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16 Days in Israel Palestine

"The Peace of the World begins in Jerusalem"

-Rev. Theodore Hessburgh 6/26/05

Ten interfaith friends from the USA branch of the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace arrived in Tel Aviv on Sunday morning June 12, 2005 at . Everyone else settled in their beds at the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem, but Jack was wide awake. After a shower he wandered through the East Jerusalem streets in the dark, and reached the Western Wall just as the sun arose.  He walked the empty Via Delarosa and wondered, “Where are all the Christians? I have seen video of this place with packed streets and this morning I am totally alone.”

Jack wandered into the courtyard at the Anglican St George’s Cathedral just before . He was staring at a statue of St. Francis in a winding flower filled courtyard and thought, “Hmmm… Frankie….You remind me of Julianne. She always greeted everyone with; ‘As Francis of Assisi said to Brother Dominic when their paths crossed on the road to Umbria: HI!’……..Jack lost himself in good memories before that Tuesday in September when everything changed. He shivered when he heard the snap of gum sound as loudly as Julianne’s’ ever had. He turned and saw a compact balding man of about 50, move by swiftly and enter the guest house. The man rang the bells every day at and had just descended the bell tower. Jack thought, “I think that’s Vanunu. I had no clue he was so short.”  [www.vanunu.com]

When Julianne lost her life in the stairway of the Twin Towers that day in September, Jack fell off the wagon. While in rehab for the last time, he also began watching a lot of TV. He caught a show on the History Channel entitled “Sexpionage.” It was all about Russian female spies and one from the Mossad. Jack had a faint memory of hearing briefly about Mordechai Vanunu in 1986, but everything else he saw that night was news to him. He learned that Vanunu had a low tech position in the underground Dimona nuclear plant in the Negev. When Vanunu had a crisis of conscience about being a cog in the making of weapons of mass destruction, he copped the keys to the restricted areas and shot two rolls of film that proved Israel had gone nuclear. He resigned and left the country but did not develop the film until nearly a year later. Vanunu had ended up in Sydney where he was baptized a Christian and met Peter Hounam, a journalist for the Sunday Times. Peter flew Vanunu to London and began to check out the story, which took more days than Vanunu had patience to bear in solitude. Out of boredom Vanunu ventured out and met an American named Cindy.  He had no clue she worked for the Mossad. After a week of movies and museums, she offered him sanctuary if he would travel with her to Rome where her sister had an apartment. When Vanunu entered in, he was hit on the head, drugged, bound and flung upon an Israeli cargo ship heading home. The London Times broke the story just as Vanunu disappeared. The world did not know if Vanunu were alive or dead. They found out while he was being transported to his closed door trial. Vanunu had been inspired to write on his palm; “HIJACKED” and the Rome flight number he had been on. This really agitated the Israeli government and from then on Vanunu was shielded from the world. He was sentenced to 18 years for treason and was released April 2004, but remains under house arrest and has been living in St. Georges’ guest house ever since.   

The show also ran video from 1986 of Shimon Perez telling the world that Israel would never be the first country in the Middle East to go nuclear. Jack thought for a long time if he should approach Vanunu who had set up his lap top underneath an umbrelled table a few feet away. Jack never missed an opportunity.

“Pardon me; you are Vanunu, aren’t you?”

Vanunu nodded and shook Jack’s hand while Jack remained standing, Vanunu returned to his lap top. “I want you to know how much I admire your courage and for speaking the truth. I am leaving for the Galilee tomorrow but if our paths cross when I return to Jeruslaem I would like to invite you to dinner.”

Vanunu nodded and Jack left and didn’t think anymore about it.

When he arrived at the Ambassador, he saw Khaled Diab, Founder of the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace, in the lobby at a table meeting with a slightly built incessantly chain smoking man and as Jack approached, Khaled rose from his chair and greeted him like a well loved son. Then he turned to his companion and told Jack, “This is Hasan Suwan. He is the coordinator for PARC: Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee. As you know, PARC has been doing all the assessing for the need for trees and assuring the planting and upkeep is being done.  He will travel with us to last seasons planting sights and help us discover next seasons.  He was just telling me the problems the wall has caused him, because he is an Israeli citizen married to a Palestinian.”

Jack unabashedly asked, “Mr. Suwan, tell me more. I have come to Israel Palestine in support of my good friend and second father, Khlaed. I have sought the truth my entire life, please tell me everything of what life is like for you and yours in Israel Palestine.”

“Well, my wife has Palestinian papers which means she cannot come with me into Israeli territory. Every six months she must fill out papers and wait in line all day before she is told, yes or no. The papers are her permission to leave Palestinian territory. I have Israeli ID and I cannot go into Palestinian territories, because I am told, the IDF could not ensure my safety if I went to visit my family! If an Israeli citizen takes a Palestinian in his car and is caught, he will be fined 5,000 shekels and the car would be confiscated for a month. Before the wall, my wife was able to walk to her mother’s home in less than fifteen minutes. Now it takes an hour and a half to drive through the checkpoints and one can be told; “No, you cannot enter. Go back from where you came.”   Then one either does or looks for another way around. In my town of Jabal Al Mukaber, the concrete fence divides our family. So far, the wall has uprooted over two million trees.” Hasan lights another cigarette and smirks as he tells Jack, “For Palestinians the worst tragedies make us laugh.”

That morning Jack had been reading “A Call for Morally Responsible Investment: A Non Violent Response to the Occupation.” [Sabbel Document No. 3, 2005: www.sabeel.org] As Suwan was speaking, Jack kept imagining thousands of Caterpillar tractors plowing up ancient olive groves and wondered if his church was investing in that company. He wondered if the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace could ever keep pace with the demand for trees as the wall tears down even more.

Monday night the ten met over thirty of Khaled’s family in a restaurant and became fast friends. Jack, a serious Christian of The Beatitudes and struggling Episcopalian broke bread with Muslims who all agreed that all everyone really wants is that their children would live in peace. They all were educating their children in mixed schools and struggled with the daily worry of  children crossing checkpoints.

Khaled’s nephew, a fertility specialist told Jack, “My wife and I try very hard to keep the reality of life from affecting our children. We teach them that we all must be peace-full to all others. But, they ask many questions that I cannot answer, such as; “Is President Bush a friend to Palestinians?”

Jack had no answer. He bit his lip and went silent for the rest of the night.

Tuesday June 14, 2005 : The Upper Galilee and a secular Jewish prophet

While riding in the van with their ten friends, Jake and Terese Hunter took turns cradling the two urns that contained the ashes of Kat and Brigit. Kat had succumbed to ALS on Good Friday 2004 and Brigit entered eternity on Pentecost Day. As the van drove the ten friends past the Mediterranean, Jake whispered to his wife, “I say we cast their ashes into the Sea. Plus I am ready to get my feet in some water. I cannot believe I am so near the Mediterranean and I am not going fishing! I am having withdrawals, Terese. I am going to split from the group after the Galilee and get some time in deep water.”

