Free Jonathan For Me
July 17, 1998 - Yaffa Goldstein - Hatzofeh
(Translated from Hebrew) - May be reprinted.
Esther Pollard is back with us again. It seems that Israel's official
recognition of Jonathan as an Israeli agent which occurred two months
ago has not, in the meantime, moved things forward at all. With the full
support of the Rishon Letzion, Ha Rav Mordecai Eliahu, who has ruled
that Jonathan's case is a mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim, Pollard's wife has
returned to Israel to see to it that his case is not allowed to sink
Is Pollard's situation being influenced by the current state of
bilateral relations between the US and Israel, which are not exactly
brilliant at the moment?
Esther Pollard reacts indignantly to the question. "It is a complete
farce to see Jonathan's situation as being dependent on the relations
between the two countries. When the last Government (Labor) was in power
and the relationship with Israel was at its best, did they release
Jonathan? Or in any way advance his case? Just the opposite!"
According to his wife, Pollard does not receive kosher food in the
American prison, nor does he receive proper medical treatment,
appropriate to his medical condition. He lives and works in sealed rooms
where the temperatures are burning hot, and there is neither air
conditioning nor appropriate air circulation. As the only visible,
kipa-wearing Jew, his life is in constant danger in prison, which is a
hotbed of anti-Semitism.
"What's more," she fumes, "the fact that Israel publicly announced that
Jonathan was an official Israeli agent signaled to the Americans that
Israel was ready to begin intensive negotiations for his release. Two
days later, the Prime Minister arrived in Washington and spoke before
AIPAC's national convention. He did not even mention Jonathan's name."
This she says was extremely damaging to the American perception of
Israel's serious intent. While the Prime Minister did say to Esther in a
meeting last week that the current government has done more than any
previous government for Jonathan, Esther responds that making a public
declaration and then failing to follow up with intensive action behind
the scenes sent a clear messages to the Americans that Israel is not
seriously committed to securing Pollard's release. Esther Pollard will
meet with the Prime Minister again this week.
"We received phone calls from highly-placed contacts in Washington and
on Capital Hill, mostly non-Jews, expressing their surprise that Israel
had not yet contacted them to begin the process of intensive
negotiation in order to free her agent. When more time passed and
Israel still did nothing, the Americans drew the conclusion that the
whole issue of Jonathan's change in status was nothing more than a
public relations stunt designed for local consumption. This gave the
green light to the Washington Post (which is not known for its support
of Israel) to publish a devastating article about Jonathan and Israel.
"Both Jonathan and I were portrayed as crazy people, and the Israeli
Government was portrayed as foolish in an article which was nothing but
lies, lies and more lies."
Jonathan Pollard is the only person in the history of the United States
to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally. Recently, Lt. Cmdr.
Michael Schwartz, a non-Jewish American naval officer who spied for
Saudi Arabia received not a single day in jail, for the same indictment
as Pollard. His only punishment was dismissal from the Navy and loss of
Navy pension and rank. Others have gotten relatively short sentences-
some only a few months. In the worst cases 10 years. Another American
(Peter Lee) who recently gave American nuclear munitions information to
the Chinese, received a sentence of only a year in a half-way house.
Other than Pollard, no agent who has spied for an ally has actually
served more than five years in prison. Even though the maximum sentence
for spying for an ally has since been limited to 10 years, the Americans
have made no move to reconsider Pollard's grossly excessive sentence.
In an article that was published last week in the Jerusalem Post, the
author quotes Angelo Codevilla who was one of the advisors to the
Senate Special Committee which investigated espionage cases in the
United States during the time of Pollard's arrest and conviction.
Codevilla says that Pollard's great sin was that he was ahead of his
time regarding America's disastrous policy of arming Iraq- at that time
no one yet dreamed of the Gulf War. "Those most strongly opposed to
Pollard's release are those responsible for arming Iraq- Schultz,
Weinberger and Inman - and for withholding this information from
Israel. It is precisely because of the information that Jonathan gave to
Israel that the concept of preparing sealed rooms was born."
Esther Pollard adds that US law does not consider espionage as treason
unless one spies for an enemy nation. This means that the sentence
Jonathan received (i.e. one that has only been meted out to those who
spied for enemies of the US) teaches us little about the offense that
Jonathan committed, but teaches us a hard lesson about the way the US
relates to Israel.
With her uncompromising approach, Esther Pollard has made enough
enemies. This does not bother her- since her greatest detractors are the
ones most responsible for foot-dragging in advancing Jonathan's
release. Even when Pollard's family -who once held the heart of the
Israel public - were active (and were in touch with her then, but have
since cut the contact), nothing was done to secure his release.
Her attractive face becomes distorted with great anger whenever the name
of any group is brought up or some story is mentioned about how attempts
were made to "help" Pollard. Empty gestures for public consumption. As
far as she is concerned, the litmus test is that he is still in prison.
She is extremely angry and frustrated with the silence in Israel. She
likens Jonathan's situation to a terrible car accident. A crowd gathers
around the victim who is lying on the ground bleeding heavily. All the
bystanders keep saying that it is such a tragedy but absolutely no one
makes a move to save him! "They all have their own excuses for not
helping," she says, "including the spurious excuse that they won't help
because Esther Pollard is too aggressive."
