Ashkelon is a peaceful small town to the south of Tel Aviv and to the north of Gaza, rebuilt after 1948 on the ruins of the old Palestinian town. White houses and white sand give it its clean look. Its high-security jail is also painted white, though it is far from idyllic place. Today the Mossad-operated jail returned Ashkelon into news for the first time since Richard Coeur-de-Lion took it from Saladin.
For 18 long years until today Mordechai Vanunu was buried alive in its super-secret Agaf Seven, ever since he was kidnapped in Europe by Mossad spies and illegally brought to be tried and imprisoned here. Vanunu committed a double crime for he defied the Jewish state by disclosing the secret of its evil nuclear might and by embracing Christ. For this he was kept in solitary confinement; hour upon hour, day upon day, year after year under lidless eyes of Mossad watchers. This would be enough to break spirit of an ordinary man, to drive him into release of insanity, as his tormentors wished. But they failed for he was not an ordinary man.
Born into a working-class Sephardic Jewish family in arid Negev, Vanunu witnessed persecution of the native Palestinians, and he felt compassion for them. This brotherly compassion for goyim, frowned upon in the Jewish tradition, brought him to Christ. He could not continue working at Dimona, the place where Israel makes weapons of mass destruction. He openly broke with Jewish omerta, denounced evil, and made his fellow citizens and the world aware of huge nuclear arsenal accumulated in the underground storages to threaten the world peace.
A Christian has some qualities of Christ, and witness of Vanunu made him a Christian martyr. Jews are not a forgiving lot, and they are not likely to forgive a man who broke free. In order to make this religious meaning of his trial clear to all, the judges sentenced Vanunu for 18 years, ‘to be immured alive’, for ‘18’ means ‘alive’ in Hebrew. Many Jews wear the sign of 18, or ‘Chai’ on their necks, where Christians wear cross. ‘Do you know what this sign means?’ – Daniel McGowan of Deir Yassin Remembered was asked by a policeman, and replied: ‘it is the sentence you gave Vanunu’.
But 18 years passed, and today Vanunu came back to life. It was a moment of supreme elation reminiscent of Resurrection Sunday, when the white doves flew over the white prison, and crowds chanted in front of the gate of heavy iron bars guarding the entrance to Ashkelon jail. He approached the gate, grasped its bars as if wishing to break free, pulled his strong body up and looked at us, at his friends who came to see him coming out alive, and at his enemies who called for his blood. There was no Hollywood smile of a released prisoner. Not a timid lamb anymore, but Son of Man who saw death and came back. His face was stern and grim in the blue frame of the iron bars, like that of Christ breaking the Gates of Hell on an old icon.
He turned to the TV crews and spoke to them, at first in his heavily accented Sephardic Hebrew, then in English:
“I want to tell you something very important. I suffered here 18 years because I am a Christian, because I was baptised into Christianity. If I was a Jew I wouldn’t have all this suffering here in isolation for 18 years. Only because I was a Christian… Vanunu Mordechai says we don’t need a Jewish state. Vanunu Mordechai doesn’t want to live in Israel and doesn’t need a Jewish state. I am a symbol of the will of freedom. You cannot break the human spirit.”
‘Kill him!’ – yelled the Jewish crowd, braying for blood, like in Mel Gibson’s film. They raised their signs declaring ‘Kill the traitor’. But the prey escaped them: in a minute, his car took him into safe sanctuary of St George cathedral, the Anglican Neo-Gothic building in East Jerusalem, where kind Bishop Riah expected him.
Thus Vanunu confirmed in his own words and deeds: Christ is the symbol of compassion to our fellow men and thus of rebellion against the Jewish rule, the symbol of unvanquished human spirit that is akin to God. Probably the bravest man alive, he reminded me that ‘God became Man so a Man can become God’ (in words of St Athanasius). I thought of my friend Gilad Atzmon in London and of other good people who rebelled against the archaic spirit of dominance; of endless arguments whether Christ is relevant for our struggle in Palestine, arguments Vanunu answered so eloquently.
In 1986, when Vanunu was arrested, I wrote in the socialist newspaper Al Hamishmar, ‘Vanunu was my spy, for he spied for me the dark secrets of the Zionist establishment’. But he returned with even more important message, that of spirit. Years ago, he revealed to us the weapons of our enemies; now he revealed our secret weapon in the battle for Palestine, that of Christ. And this battle goes on: while white doves flew over the prison, the Jewish tanks bombarded towns of Gaza, a few miles away, killing innocent civilians.
He also revealed complicity of the American and European pseudo-Christians in the plot. Vanunu told us he was trapped not by Mossad but by a CIA agent for his revelations were mightily embarrassing for the US, for the country that forced the world to disarm while turning its blind eye to Dimona nuclear facility. Even now the US authorities promised ‘to keep an eye on Vanunu’ so he won’t embarrass them even more. Italy’s Berlusconi, this great friend of Sharon and Bush, did not move a finger to save the man kidnapped on Italian soil. This question should be discussed in the election campaign in the US: it is not too late for Americans to reject the accomplices of the Zionist warmongers.
Yes, Vanunu is right: “The time has come to end this silence and secret cooperation by the West, the United States, Canada and all Europe helping Israel and co-operating with Israel’s secrets…”
It is not too late for us, the Israelis to listen to this man and to agree with him: we do not need a Jewish state; we need a state of compassion.