The priest and his 18-year promise to whistleblower
As the days tick down to Mordechai Vanunu’s release, the Reverend Dave Smith, the Sydney pastor who has kept faith with the Israeli nuclear whistleblower for 18 years, has a recurring nightmare.
“I see the prison doors opening and I walk towards him, some sniper shoots at him from a rooftop and by the time I reach him he’s dead. I’ve never been able to see beyond that…I can’t go beyond the day of his release,” said the rector of Holy Trinity Anglican church at Dulwich Hill. Mr Smith, known as Father Dave, has written to his friend Morde, 49, month in, month out, and promised he would be there on his release. They never thought it would take this long. “For 18 years I have seen my role as letting him know he is loved and supported. He let me know from an early stage that it was helpful to have the contact,” Mr Smith said. He leaves for Israel next week. Their friendship was forged in 1986 when the pair discussed the work of Christian existentialist Soren Kierkergaard. In Sydney Vanunu converted to Christianity and adopted the name John Crossing.
The former technician at lsrael’s top-secrey Dimona Nuclear Research Centre discussed his momentous decision to reveal all he know of Israel’s secretive nuclear weapons program with Mr Smith. He travelled to Britain to tell his story but before it appeared in London’s Sunday Times, he had been lured to Italy, Kidnapped bt Mossad and taken to Israel to face tral for espionage and treason. After l8 years, 11 in solitary confinement, and more than 200 letters from Mr Smith, Vanunu is due for release on April 21. The time in solitary took its toll. There were paranoid episodes where he thought the paint colours in his cell were messages from Mossad. For three years in the early 1990s he made no contact with anyone outside the prison. Mr Smith thought he had died. Then, on February 5, 1995, Vanunu wrote to say he was “no longer interested in faith and religion”. But as his release date has neared, his hope, faith and spirit have returned. In the final letter to Mr. Smith from prison he spoke of his plan “to find my partner…and have a normal life with job, work”.
What happens next for Vanunu is not clear. He has applied to renounce his Israeli citizenship to avoid confinement in the country after his release, Israeli TV reported on Saturday.
But it is unlikely this will be granted. Security sources have said Israel would ban him from traveling abroad after his release. Mr Smith said he had a ”sobering expectation” that Vanunu would not be allowed out of Israel.
“My hope is that they will eventually let him out and he’ll go to England and then here. I’ve got a campsite. I want to take him then and introduce him to the kangaroos and the wide open spaces near Wombeyan Caves.”