About Minister Sharansky who has recently been in the United States
several times and yet still hasn't found the time to fulfill his long
time promise to visit Jonathan. She said she recently met him in the
corridor near the Prime Minister's office. She shook his hand and held
it firmly as she asked him how it was that a man like himself who had
been in prison could be so indifferent to her husband's suffering, after
he sacrificed his life on behalf of Israel. She is no less astonished at
the behavior of the religious public. She said that not a single one of
the top NRP officials have ever been to visit Pollard, nor have the
religious ministers and Knesset members. While it is true that M.K.
Chanan Porat wrote to him, why she asks haven't the religious ministers
and M.K.'s made Pollard's release a national priority, even conditioning
their votes on his release. That would be fuel to fire the Prime
Minister's efforts, she said.
Her well-groomed appearance and the determination in her eyes is all
part of her uncompromising dedication to the fulfillment of one
objective: the release of her husband. She does not take any time for
herself. She also is not interested in talking about herself. Every
minute of her time is taken up with meetings and conversations about her
husband's case. When I ask her how long she plans on staying in Israel
she answers me with irritation that that question bothers her more than
any other: "Jonathan's life is hanging in the balance and they keep
asking me how long I'm staying- as if I am here on vacation! Look, every
minute that he manages to stay alive in that place is nothing but a
When I tell her that Jonathan doesn't look bad in the pictures we've
seen, in spite of the hardships he is undergoing, Esther answers me
saying, " When I was on a hunger strike two years ago, I too did not
look bad, even though I went some 20 days without food. Ha Rav Eliahu
said that this was a sign of HaShem's personal supervision over us. It
is clearly Divine Providence which guides us from above, for there is
little if any help from below. And she adds "People don't understand
that there isn't any time left for starting groups and forming
committees, holding demonstrations or writing letters. It is too late
for those things! M.K. Rechavaam Ze'evi who is a member of the Knesset
lobby for Pollard recently warned the Prime Minister that unless the
government takes immediate intensive action to bring Pollard home
now- just the way they did for the agents in Jordan and in Switzerland-
they are liable to bring Pollard home in a way that will be a tragedy
for all the nation."
Esther Pollard has been with Jonathan for 8 years, and has been married
to him for 5 - yet has never had the privilege of being alone with him.
She started to write to Jonathan when she read a notice in the newspaper
asking people to write to him to give him support and encouragement. At
that time she did not remember that she had previously met him when the
two of them were in Israel on youth group programs. At the time they
shared a common love: love of the land and the people of Israel. When
Jonathan received her letter, he had only 5 stamps and 25 letters to
respond to. He felt an inner compulsion to respond to Esther's letter.
His first letter , she says softly, touched her very deeply. It was only
later on that the two of them remembered that they had been in Israel
Esther Pollard lives in Canada where she works as a teacher in Special
Education, a job that she regards as challenging. All the rest of her
time is devoted to Jonathan, "Without him, I have no life."
In order to visit her husband she has to take time off from work, and
undertake a long and expensive trip from Toronto to North Carolina.
Losing any part of her salary, which is the sole source of support for
herself and Jonathan is very difficult, as is paying for the trip and
all of their expenses. Nevertheless she manages to visit him at least
once a month, and they speak on the phone every day. Originally they had
to fight for the right to have her number included on his strictly
limited phone list. She also had to fight for two years for his right to
call her at an additional number in Israel. She has to send him money in
advance to pay for the daily phone calls.
Four hundred prisoners share 2 telephones, so Jonathan spends long
periods of time waiting in line so that he can call Esther. They often
speak of their faith and trust in Divine Providence, and about their
unending disappointments in man's efforts. And sometimes they speak of a
time and a place when things will be better, in Israel, the land of
their dreams, which was the first love they shared in common. Of a time
when Jonathan will be free and they will have children which they so
Esther says that her only desire is to be a housewife and mother and to
help Jonathan to accomplish the important projects he has planned. "He
has many projects planned that will free Israel from her dependence on
foreign energy sources, and that will solve her problems regarding water
supply. Jonathan is an amazing man. He is the source of all of my
strength. He keeps me going, even though we are now very weary and can't
go on fighting alone any more."
This month Esther has not seen Jonathan. She doesn't have the means to
pick up and make a quick trip from Israel to the United States. And she
will not allow herself to leave until she has done everything possible
to get the Government of Israel to move decisively. Which is to say
until Pollard is free. Preferably tomorrow.
Some time back Esther rented a room in Katamon. She was thrown out when
the owner became irritated by the media attention surrounding the case.
Friends in Canada called on their connections and found a kind, pious
widow in Jerusalem who offered Esther a room in her home. This is the
place that Esther now calls "home" in Jerusalem. It was hard at first
for Esther to be convinced to accept this kindness. She does not ask
for money or even for encouragement or sympathy. All she wants, she
says, is the "chessed" of the fulfillment of the mitzvah of "pidyan
"When I was on a hunger strike here in Jerusalem 2 years ago and the
month of Ellul arrived, HaRav Eliahu blessed me. He said to me, Until
now you were the only shofar blowing to wake up the nation. Now the
month of Ellul has arrived and many shofars will be blowing.'
"Two years have passed. Here I am back again. Once again I am a shofar
trying to wake up as many people as possible. Very soon it will be Ellul
I am shouting as loud as I can. Trying to wake people up, before it's
Please note that hotlinks to collections of articles dealing with the
Schwartz, Kim, and Lee cases, as well as other cases of Unequal Justice,
are all located at the top of the >home