“Fine with me. But relax; you will be happy when we get into the Upper Galilee. We are staying in a cabin in the woods where David lives, high in the mountains in the Village of Harashim. When we return to Jerusalem we can drop you off near the Sea. And, no, we are not throwing these ashes into the sea; I want to plant them both under an olive tree when we get to that church in Canna, where the Gateway High School’s Interact Club provided the funds for 500 olive trees.

Jake squeezed his wife’s hand and leaned in close, “I am glad you had the idea that we should sponsor Nate on his first trip to the Holy Land. He worked hard for Olive Trees in Kissimmee and he will learn plenty here and hopefully pass it on. The church in Canna with the new trees is the perfect place to leave what was once, Kat and Brigit. They both appreciated the fact that Jesus’ first miracle happened at the wedding in Canna, when Jesus turned the water into wine and kept the party going.”

Terese smiled and closed her eyes and Jake looked out the window and thought about fishing. Jack had been introduced to Joy; a friend of Louise’s who was accompanying them. Louise, the Jewish co-founder of Olive Trees Foundation for Peace had many Jewish friends Jack was anxious to meet.

“So, tell me how a 24 year old from Nashville decides to move to Israel where she knows no one. What made you do it and how has it been these past seven months?”

Joy lit up as she told him, “My friends got so tired of me complaining about my political frustrations over the last election, they said; ‘If you don’t like it here, just leave!’ I had already been considering joining the Peace Corps and when I got turned down because of a medical problem I explored the possibility of going to Israel. I learned about, “Aliyah” which means ‘going up,’ and the deal was hard to pass by. I get 1,500 shekels or about $3,600 a year in increments to help with my expenses. I can apply for unemployment benefits after 7 months as long as I look for a job…I completed ‘Ulpan” which is 500 hours of Hebrew language immersion; five months, five hours a day for five weeks….I get subsidized rent and just moved out of the  Absorption Center Projects. All the new immigrants get room, utilities and 3 meals a day for the first five months in Israel. We also receive free medical care and all the doctors here are dedicated. We can go to the university with 100% of tuition paid by the government. College is much cheaper here; it’s about $3,000 to $4,000 a year.  Until I am 30 years old, I can receive up to 3 years education for my Masters Degree.”

Jack wondered what he would do, if he were a young American Jew without many prospects at home.

After meeting more of Khaled’s family in Majd Al Krum the ten friends split up to be hosted by various Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims. Louise, Jack, Jake and Terese got into David’s van for the drive to their cabins in the woods of the Village of Harashim. Jack and Jake were absorbed in the mountain vistas but Terese was captivated by David, and did not take her attention off of the tall thin angular man as he told his story.

"My mother is fourth generation to this land; my father was born here while this land was still called Palestine. So, I am a 42 year old Israeli Palestinian secular Jew. In 2000, when Ariel Sharon went to the Al Aqsa Mosque and provoked the violent uprising I cried; ‘Back off man! Enough! It is enough already!’  When those young Palestinians innocents were killed, I knew I had to do something. I didn’t know what, but I began by knocking on doors throughout Rosh El Aim, a Christian Arab community. I told them I just wanted to help somehow. Mostly they thought I was crazy, many today think it too.  I drove a 300 mile radius knocking on doors offering to help somehow. One day I am sitting with a bunch of Bedouin kids and I begin tapping my fingers on my thigh. The next thing all these kids were imitating me and I realized I could bring them drums. I have friends who are musicians and artisans and they have all offered an open hand. Without any assistance from the Israeli government we have established centers of peace/shalom/salaam that offer tutoring, health care, folk dance, music lessons and artistic projects to the least and easily forgotten. We have built community between Israeli Jews and Bedouins, and Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

“It’s been five years now and I continue to make daily rounds all the way into the Golan Heights. Many others have joined in and are keeping the projects moving forward as I take on new ones.  I have a friend named Hagit Breittman, a Jewish woman who has done the unthinkable! She opened her home to Bedouin woman and they get together weekly to sew and more importantly to be in community. Right now we are building community here, for security comes from community, not walls and gates. We absolutely have hope that one day these Bedouin woman will travel to America with their embroidery and weaving.   Hagit also started up a daily lunch service for the poor in the community. She provides food and comfort for hundreds every day, and has done it all without government assistance.


"Today the people are so in need of good leadership. If they can find it, they will follow. People need to be taught morals, boundaries, limits and manners. This is the stuff Jesus taught and he led the people. Today people are lost in a violent cycle without basic human rights and respect for the other. Forget co-existence, we must have basic existence, basic human rights… Maybe when others see we care, they will care too.” [www.shalam.org]

Terese told David, “You remind me of another social radical Palestinian Jew who went through the Galilee offering free healings and love.”

The following day Khaled and his brother Hamid drove a ten year old Toyota up the long incline into the occupied Golan Heights behind David’s van. Inside the van was crammed, Louise, Nate , Jake, Terese, Jack and the couple shooting video for the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace documentary.  The Toyota began to smoke and sputter and the brothers pulled off to the side of the road. David turned the van around as soon as he noted and as he exited the van to help the brothers, he announced, “If you need to stretch your legs, don’t walk off the pavement. There can be land mines anywhere wherever the pavement ends.”

After a half hour and three liters of water were poured into the Toyota’s radiator David led the brothers to the service station and then, they too crammed into the van and drove five more minutes to meet Moneer Sabagh, at the elementary school where the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace provided 2,000 trees that were now thriving. Moneer was the sole founder of the Association for Improving and Developing the Family in what was once Syria, but is now the occupied Golan Heights. Moneer is a young soft spoken Muslim who tells them, “I am in a delicate situation. The Israeli government built our school, but the community hear is occupied and resentment runs high. I am trying to get them to care about what we have, to enrich it and we will thereby enrich ourselves. Because they are occupied they struggle with the thought that how can they thrive under captivity? It is a difficult situation to understand what life under occupation is about. I thank the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace for providing the trees David brought to us. We needed oaks and pines for the school campus, and we thank you for filling that need with the trees we asked for. They make a difference in the atmosphere, in the air we breathe and what we see, in how we feel.”

Saturday, June 18, 2005: Meeting with a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee


A half hour late and one or two at a time, the ten straggled into the busy office of Abouna Elias Chacour. The Melkite priest, three time Nobel nominee, 1948 refugee and founder of Mars Elias Educational Institute in Ibillin welcomed them warmly and invited them to sit around the conference table in front of his desk.

"Tell me why you have come here and what you hope to do. Then, I will share my story with you.”

The youngest of the group said, “I want the win win. I want peace for everyone; and I know it starts with every individual. I want to be the change I want to see in the world. I live in peace with everyone and I want the win-win.”

Abouna Cahcour roared, “Yes, exactly! This is the only way; win win for everyone. Anytime someone has to be right, there is oppression. With win win, there are always human rights….My school serves 4,500 interfaith children, and the criteria for employment here is an open mind and open heart for all of Abraham’s sons and daughters.”

