VISITING MR. VANUNU
Even though the authorities have confiscated Mr. Vanunu’s computer, he retains a treasure trove of a library. People of good will from all over the world send him gifts of books that are worth reading. I borrowed three. The first was Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal’s life story. Fascinating, mind opening, nourishing! He is an Arab Palestinian Christian Israeli. ‘Caught in the Middle’ is the name of the book, and also it is his story: driven from his childhood home in 1948 when the state of Israel was formed.
The second was a pamphlet, ‘Truth Against Truth’, by the esteemed Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery. And the third was very very wonderful: ‘Trident on Trial: The People’s Case for Disarmament’, by Angie Zelter. I have included passages from all three of these, because they were very much what I reflected upon as I walked the streets of this ancient town.
Mr. Vanunu is often busy with interviews and meetings etc. He also talks on his cell phone quite a bit. I was able to tag along on a few of his many meetings: an interview by a radio reporter from San Francisco; a meeting with a Danish delegation from Amnesty International, which included a former and a present member of the European parliament; two interviews with a fellow from a Norwegian news magazine, and his friend, a U.N. water specialist. If ever you need a good place to sit and have a cup of coffee and conversation, might I recommend the semi-outdoor café at the Jerusalem Hotel – one block from St. George’s.
Mr. Vanunu was missing his computer badly. His was confiscated when they arrested him November 11. He was calling the Police Station in Tel Aviv every day to see if they would give it back to him. But by now, as we realize, he really needs a new one: who can tell what the authorities may put onto his machine? Either tracking software, or else ‘secrets’ that they can then claim he is trying to ‘reveal’?
So mostly we went to the Ali Baba Internet Café, to read email. There the keyboards are in English and Arabic.
One evening we got to visit the studio of a local band, Sabreen. There were informal drum lessons on the percussion instrument, the Tabla. One of the fellows there is helping to create musical instruments out of local materials – then giving them to Palestinian schools for the children to play. Music, ah music! I noticed that Jerusalem needs more street music.
That night, the night before Thanksgiving, was chilly and clear, and there was a magnificent full moon rising over Jerusalem.