As Israel celebrates its 50th anniversary, an Israeli theater company has brought the story of Mordechai Vanunu to this country. Reviled and imprisoned in Israel as a spy, Vanunu has become a cause celebre among human rights and disarmament activists for blowing the whistle on Israel’s nuclear program.
Vanunu is one of 11 children born to Moroccan Jewish parents. He was 9 years old when they migrated to Israel in 1963. Vanunu served in the Israeli army and then went to work as a technician at the Dimona nuclear facility in Israel. The Israeli government claimed that the facility was used only for peaceful purposes.
But when Vanunu quit his job in 1985 and left for Australia, he took with him evidence that nuclear weapons were being produced there. In 1986, with the encouragement of a social justice group in Sydney, Vanunu gave this information to the London Times and traveled to Britain.
There, the Mossad (the Israeli secret service) caught up with him. He was seduced by a female agent, kidnapped, and returned to Israel to stand trial in secret. Convicted of treason and espionage, Vanunu was sentenced to 18 years in solitary confinement at Ashkelon Prison.
Mordechai Vanunu has just been released from solitary confinement after 12 years. He continues to serve the rest of his 18-year sentence. On Monday, for the first time since his arrest, security authorities allowed the now white-haired Vanunu, 43, to be photographed in court. News photographer outside the Beersheeba courthouse gave their cameras to a security guard who snapped pictures of the prisoner inside.
Excerpt of “Mr. V: Searching for Mordechai Vanunu”, the one-actor play which has just completed its tour of the United States. It was written and directed by Ig’al Ezrati and stars the award winning Israeli actor Jonathan Cherchi. It is staged by the Israeli company “The Local Theatre.”