Jack thought Chacour looked and spoke like an Old Testament prophet; long grey beard and huge presence packaged in a middle aged spread. Jack often heard music in his head, once again, it was  U2:

“Lay down your guns All your daughters of Zion, All your Abraham sons. I don't know if I can take it,  I'm not easy on my knee's. Here's my heart you can break it. I need some release release release.  We need Love and Peace Love and Peace." [U2, 2004. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, "Love and Peace or Else"]                                                                                                              

Chacour mesmerized his audience, “I am a Palestinian Israeli who lives for peace and reconciliation. The problem here is not about the land. There is a blockage between Arabs and Jews. It must end. We need to explore a third way to rise above the conflict. There are 3 million Palestinians living in refugee camps! This injustice must come to an end. Once we Jews and Arabs were partners and friends. The only way out of this conflict is to rise above it…You Americans are still too very young! You think money and weapons solve problems! Only love and respect can do that. You reach for the moon but not your neighbor. What we need from you Americans are smiles of hope. We need you to plant hope. We need you to visit us that we would know we are not alone… Do simple things and always do them with a smile… Don’t rely too much on God! You know what He wants; now DO IT!”

Terese thought, "Do something."

Sunday June 19, 2005:

Manger Square and Dashiesh

Jack was intensely uncomfortable looking at the pain filled face of the father of the 17 year old altar boy who was one of three children shot in Manger Square 38 days after 9/11. Not until Jack sat in the home of Johnny’s father did he realize the close connection in time to their lossess.

Jack could not look into Johnny’s father’s face, but he heard him explain “My son was carrying his younger cousin when the IDF terminated his life. He died in my arms on the floor of The Church of The Nativity for the crime of being a Palestinian in Manger Square that day. We never thought the IDF would enter our holy ground. We were very wrong. The IDF hid on the mountain and sniped at our children and never apologized.”

Jack knew no words that would mean anything and so instead, slipped $100.00 into the fathers pocket as he left. He thought to himself, “This place becomes more surreal all the time. I feel like I am in a cosmic nightmare. It’s some kind of holocaust hangover that is driving this madness. Too many things have not been addressed and violence has become ordinary life. The Galilee is a different world, this trip now is now getting to me in ways I did not anticipate.”

Imad Younis, Coordinator for Islamic Relief of the West Bank had arranged for the group to meet the family of the first female suicide bomber, Ayyat Lufti Al Akhrass in her families’ home in Dashieh refugee camp. Twelve thousand Palestinians with a 70% unemployment rate are sheltered in the one kilometer square 57 year old refugee camp just minutes away from the Church of The Nativity. Jack was mystified when he entered into the immaculate yet sparse dwelling after walking past the poverty in the streets. The group was greeted warmly by the still grieving father as the mother served cold coke and then hot minted tea in gold rimmed glasses on top of silver trays.

Jack had not yet learned not to ask questions before the formalities had been attended to. He caused a moment of stress when he blurted out, “Did you know your daughter was going to blow herself up?”

After an awkward silence and deep moan from Khaled, Ayyat Lufti’s father told Jack through an interpreter, “No, I did not know anything. If I had known my daughter was going to blow herself up I would have immediately stopped her. She did not tell anyone she was going to blow herself up on March 29, 2002.  She did this on her own, nobody encouraged her. If I had known I would have stopped her. Her action caused me to loose my job. I was the Foreman in a building company in Israel. When I reported to work the day after her death, I was told to go home; I was out of a job and haven’t found another since.  My daughter left a note saying she did this tragic act because she wanted to bring attention to the suffering and oppression of Palestinians and could no longer wait for Arab armies to liberate the people. No human being wants another to die. The pressure of this occupation is forcing our children to do this. The root cause is the occupation.”

Jack wrestled with asking if any Hamas members were around to talk with, but as nobody else had anything more to say he kept his mouth shut and watched Terese's face. She was anxious to leave for Beit Jala, the west side of Bethlehem to meet a little boy she had first seen in a USA Catholic newspaper five years before. Four year old Jorge had been captured on film the morning after his bedroom had been destroyed by Israeli gun fire the night before. The IDF flew American made Apache helicopters over the peaceful Christian village in retaliation for some  militants who had infiltrated in to snipe across the street into the Jewish settlement. A four foot hole was blown into Jorge’s bedroom with shrapnel that read: MADE IN U.S.A.

Terese had clipped the photo of George as soon as she saw it, placed it in an antique frame and set it on the table where she lit candles and then thought about people in need. Every time she looked in Jorges’ eyes, she heard her heart say, “Do something.”

When Khaled had first told Jake and Terese he was planning the Olive Trees for Peace trip to Israel-Palestine she knew she wanted to go and find George. Through well placed friends and the Internet he was located and the ten descended on the family that lived in Beit Jala just before sundown. George was now in the fourth grade, shy and withdrawn. He, his mother and sister all still suffered post traumatic stress syndrome from the night when USA made bombs blew open the wall in front of Jorge’s empty bed. He had been hiding in his parent’s room and fainted when he heard the boom that came from the room he had just left. Terese felt badly for intruding on the family and wished she hadn’t come to them. Then George looked at her sideways and smiled the smile of an unscathed child and whispered ‘I like you.’

George’s father spoke while fighting back tears, “There was absolutely no gun fire coming from our side of the neighborhood. None at all, it was quiet here. We are not bitter, and although the government never apologized, we forgive but it is still very hard.”

Jack thought, “This is what my government calls collateral damage.”

Afterwards the Deputy Mayor of Bethlehem met the group in the empty lobby of the Hotel Bethlehem. George Sa’adeh, softly spoken and articulate told the group, “The occupation is the reason that many highly educated Christians are leaving the Holy Land. There is no opportunity here. 350,000 residents have left their homes in Bethlehem since 2000. My people are leaving for better jobs, justice, and basic human rights. In 1948, Christians were 20% of the total population in the Holy Land. Today they are less than 1.5% and they continue to migrate because of the occupation, oppression, lack of opportunity and denial of basic human rights.  Add in the low birth weight and one day soon, there may be no Christian witness in this land. One day, all the churches here could be nothing more than museums… I lost my own daughter in an ambush. I was driving the same make car the IDF Special Forces were looking for. They shot first and asked questions after. My daughter Christine lost her life. The government has never apologized.”

Tuesday in Hebron with Jerry Levin

Jack and Teres met Jerry at the Bethlehem Hotel for the day trip to Hebron. Jerry Levin, fulltime volunteer with Christian Peacemaker Teams had been filing Internet reports and both Jack and Terese had been reading them.  [West Bank Diaries:  www.hope-pub.com].

Jerry had once been CNN”s Mid East Bureau Chief back in the ‘80’s and a secular Jew.  He was captured and held hostage in Lebanon for nearly a year and had a Christian conversion on Christmas Eve and was never the same.

