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Rabbis from Europe and Israel ask Katsav to pardon Vanunu

September 27, 2001

By Joseph Algazy, Ha'aretz Correspondent

Twelve prominent rabbis from Europe and Israel asked President Moshe Katsav on Tuesday to pardon Mordechai Vanunu on "humanitarian grounds." They said his release from jail would "demonstrate the strength of Israeli democracy and improve Israel's standing in the world."

In 1986, Vanunu leaked details about Israel's nuclear program to The Sunday Times. He was convicted of selling Israeli atomic secrets at his 1988 trial and was sentenced to 18 years in prison, of which he has served 15.

Among the rabbis who signed the petition are Rabbi David Rozen, former head rabbi in Ireland; Rabbi Yitzhak Newman, former head rabbi of the Royal Air Force and community rabbi of the United Synagogue in London; Rabbi Meir Shimon Vershovski, former head rabbi of Strassbourg, France; and Rabbi Ya'acov Milgrom, professor emeritus of the University of California who now resides in Jerusalem.

The rabbis' petition was sent to the president's residence in Jerusalem by Dr. Daniel Rohrleich, who participated in a demonstration calling for a pardon for Vanunu that took place Tuesday outside the president's residence. Similar demonstrations were held in front of Israeli representatives' residence's throughout cities in Europe, the United States, Australia, India and other places in the world.

The Text of the Rabbis' Appeal

What follows is a translation of the appeal to President Katsav and the names and affiliations of the rabbis who signed it.
It is worth pointing out, as well, that the 12 rabbis who signed the appeal represent all the movements within Judaism: Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, and Orthodox. Four of them are Orthodox, even though this movement is often identified with the Israeli Right.
-Daniel Rohrlich

To President Moshe Katsav:

Mordechai Vanunu was imprisoned in 1986 and sentenced in 1987 to 18 years in prison. Having served more than two-thirds of his sentence, he should be eligible for parole. Vanunu served more than 11 years in solitary confinement, an especially severe and debilitating punishment much harsher than that imposed upon him by the court.

Vanunu passed information to a British journal, neither requesting nor receiving payment; he is not a spy who sold secrets to an enemy. His declared intention was to save the region and the world from the horrors of nuclear war.

Without challenging the court's verdict, nevertheless we, the undersigned rabbis, appeal to you to exercise your lawful authority and pardon Mordechai Vanunu, on humanitarian grounds. His release will show the strength of Israel's democracy and enhance Israel's standing in the world.

25 September 2001

Rabbi Isaac Newman - Rabbis for Human Rights ("Shomreh Mishpat"); formerly congregational rabbi of the United Synagogue, London, and Chief Rabbi of the Royal Air Force - 90 Herzl Boulevard, Jerusalem.
Rabbi Arik Ascherman - Director, Rabbis for Human Rights - 2 Yitzhak Elhanan St., Jerusalem.
Rabbi Einat Rimon - Rabbis for Human Rights.
Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman - Rabbi of Congregation "Kol Haneshama" - 1 Asher St., Jerusalem.
Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom - Rabbis for Human Rights.
Rabbi David Rosen - President of the World Conference on Religion and Peace; former Chief Rabbi of Ireland - 20 Dan St., Jerusalem.
Rabbi Dr. Jacob Cohen - Rabbis for Human Rights.
Rabbi Meir (Mickey) Rosen - Rabbi of Congregation "Yakar" - 10 Lamed Heh St., Jerusalem.
Rabbi Meir (Max) Shimon Warschawski - Rabbis for Human Rights; formerly Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg and environs, France - 3/1 Haim Bajayo St., Jerusalem.
Rabbi Jacob Milgrom, Professor Emeritus of Bible, University of California at Berkeley - 2 Yizhak Elhanan St., Jerusalem.
Rabbi Yehiel Greniman - Chairman, Rabbis for Human Rights - 13/1 Ein Gedi St., Jerusalem.
Rabbi Philip Bentley - Rabbi of Temple Shalom, Floral Park, NY, and President of the Jewish Peace Fellowship.

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