JERUSALEM: Mordecai's Not So Excellent Christmas Eve Adventure

December 29, 2004

JERUSALEM: Mordecai's Not So Excellent Christmas Eve Adventure

[Note: Below are excerpts of a longer interview that CPTer Jerry Levin
conducted with Mordecai Vanunu, who blew the whistle on Israel's nuclear
weapons program in the 1980s. Vanunu, who converted to Christianity
shortly before Israeli authorities arranged his kidnapping and
incarceration, was recently released from prison. People wishing to see
the longer interview or be put on Levin's direct mailing list, may contact
him at]

 By now some of you already know that Mordecai Vanunu was prevented from
celebrating his first Christmas Eve out of captivity in the way he had
for quite some time dreamed about doing it. "I was hoping to celebrate my
first Christmas out of prison in Bethlehem," he said, "by going with the
Bishop [The Right Reverend Riah H Abu El-Assal, Anglican Bishop of
Jerusalem] for the carol singing that the Anglicans join on Christmas Eve
at the Church of Nativity. . .

He knew that Israeli authorities would probably consider his defying their
restriction against going to the West Bank on Christmas Eve, which he had
not kept secret, a challenge too difficult to ignore. "The world would see
that they are just harassing me and not respecting my Christianity,
because going to Bethlehem is not about nuclear weapons. It is not about
security. . . Still, I was hoping that the Israelis would not be so stupid
as to arrest me, because I really wanted to go."

But at around 7:00 pm," he said, "the police ring the Bishop and
told him, `Don't take Vanunu with you. We are warning you, if you
take him, we are searching for him, and we arrest him.' So the
Bishop says to me, `I cannot take you with me. They can stop all the
buses and stop all the choirs from going on." So I told him, "Okay, I
will find another way."
. . .
Santa Claus hat in hand, he found a Palestinian who agreed to drive him to
Bethlehem. "But before we are even leaving Jerusalem on the road to
Bethlehem, the police are searching every car." He was taken to the
police station in Jerusalem, and from there to Tel Aviv. "In Tel Aviv, I
met again the same man who has been questioning me during all those
investigations that the police were making against me last month. . "

"He says, `Why. Why you do it?' But I ask him, `Why you will not want me
to go to celebrate Christmas this night in Bethlehem?'

"So he answered me, `You should respect orders. You are not allowed to go
to Bethlehem.'

"But I told him'You, Mr. Officer, you make a big mistake tonight. You
destroy all your investigation, because all the world is knowing that I
was stopped and arrested, because I want to go to Bethlehem; not stopped
because of nuclear secrets; not stopped because of security or any other
problem, but because I wanted to celebrate Christmas.'"

. . .

 Christmas afternoon, approximately twelve hours after Mordecai's
Christmas Eve disappointment ended, a small band of CPTers, colleagues
from the American Friends Service Committee East Jerusalem office, and a
Jewish friend living in Jerusalem came to St. George's, song sheets in hand.

So Mordecai got to sing Christmas carols, after all, which he did, a
little late, but heartily and with a warming beatific smile on his face.