Jack was already mopping his brow from the heat by but Jerry never sweated.  Lightly built and sprouting bilateral hearing aids, he told them, “Every time I get ready to return to Palestine everyone asks me; ‘Aren’t you afraid?’  I reply, of what, the Palestinians? No way! But when it comes to the Israelis soldiers, you bet I am!”

Hebron is where 450 Israeli settlers are protected by 3,000 IDF. The 18 to 21 year olds patrol the streets with Uzis at the ready and turned the trio away at a checkpoint. Jerry informed them, “Most of the soldiers don’t like the CPT’s. Whenever they won’t let us through, we just go another way and always eventually get where we want to.”

Terese was nauseous the entire day. Jack kept getting hotter, “This is nuts! This is insane! These narrow winding stoned streets have been here for centuries. Now, one side of the  way is all Israeli the other Palestinian. Their only connection to the other is this thick yet deeply sagging netting above my head. I am looking up at huge rocks, shovels, electronic equipment, furniture and all manner of debris that have been flung on it and I wonder if I will be underneath it when it gives way.”

Jerry smiles and tells him, “It gets cleaned out about every year or so. Come back in a few months and there will be more. The settlers just throw what ever they want onto the netting, they do what ever they want and get away with it. The CPT’s run interference by non-violent resistance, we get the children and woman to where they need to be going and back again. Sometimes the settlers curse and stone us all; it keeps it interesting.”

Jerry points out all the empty and formerly Palestinian homes that the settlers had painted graffiti and Stars of David upon. Both Terese and Jack could not believe it when they see spray painted on an empty now, but former Palestinian home, “GAS THE ARABS.”

Jack mumbles, “I feel like I have entered into every movie set and photograph I have ever seen of  the ghettos during World War II.”

Terese wanted to visit inside the Abraham mosque and an Arab guide was found who spoke a little English. She put on the brown prayer shawl, but couldn’t hide the fact she was an American. Immediately, she was followed by an inquisitive young mother, adolescents and small children who kept laughing and staring at her. Terese thought it the way she pronounced “Marhaba, [hello] and Salaam [[peace]” that made them laugh and want to follow along. Before the tour was through the guide was able to ascertain that the family now lived in the mosque ever since the husband had died, but the cause of death remained unstated.  Terese and the family took a picture together while everyone said, “Salaam.”

After the long day in Hebron and then back to Bethlehem, Jerry walked Jack and Terese through the checkpoint that leads to Jerusalem. Terese was mesmerized by the watch tower and barbed wire until she stared into the eyes of the youth who checked her passport while cradling an Uzi like a baby. She wondered, “How would I endure if I had to live here? What would I be like? What would my kids be like if they had to serve in this military and spend all day checking paperwork? What would they be like if they were the ones handing over their paperwork?”

Jack couldn’t shut up, “This is incredible, walking through the checkpoints are facts on the ground tour buses never experience. It is two different worlds kept from the other, tourists and Palestinians. The feeling of oppression is visceral; you miss it if you only pass by in tour busses with Israeli license plates. This situation reminds me of what it was like in America before Martin Luther King. Something has got to give, this situation is untenable…. Hey, Jerry, tell me what is happening with Vanunu? You’re the only source for information I have read in America. If it hadn’t been for your reports, I would never have known about his release last April and three arrests since.”

“I haven’t spoken with Mordechai in a few months now. You should stop in at St. George’s and see him yourself; I can also give you his cell phone number.”

In the taxi Jack back to Jerusalem, Jack remembered reading an interview on St. Patrick Day quoting Vanunu speaking to the media after he had been arrested specifically for speaking with the media and Jack had been impressed.  Vanunu said, “I have no more secrets to tell and have not set foot in Dimona for more than 18 years. I have been out of prison, although not free, for one year now. Despite the illegal restrictions on my speech, I have again and again spoken out against the use of nuclear weapons anywhere and by any nation. I have given away no sensitive secrets because I have none. I have not acted against the interests of Israel nor do I wish to. I have been investigated by the police again and again, and re-arrested. They have found nothing. I have done nothing but speak for peace and world safety from a nuclear disaster…I do not want to harm Israel, but rather to warn of an enormous danger. I want to work for world peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons. I want the human race to survive.”

From reading Jerry Levin’s Internet reports on Vanunu, Jack knew that he was still not allowed to leave the country, to speak to foreigners, to go to Palestinian territories, nor to approach a foreign embassy. Although released from Ashkelon on April 21, 2004, he had been arrested three more times. He had been charged with “attempting to leave the country,” for riding in a taxi to go the few miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem for Christmas Eve mass in 2004.

The Israeli government has imposed the draconian Emergency Defense Regulations of the British Mandate upon Vanunu. Jack struggled trying to understand how a democracy could get away with regulations that suspend the rights of individuals to speak freely and move about. The Emergency Defense Regulations were implemented first by Britain against both Palestinians and Jews after World War II.  Articles 109, 110 and 120 gives power to the government to enter anyone’s home at any hour, day or night and remove anything they want to.  On Nov. 11, 2004, thirty armed officers stormed into Vanunu’s room while he was having morning coffee and they confiscated his computer and letters. They have yet to be returned.

 “When the Jewish community was suffering under the atrocious regulations, which were used by the British against both Palestinians and Jews after World War II, a leading Jewish lawyer, Yaccov Shapiro, who later became Israel’s minister of justice, described the [Regulations] as “unparalleled in any civilized country; there were no such laws in Nazi Germany.” [Naim Ateek; Justice and Only Justice, page 34-35].

Before returning to the Ambassador Hotel, Jack walked the few blocks to St. George’s Cathedral and crossed paths with Vanunu for the second time. He invited him to dinner the following night.

The next morning Jack took a cab to Ramallah and saw The Wall in full frontal brutal view. On his left was twenty feet high of abominable concrete, on his right rows of bankrupt businesses. Jack wondered how many USA tax dollars were spent on the abomination.

David, from the Upper Galilee, popped into Jacks mind; “Back off man, it’s enough, back off!” Jack thought the same about the wall and then got lost in thought until his cab pulled into the Palestinian Authority’s compound, where Arafat had been held captive and is buried now. Jack was amused at the reception he received from the soldiers when he arrived at the Headquarters. Nobody asked for any ID or to look in his brief case.

“This is surreal, the IDF carry big Uzi’s and the PA’s guns look so puny” Jack commented.

Tony responded, “They often don’t even work.” Tony Nassar had made the arrangements for Jack to interview President Abbas’s Chief of Staff and met him at the gate. Tony was a law student and Para legal at the law firm President Abbas used for personal business. Jack had made contact with Tony, through Palestinian Christian Yahoo Group. Tony was 24 years old and supported his widowed mother and young sister without a thought for himself. He told Jack that although much of the family had already moved to America, he would never leave Palestine. 

