The Capture of Mordehai Vanunu

On September 30th, 1986, Mordehai Vanunu, also known as the Atom Spy here in Israel, was captured in Rome by the Mossad.

Vanunu was born in Morroco and at the age of nine, made Aliyah to Israel with his family and settled in Be'er Sheva. After serving in the Israeli Combat Engineering Forces, he received his Bachelors in Physics and began working in the Nuclear Research Campus in Dimona. While studying at the Ben Gurion University, Vanunu became friends with Arab students, members of the Communist Party. The First Lebanon War in 1982 enhanced his political views against Israel, and after his employers at the Negev Nuclear Research Center found out he was a member of the anti-Israel party he was laid off. During the whole time that he worked in the secretive plant, he smuggled a camera into the plant and took pictures of some of the facilities.


After losing his job, Vanunu traveled the world and settled down in Sydney, Australia, where he converted and joined the Church of England. After finding out where Vanunu worked, a Colombian reporter convinced Vanunu to meet with a Sunday Times reporter, and the two met in Sydney in 1986.


Vanunu gave him all the information he had about the work inside of the nuclear plant, and the pictures that he took. When the editors of the Sunday Times tried to collaborate his story and to find out if the photos are real, that is when the Israeli authorities found out what was going on.


Vanunu was finally located in London by a Mossad secret agent nicknamed Cindy. After a few dates, she had convinced Vanunu to join her on a trip to Rome, on September 30th. In Rome, Vanunu was apprehended by a Mossad team and was secretly smuggled to Israel by ship.


A few days later the Sunday Times published the piece, and according to the paper, this was proof Israel held nuclear weapons. Israel hid the fact that Vanunu was in its hands. While Vanunu was being transported to court, he managed to scribble on his hand the following sentence and held it up on the window of the car:


"Vanunu M was hijacked in Rome. ITL. 30.09.86, 21:00. Came to Rome by fly BA504"

On March 28th, 1988, Vanunu was convicted of treason and severe espionage and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. The first 11 years of his sentence Vanunu spent in solitude.

Vanunu was released in April 2004, after serving his full sentence. He was prohibited from talking to foreigners or any press members, as he was still considered a liability and a threat to Israel's security. Vanunu, like a good ol' Israeli, didn't really listen to the rules and continued interviewing with foreign reporters. He was accused several times of violating his parole orders and even spent another two and a half months in prison.


In 2011, Vanunu demanded his Israeli citizenship be deprived. That's right, you read correctly, he demanded to revoke his own citizenship.


Mordehai Vanunu is the most famous Israeli whistleblower in history. Not a title most people would like to own, but in his case, we think he is quite proud of it.

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