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Dimona

DIMONA

Israeli frontier city.

Located 22 miles southeast of Beersheba and about 7 miles east of Yeruham, in Israel's southern region, the city is named after the biblical Dimona, a Judean city in the Negev. Initially a residential area serving the Dead Sea Industries workforce in Sodom and the operators of the potash works at Oron, Di-mona was originally settled by thirty-six Moroccan immigrant families, joined later by additional newcomers. During the period between 1978 and 1988 it registered a negative immigration balance. Subsequently, however, additional immigrants were brought in (in 1991 Dimona absorbed 1,500 families from Russia and Ethiopia).

Dimona is also home to the Hebrew Israelites, a group of some 2,000 African Americans who initially settled in Dimona in 1969 and who consider their immigration to Israel the final destination of their journey home. Their leader, Ben Ami Ben Israel Carter, supervises the group's communal life. Because, in their view, religions constitute a rift among people, the Hebrew Israelites do not consider themselves disciples of any religion.

Dimona is neither particularly large nor strategically located. Its population in 2002 was 33,700. It is, however, immensely important to Israel because it is home to scientists stationed at the nearby nuclear reactor. The Dimona reactor was built with the aid of the French; during the mid-1960s, it became a source of concern to both the Arabs and the United States, who feared that the reactor would be used to produce nuclear-weapons-grade plutonium. The Israelis gave assurances that the Dimona reactor was for peaceful use, but suspicions remained. In 1980 the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that the Dimona reactor was capable of producing weapons-grade ore. Though it has never been publicly acknowledged, it is likely that the Israelis have used the Dimona reactor to help develop nuclear weapons.

In September 1986 Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at the Dimona nuclear reactor, disclosed to the world that Israel had secretly produced 100 to 200 nuclear warheads. Before the publication of this information in the New York Times, Vanunu was kidnapped by the Israeli secret service. At a trial held in camera in Israel he was convicted of treason and espionage and was sentenced to eighteen years in prison; the first eleven and a half years were spent in solitary confinement. His petition for an early release was denied.

Bibliography


Cohen, Avner. Israel and the Bomb. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

zachary karabell updated by yehuda gradus

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Dimona

Dimona (dīmō´nə) [Heb.,=wasting], town (1994 pop. 30,400), S Israel, in the Negev Desert. It is the seat of the Negev Nuclear Research Center. Mining and the production of textiles, chemicals, and processed minerals are also important. A development town, it was founded in 1955 and named for ancient Dimonah, which was located nearby. Because of its capacity as a site for nuclear weapons, Dimona was a target of Iraqi missiles in the Persian Gulf War.

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