Jack was ten minutes early for his appointment with Rafiq Husseini, Chief of Staff to President Abbas. An unnamed soldier escorted Jack to the conference room and another brought cool water and hot tea. A moment later, Dr. Husseini greeted Jack with a warm smile and told him,  “We have lost more than 1.1 million fruit bearing trees in Palestinian territories. Trees are about food, the environment and life. Ancient trees have been demolished by tanks, and we thank the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace for addressing the need to replace them and rebuild the faith of our people…Palestine has always been tolerant to people of all religions. The Jews came here out of Spain along with many Arabs….And then came Zionism. When one wants to take over another, war happens…President Abbas is a very bad politician; he does not lie! He is ready to move on from the past. We have quit crying over our losses, we must move on. Live and let live is the motto of this administration. We can not carry on a battle, it must stop….Peace can only happen with peace, not force. President Abbas has promised, “We will do what ever it takes to show the world we want peace.”  We need America to help us. The best thing would be for Americans to come and see the truth of the situation for themselves. I encourage American’s to come and see The Wall; it has nothing to do with security but everything to do about grabbing water and more land. When American’s understand the real situation things will change for the better…the humiliation at the checkpoints is beyond belief. It can drive anyone to desperation. We condemn all terrorism but resisting occupation is necessary.”

That night Jack walked through the checkpoint from Ramallah to catch a cab back to the Ambassador Hotel. He cringed when he saw the watch tower’s small window lit up and considered how easy it would be to be shot at. The ground was rocky, uneven and littered with debris. Jack’s crepitus arthritic knee’s crackled more than usual as he navigated the uneven ground, and he thought, “Thank God for that full moon, at least there’s a little light in this darkness. How do old people get around in this environment? I imagine there must be a lot of broken hips or else they never leave their home.” 

Jack’s  passport was investigated by a dulled eyed female with boredom etched deep on her young face, and he wondered, “What am I going to do with all I have seen and heard? These experiences are not just for me alone, what am I going to do with them?”

The next day Jack met Mordechai Vanunu at a seafood restaurant. As soon as they ordered Jack asked, “What was your childhood like?”

Vanunu thought a long time before he responded, “It was normal….it was normal….it was normal.”

“What is normal?”

“I was born in Marrakesh, on October 13, 1954. Second oldest of eleven, the first seven of us migrated from Morocco in 1963 after the Zionists came and convinced the neighborhood that Israel was the Promised Land. Instead of the land of milk and honey we were banished to the desert of Beersheba.”

"Wait, I have never been to Marrakesh, tell me about it.”

“Did you ever see that Doris Day movie, The Man Who Knew Too Much?”

“Is that the one where she sings ‘Que sera sera?’”

“That’s the one. The beginning is exactly where I grew up. I was about 8 years old when I would wander all over the bazaar all by myself. I had a few friends at school, but always went to the bazaar alone. I preferred to be alone to observe, I was always watching everyone… I was always alone but never lonely…We lived in a small neighborhood of Melah. It was a few hundred years old with a wall and a gate just like the Old City. Some people painted their homes many colors and the streets were narrow and had no names. I remember this very tall Black Muslim Arab who would fill a sheepskin with water from the town well. He would carry it around his neck and sell water to anyone who did not want to fetch it themselves. My father ran a successful grocery store and my mother was a seamstress. She would see a picture in a magazine of a dress and then would copy it for herself. My mother’s family had moved to Israel in 1956 and they sent me and my sisters and brothers clothes and things. We also got support from JOINT, a Jewish organization from the USA that sent us jeans and boots.”

“Did you have fun?”

“It was fun to watch the gymnasts perform at the bazaar; I would watch them for hours. I wouldn’t go home until after dark and we lived in an apartment quadrangle. There were four families on each of the two floors and we shared the roof top and courtyard. There was no electricity, no running water and no sewer…. My very first memory is when I was four years old and my mother had to run downstairs for a while. She told me to keep an eye on my newborn sister, and as soon as I was alone I found out the difference between girls and boys….I was still 4 years old when I began wondering; ‘What is above the sky? What is the end of the end?’

“I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home but rejected it all by the eighth grade. When I went to the University I became an existentialist….When I was 8 years old I stole some money for the first and last time. My father would take my older brother Al and I to his grocery store whenever we weren’t in school. Al would always go into the back and play with boxes but I staid up front and listened and learned. One Friday afternoon my father told me to watch the register as he had to run out somewhere. There was 100 shekels in the money box and I put it in my pocket as soon as he left. When he returned the first thing he did was look into the box and then he asked me; ‘Where is the money? Did you take it?’  


“I saw no way out and in my panic, I lied and said something stupid, “No, no, I didn’t take it, go ahead, and check my pocket.”  He did and he found the money and began to beat me with a belt and he wounded me a little in my head. That was the day I learned not to steal but it was not until the next day when I learned not to lie. The next day at school the teacher demanded everyone uncover their heads. When I did the teacher saw my wound and he sent me to the principal who asked, “What happened to you?” I didn’t want to admit my father beat me so I told him some Arabs had beaten me up. He called the police and my lie made a lot of trouble for some innocent guys, and I have never lied since then.”

“So you were always a good boy?”

“Yes, I was a good student and stayed out of trouble.”

“Have you always been stubborn?”

Vanunu thought for a very long time, “When I was 13 years old I got mad at my parents and decided I would punish them. I began my first hunger strike and it lasted 3 days. My parents acted like they didn’t care and not until I got very weak did I get their attention. I also remember getting really mad at my mother before a Jewish holiday. I had new clothes I wanted to wear on Friday night but she insisted I wait until the morrow. We locked horns but she had the power and won in the end. I fumed the entire evening.”

“So, this was when you had been in Israel for about five years?”

“Yes, in 1963 the Zionists came to my village and encouraged everyone to migrate to Israel. There was no family discussion, my father just told us we were leaving and six months later we boarded the train to Casablanca and got on a World War II military ship. The ship kept going up and down and everyone was crammed into an open space and people everywhere kept throwing up. After four days we arrived in Marseilles. This was a great place but we had to leave for Israel. The next boat was bigger and modern and the journey was smoother. When we arrived in Israel the Interior Minister assigned us to Beersheba but all the rest of our family had been assigned to Nazareth and we wanted to go there too. We had no choice and home was a small hut in the desert. There was nothing in it and we had nothing much with us. After a few days my mother left for Nazareth, it was chaos and we had nothing to do to occupy us. Outside, there was only desert but I walked a few hours every day so I could be in the Old City. I started exploring around a Mexican looking town, never talked with anyone but was always watching everyone. Three weeks later my mother returned and then my Uncle Joseph arrived and took us up north to see some more newly arrived family. We stayed for two months then moved into a new apartment in Beersheba. I went to the fifth grade and met a few friends but they were strange people. They were Romanians and a lot of Middle Easterners who used bad language and seemed cheap to me. Even the school supplies were inferior from what I had in Morocco. Even the ice cream was not ice cream, it was just ice and there was no Pepsi. I didn’t like it at all and wondered why did I have to be here? There were only Jewish people around, I never saw an Arab or Palestinian then, and the old mosque was uninhabited. My mother had babies every two years. I preferred to be alone, but I was never lonely.  Even when I walked with my father on Saturday to pray, I didn’t talk, but I wondered about God and truth. My father became even more orthodox as I turned away. I couldn’t accept all the teachings and decided I would not accept any of them. At fourteen years old I began to doubt and by 16, I left Judaism for good. I didn’t know if God even existed and I didn’t even care. I decided I would decide for myself what is good and bad, I didn’t need anyone telling me the rules. For me it was about doing to others what I wanted them to do to me, I didn’t need any other rule…. I was sent to Yeshiva, the Jewish boarding school in the Old City. I experienced a great disconnect from God. I didn’t talk to anyone about any of it. I kept everything within and continued to wonder about finding my way, my direction and the purpose of my life. I have always searched for answers. I kept my mouth shut about not following the faith and excelled in secular studies. With everything else, I just went through the motions…in the 11th grade two friends and I were listening to the radio. This is a big sin and crime to use electricity on the Sabbath. The rabbi caught us and called my father to come get me and when we had almost reached our house, I smelled that he was going to beat me so I ran the five meters back to school without looking back. The next day the rabbi sent me for an intensive one week of Jewish studies. I was angry for the entire week. After that I returned back to my boarding room. My two friends and I had become outcasts; we were forever ignored by the other students…. The isolation became very comfortable and I began walking in the desert alone every night without any fear. I would just walk around and imagine that I would find my way, have some success….”                           

