (for converting to Christianity).

Then one afternoon he saw me working on my laptop and came over. He'd just taken delvery of his new laptop computer. Computers were a new world to him after 20 years inside. He'd gone in when computers were giant machines, filling rooms if not several storeys of buildings. Now he had his own machine, and hadn't a clue how to set it up and use it. That was how I came to give Mordechai Vanunu his first computer lessons, and get him set up on the Net. It was only after I'd done this that he explained – amid gales of laughter – that one of the conditions of his release was that he didn't access the Internet or communicate with the outside world! It was good to have struck a blow for freedom of information and all that, and to have helped a man far braver and resilient than I can ever hope to be!


Entry filed under: current affairs.

starting it all off… Praying for our enemies

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. cristobal  |  14 July, 2005 at 8:52 am

    Hi Lawrence, enjoyed reading this piece, We met at the URC ministers’ Summer School in Abergavenny. I was the one who said if you wrote a book I’d buy it; it’s still true!


  • 2. Wol  |  14 July, 2005 at 7:25 pm

    Hi cristobal. Thanks for the visit and encouragement. I do remember you – you’re the person who desperately needs some good books! Joking aside, you were a real encouragement. We all need that, too!


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