The Army and leaving Israel

“I passed all my classes except for English and Hebrew studies. At 18 years old I had my mind and health checked by the Israeli army doctors and was assigned to be a pilot. But I failed the hand - eye coordination and was assigned to the Navy instead. Three weeks later they sent me to the Engineering Unit where I learned about land mines, bridges and explosives. I started training with fifty others and was the most unenthusiastic of the bunch. I stood back from it all and saw it as if it were just playing stupid games. Most everyone else was serious, but I just didn’t care, all I could see was the futility…The day I left home for the service, my mother walked me to the bus. She gave me all the Jewish stuff; you know the phylacteries? The leather straps for the head and left arm? I put it all aside until I got my first leave, then I returned it all home and never said a word about it. I never spoke with my parents about rejecting their faith…. When I was in prison my mother came to me and told me that I was suffering because I was a Christian. I know I caused them a lot of pain and they have suffered because of my case. I forgive them even though they rejected me and my Christian faith. I have always thought for myself and made up my own mind… As a young boy I thought too many of the rules of Judaism were of no use. Like you can’t mix meat and cheese together. Well, the first time I did, nothing happened so then I began turning on the lights on Saturday. I tried to experience everything that had been forbidden. That first Yom Kippur I didn’t fast, didn’t pray and felt totally free for the first time in my life.”

“Ok, so did you start having fun?”

“No, still no fun, but finally met some secular Jews and traveled freely as a soldier and served in the occupied territories near Bethlehem. I would make treks of 15 miles through villages and felt how poor the people were under occupation and how they suffered without reason, except for the reason of injustice. In the 1970’s Israel built many fortresses and spent lots of money on equipment, but nothing on the people I saw who were oppressed and under occupation. I got really mad and upset every time I thought about how much money they wasted, but I kept my mouth shut and kept it all to myself. After a year I finished my training and was assigned to train more soldiers. For me it was all futility and waste, I saw these children become soldiers and thought what a complete waste.  When the Yom Kippur War broke out I was home on leave. I returned the next day to my station near Ramallah. Soldiers with less than a month of training got called to go with me to the Jordan Valley. There weren’t enough trained troops and we were lucky we didn’t see any fighting and got to return to base after three days. After a few months we all went to Syria and the Golan Heights. When Kissinger coordinated the ceasefire, the Israeli army destroyed the area before leaving there. I was promoted to First Sergeant and they wanted me to re-up. I said no….  

“I began my studies at Tel Aviv University when I was 21. I studied Physics until the army called me up for 30 days reserve service. When I returned to school, I couldn’t catch up. I worked in a bakery at night and attended class all day. This was the first time I met Palestinians as human beings. I began attending political demonstrations inside the university. It was all about equal human rights and respecting all others. By the time I was 23 I began working at the Dimona. It was suppose to be a textile plant but I was hired for the control room. At the time I had no idea what it was in control of.

I really didn’t even want the job; I tried to get them not to hire me. On the application they asked if I knew any Palestinians. As I had an acquaintance I said yes, hoping it would disqualify me from employment. They accepted me anyway. And I watched them as closely as they watched me. I began studying philosophy and geography and read literature.”

“Did you listen to music; did you know The Beatles and Bob Dylan?”

“Sure, but I prefer classical. And I began wondering more about life and politics. I decided to become a hermit and vegetarian. I lived alone but never was lonely. It wasn’t ever fun but I enjoy the quiet. I was never sad but never happy either. After a year I got bored with the routine job at the Dimona and wanted to leave. I went to Beersheba University and studied economics for a year. I became involved in university politics and in student unions. I was all about protecting Palestinian student’s rights. I sided with Palestinians more and more and was invited to help establish a group of Palestinian and Jewish students for peace and justice. This was also the time I found out that it was dangerous for me to speak the truth. I was being watched, but I continued to express myself anyway.  After six months I got called in by security at the Dimona and they asked me, “Can you imagine why you are here?”

I answered, “My university activity? They then questioned me about all my contacts and told me to stop, that I was in danger. I told them I would try, but I knew I would continue on because it was the right cause and I will not hide my thoughts….  

"After five months they called me in again and demanded I stop my activities. A few months later the Chief security man took me to the Tel Aviv Secret Room where the Israeli army security officer grilled me. They told me I could get 15 years in prison if I didn’t stop my university activities. I left the meeting and walked to a Palestinian bookstore knowing they were watching me. That night I wrote in my diary: ‘1/85. I should have finished this job at Dimona before now. Time to quit’…

“I finished the university with a BA in philosophy and geography and made plans to leave Israel and begin a new life in America. In August of 1985 I was put on a list of people who should be dismissed from the Dimona. They were laying off 10% but when they told me I was going I confronted them with ‘Why are you dismissing me? I am a good worker; you are getting rid of me for political reasons, aren’t you?’ The union protected me and after two months they told me they were transferring me to a less secure area.


"I told them I would stay where I was or else I would resign. They said, ‘OK, resign.’ And I did. I had already shot the two rolls of film. I worked the night shift and had lots of time alone. I found the keys to the restricted areas in the shower room. I left the film a few days in my locker before taking it out of the Dimona. I knew they were watching me. I left Israel in January of 1986 and went to search for someone to share my story with. I didn’t develop the film until six months later. I was waiting until I found a newspaper that would cover the story. I met a Canadian author on my way to Greece, but nothing came of it. I traveled to Athens, Bangkok, and then went to Russia. I was 30 years old in a Moscow hotel wondering if I should tell my story to the Red Army. I decided to leave instead. The reason I had arrived there was that before I left the Dimona I had checked out the Palestinian Communist Party to see how the communists worked. I was curious and wondered about once I left Israel, that maybe they would help me. But when I witnessed the poverty and nothing but military cars everywhere I decided to get out of there.


"I went to the Far East and met some people who had run away from Chernobyl and I told them about the Dimona. Two weeks later I arrived in Sydney and stayed for six months. I went to St. John Anglican church and became friends with the people I met there. I got a job driving a taxi and met a freelance journalist named Gervevo, I told him my story and he was enthusiastic to help me get it out. He thought I wanted to make money on it but I told him I just wanted to prevent a nuclear war and contribute to a positive change in the Middle East. Then I met Peter Hounam.” [for details read The Woman from Mossad: The Story of Mordechai Vanunu and the Israeli Nuclear Program, by Peter Hounam. North Atlantic Books]

Baptism by Fire

“I really had no clue what I was doing by getting baptized a Christian, I just felt like I had to do it. It was my way to be a new being. It wasn’t until after my trial that I started to read the New Testament. While I was in prison I would read aloud for ½ hour twice a day. I would read the entire New Testament and begin it again when I finished the Book of Revelation. I did this for me as well as for my captors. Not so much the prison guards but the ones who watched me on camera 24 hours a day. Once I covered up the camera that spied on me and was punished for one month in solitary without any books or radio, no contact with anyone anywhere was allowed. Just them watching me, constantly watching me.”

“Who are they?”

“The Shen Beet, you know like the FBI and the Mossad, like your CIA were watching me. They tortured me by keeping a light on in my cell constantly for 2 years. They told me it was because they were afraid I would commit suicide, and the oppressive camera was for my safety. They recruited the guards and other prisoners to irritate me. They would deprive me of sleep by making loud noises near my cell all night long.

“I chose to read them 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8 instead;

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with THE TRUTH! It always protects, it always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.

“For the first five years I was in prison every day, twice a day I would loudly pray by reading Bible verses. I would also read the Anglican service from the Book of Common Prayer. I did it twice a day, every day for five years. I began to see I had become like a machine. I knew if I continued I would lose my mind. So after that I only prayed in silence. Although I knew I was driving them nuts with my loud praying, it was driving me nuts too…I changed my routine. I was allowed outside every day for two hours, I had been jogging around in circles for the two hours, now I changed my routine. I began to alter that and all my routines so I would not be like a machine….I refused to eat when they brought my food in. I would decide every day what time I would eat and what I would eat.  I chose a different time every day to do anything. The camera was there to learn my behavior so they could manipulate me. I knew I had to constantly change my routine. I began reading more books about health, nutrition, history, philosophy, literature and kept my prayer life quiet.”

“When you were baptized in Sydney just a few months before you were abducted and tried, you took the name John Crossman. Was that because of St. John of the Cross and his The Dark Night of The Soul?

“I haven’t read him.”

“Not many have, and even fewer understand what he was talking about. John of the Cross was a Spanish poet and mystic who wrote about the contemplative life and Divine union of the soul with God in this life. He was an ardent disciple of Theresa of Avilla's reforms which greatly antagonized the church hierarchy during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. He received a great deal of abuse for his thoughts and spent alot of time in prison writing."

Vanunu goes silent again. Jack wonders if he stirred up too many bad memories but asks, “Tomorrow is my last day before I fly home to upstate New York. Now I have to get to Notre Dame for the Interfaith Peace Conference. Will you take a hike with me up to the Mount of Olives tomorrow evening and tell me exactly how you became a Christian?”

Vanunu agrees and Jack pays the tab, says goodbye and walks to Notre Dame Cathedral for the satellite linked interfaith conference for peace. Dan Rather moderated from DC as Jack sat in the audience in Jerusalem. The interfaith panel were all moderates attempting to reclaim the battlefield of ideas from extremists on both sides. Rev Theodore Hessburgh, President Emeritus University of Notre Dame began the evening with a pledge, “The Peace of the world begins in Jerusalem.”

Dr. Tsvia Walden, Board of Director of the Peres Center and Geneva Initiative offered a plan, “There is a need for a third party in the negotiations that could enable both sides to trust each other. There are more people in this region interested in making concessions, they all want peace so desperately.”

The Coordinator of World Bank emergency services to the PA, Rania Kharma commented, “We all need to be the bridges to our leaders that justice, equality, and human rights will bring peace. Give people justice and they will reward you with peace.”

Sheik Imad Falouiji warned, “Religions must go back to their origins. God commands us to love each other and live together. This Holy Land was given to all people. This land is on fire. There is an occupation that musty be removed. The language of peace cannot succeed without justice for all.”

Jack remembered President Bush’s second inaugural promise, “In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without liberty…. All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand or liberty we will stand with you.”

The Bishop of Jerusalem, Rt. Rev. Riah Abu Assal recaptured Jack’s attention as he stated, “Peace is an act. Blessed are the peacemakers not the peace talkers. Peace is possible in the Holy Land. The root cause for the lack of peace since 1967 is the occupation. For peace to make progress in the Middle East we need to deal with the root cause…Religion was not meant to bring death. All those involved in searching for peace should commit themselves to work for justice and truth.”

After the conference Jack walked alone to the Ambassador Hotel and wondered, “These past fifteen days have changed me. I learned more in this short time through experience than from years of reading. I don’t know what I am going to do with this knowledge, and I don’t have a clue if You want me to do anything at all. But, it is the words of Thomas Merton’s that keep coming back to me;

“Oh God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not necessarily mean that I actually am. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will always lead me by the right road, although I may know nothing about it… and I will not fear.” -Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, pg.79

The next morning Jack met Sami and George at the Bethlehem office of The Holy Land Trust [www.holylandtrust.org]. He learned more about their education and training for all segments of Palestinian society and about how direct nonviolent action against the occupation is done.  He learned about Holy Land Trust’s many opportunities to participate in fact finding missions and travel encounters to meet Jews, Christians and Muslims working together for peace and justice. Jack took a picture with Sami in front of a poster that looked at first glance to be an eye chart, but read: END THE OCCUPATION.    


Jack asked Sami for a poster of his own, and told him, “I am already planning on attending TIKKUN”s teach –in to congress, next year on Israel Palestine. I think I will take this eye chart with me and see how good the eyes of congress are.”

That afternoon Jack met Rev. Attek at the SABEEL office but Jack did most of the talking.              “I have been reading the Sabeel Documents about morally responsible investment and nonviolent response to the occupation. This is exactly what we American Christians should be discussing and not continue the debate over the mystery of love and marriage. Surely everyone knows Bishop Robinson isn't the first gay bishop, he's just the first honest gay bishop. What we really need to seriously consider is where we lay down our money, and who do we really serve?  Just this morning I read an internet report from one segment of your opposition on the divestment issue. Money talks and you have really hit a nerve, good job, Reverend.”

Rev. Ateek smiled and shrugged as he autographed Jack’s worn copy of Justice And Only Justice.

At , Jack met Vanunu at the American Colony. They both walked as fast as any New Yorker and maintained silence. Not until they scaled the high hill and in view came the stoned tombs of many Jews that Vanunu spoke, “Those are the Jews expecting to be resurrected first when the Messiah comes.”

Jack retorted, “When I was in rehab, I got hold of a very bad book. It was called Left Behind. What got left behind was the gospel of peace and love. These books are bad theology and poor literature. Did you know that in America there are Christians who actually want Armageddon? They believe they will escape the nuclear holocaust because they are now the new chosen ones. They think they will be raptured, they think they will be lifted out of the world. They believe a theology of escapism and they ignore that the gospel is:   “The peacemakers shall be called the children of God” and that Jesus is The Prince of Peace.”

Vanunu replied, “The time has come for the USA to see the truth of Zionism. It began as a secular nationalist movement not a religious one. Then some Christians believed when Israel became a nation it was the beginning of the second coming. They are deluded if they believe peace will come through atomic weapons. Atomic weapons are holocaust weapons. Christians should be the first people against them…The Christians in America should be helping the Christians here. America needs to wake up to this fallacy that Jesus will come back by nuclear war. America needs to wake up that the Palestinian Christians here have no human rights. Aren’t Christians supposed to be concerned about other Christians? Aren’t Christians supposed to be concerned about all the poor and oppressed?”

Jack had become agitated, “It is non-negotiable all that stuff Jesus said about doing for the least and the oppressed. It is non-negotiable for Christians, we must forgive our enemies, and we must love those who hate us. What ever we do or do not do, we do it unto God… Every time I went through a checkpoint, saw the wall or heard a story of oppression, I wondered how God can stand this situation? I can’t.”

At the summit of the Mount of Olives there is much pavement, but not many trees. Jack found one cradling a few stone steps and sat down while Vanunu wandered about.  When Vanunu appeared, Jack immediately asked, “How was it being crucified for telling the truth?”

"My human rights have been denied me because I am a Christian. When I was on trial I was treated just like a Palestinian; no human rights at all and cruel and unusual punishment, all because I told the truth. The government spread slander about me, that I was a homosexual, that I hated Jews, that I wanted fame and money. What I did was sacrifice my life for the truth.….In prison I really began to feel like Jesus and Paul. When Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, it was like me in Dimona exposing the Israeli’s dirty secrets. I felt like Paul being thrown in prison for speaking the truth…

“The only real way to worship is in loving ones enemies. It was not easy to love my tormentors, it was only because I felt so much like Jesus crucified on the cross, and me crucified in prison, that I could do it. It was not ever easy. I have forgiven but not forgotten anything and I never will. In Israel, a life sentence is 25 years. Even murderers go free after 17. They imposed the same restrictions on me that Palestinians receive; no human rights at all. No phone, no visitors except family and only through an iron grill. No vacation, no holidays, no gifts. Even murderers get out for vacations! I was locked up for 18 years and still cannot go on vacation, I cannot leave and that is all I am asking, just to leave here…For 18 years in prison they even attempted to control my thoughts on paper. I would write exactly what I wanted and they would censor words like ‘kidnapped’ and ‘atomic bomb.’ They would show me how they chopped up my letters, but I continued to write exactly what I wanted. They held my body, but never my spirit or mind.”

Jack asked tentatively, “Have you ever considered that the anti-Christ is not a man at all? I keep thinking how nuclear weapons are promoted by governments as instruments of peace, but they only bring destruction. I can’t imagine God intended for man to blow up this planet but instead for us to learn how to share it.”

“The only way to peace is peace; the only way is non-violence. The only answer to Israeli nuclear weapons, their aggression, occupation and oppression, the wall and refugee camps is to answer them with truth and a peace-full voice. When I became the spy for the world I did it all for the people of the world. If governments do not report the truth, if media does not report the truth, all we can do is follow our conscience. Daniel Ellsberg did, the woman from Enron did, and I did. The USA needs to wake up and see the truth that Israel is not a democracy unless you are a Jew. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where America can right now find WMD’s. America can also find where basic human rights have been denied Christians, right here in Israel.”

“In America we are ensured of inalienable rights. That means they are God given rights that governments cannot take away. The right to worship where and how we choose. When I read that you were not allowed to go the few miles on Christmas Eve to celebrate mass at the Church of the Nativity,  I wondered, what kind of democracy is that? I cannot understand how  a democracy  could haul anyone into jail because they wanted to go to a church in the next town.  American democracy ensures her citizens the right to think and to speak out the truth as we see it. American democracy understands everyone has the right to a life, to liberty-which means freedom from captivity and any arbitrary controls. Last night at the Interfaith Conference I remembered what President Bush promised at his second inaugural and wondered if he had thought about Palestinians when he delivered it. He promised, ‘There is no justice without freedom. There can be no human rights without liberty…All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty we will stand with you.’”

The men go silent as they descend the Mount of Olives then climb up three flights to a roof top restaurant where they serve the fish with skeleton and head in tact, and fries on the side. After a while, Vanunu speaks and blows Jack’s mind.

“Did you know that President Kennedy tried to stop Israel from building atomic weapons? In 1963 he forced Prime Minister Ben Guirion to admit the Dimona was not a textile plant as the sign outside proclaimed but a nuclear plant. The Prime Minister said, “The nuclear reactor is only for peace.” Kennedy insisted on an open internal inspection. He wrote letters demanding Ben Guirion to open up the Dimona for inspection. The French were responsible for the actual building of the Dimona. The Germans gave the money; they were feeling guilty for the holocaust and tried to pay their way out.  Everything inside was written in French. when I was there, almost twenty years ago. Back then the Dimona descended 7 floors underground…. In 1955 Perez and Guirion met with the French to agree they would get a nuclear reactor if they fought against Egypt to control the Sinai and Suez Canal. That was the war of 1956. Eisenhower demanded that Israel leave the Sinai but the reactor plant deal continued on.  Kennedy demanded inspections. When Johnson became president he made an agreement with Israel that two senators would come every year to inspect. Before the senators would visit the Israeli’s would build a wall to block the underground elevators and stairways. From 1963 to ’69, the senators came but they never knew about the wall that hid the rest of the Dimona from them. Nixon stopped the inspections and agreed to ignore the situation. As a result, Israel increased production. In 1986 there were over 200 bombs. Today they may have enough plutonium for 10 bombs a year. Who knows?”

The two walked back to St. George’s Cathedral without speaking then said goodbye at the gate. Jack continued on in the dark, alone and silent.

   
 
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"HOPE has two children.The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it."-St. Augustine

 "He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust." - Aquinas

BEYOND NUCLEAR: Mordechai Vanunu's Freedom of Speech Trial

Published 10/30/10

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UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.


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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

" In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."-Mother Teresa


“You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense; do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has ceased...to obey the laws of life.”- Lewis Mumford, 1946



The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright



“Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death.” - Rev. MLK
Establishment of Israel
"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." - May 14, 1948. The Declaration of the Establishment of Israel
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