Jonathan Pollard and Yehuda Ben-Yosef z"l
Esther Pollard - Special to IMRA- March 14, 2003
It is after 2 am. I have just returned from the funeral of Yehuda Ben-Yosef. Yehuda was the son
of our dear friends, Devorah and Baruch Ben-Yosef. Baruch is also one of Jonathan's
The many and long hespedim all spoke of Yehuda as a pure soul, modest, kind, truthful,
absolutely devoted to the Land and Torah of Israel. In short, all agreed that he was, as his
mother said," a treasure."
Yehuda was discharged from the army just a week ago, after doing his 3 years of compulsory
service. His commander who spoke at the funeral said that a month ago, under heavy fire in
Jenin, Yehuda was a hero who saved many lives by outgunning a deadly terrorist. Today the
IDF, the army he served so well, mistook Yehuda for a terrorist and opened fire on the car that
he was driving in on his way to a new civilian job guarding a critical communications antenna
Acting on a tip from an Arab informer and believing that there would be a terrorist attack in
Hevron, the IDF used a bullhorn to order Yehuda and the other boy to stop the car. Of course,
the IDF gave the order in ARABIC - a language neither boy knew nor understood. When their
car did not stop, the IDF sprayed the car with bullets.
The driver was killed but Yehuda escaped and ran to hide behind a boulder. From this
vantage point he used his cell phone to call Security in Kyriat Arba and to report that he and
his friend were under terrorist attack. He had no idea that it was our own army that was
attacking them! An IDF helicopter observed his getaway behind the boulder and dropped a
missile on him killing him instantly.
A month ago Yehuda was a hero; tonight he was buried on Har Hamenuchot in Jerusalem.
His broken-hearted mother and father said good-night to him and left him to sleep in a fresh
grave. His sisters and brothers are devastated. His older sister Reuth is to be married two
weeks from now... what a wedding surprise.
The IDF Commander for Hevron came to Baruch's house tonight before the funeral. Baruch
did not want to see him, but the man insisted. He introduced himself as the commander of the
area where Yehuda was killed, and in the name of the IDF he apologized. Kind of the way you
apologize when you expect instant forgiveness. Something like apologizing for running over
Baruch told him if he is truly sorry he should resign. He told the Commander that only the blood
of our enemies can atone for the blood of his son. That IDF has ducked its responsibility
making us all targets instead of dealing with the Arab enemy honestly and effectively and that
is what is directly responsible for Yehuda's senseless murder. The Commander of course had
no intention of resigning and he was arrogant. Baruch asked him to leave. He did.
When I heard this story tonight at the funeral, it brought to mind in sharp focus, a story about
Jonathan. It is a story which I had compartmentalized and filed away because the full
realization of the truth just overwhelmed me with horror. Tonight the parallel is inescapable.
Let me explain:
Many years ago after returning from Israel where I was doing some PR work to raise public
consciousness about Jonathan's plight , I went to visit Jonathan in prison. Jonathan's brother,
Harvey, unexpectedly joined us. Harvey too had recently returned from Israel where he had
attended a medical convention. He told us a strange story about his experience in Israel:
Shortly after he arrived in the country he received a phone call from the President's chief of
staff, who welcomed Harvey to Israel and asked if he could send a car to pick him up since
the President would like to meet with him. Harvey was slightly surprised, but of course he
Harvey was brought to Ezer Weizman. Unbeknownst to Harvey, Ezer had been given the task
of sounding him out. The powers-that -be wanted to know if Harvey, like me, had come to
Israel to make trouble for them by raising the profile of Jonathan's case. Harvey assured the
President that he had come for a medical conference, not a PR junket. With this assurance,
the President became visibly relaxed and began to chat with Harvey. As they were speaking,
Weizman offered Harvey his condolences about Jonathan and asked Harvey to convey his
sympathies to Jonathan's parents. The President said that he empathized deeply with
Jonathan's parents and family since he and his wife had not so long ago lost their son in an
accident. Harvey listened politely at first, and then became incensed. "Mr. President!" Harvey
declared, "You keep speaking about my brother, Jonathan, as if he were dead. Mr. President,
how dare you compare him to your son! My brother is alive! He is not dead!"
Little did Harvey know that the Israeli Government plan for Jonathan was to have him die in
prison - either through his own hand or at the hands of another. The preference was for the
former, which is why Jonathan was placed in horrendous prison conditions and put through
humiliating experiences, to encourage him to take his own life.
Of course, the idea of committing suicide never even entered Jonathan's mind. He is a fighter
by nature and his enormous faith just kept him going. Jonathan did not follow the program; he
did not kill himself. Israel then sent agents to him in prison to recommend outright that he do
so, and to offer him assistance! The agents threatened to kill him, and when that did not ruffle
Jonathan, they ridiculed him for his "cowardice" in refusing to do the honorable thing by killing
For 18 years, Jonathan has annoyed the Israeli political establishment by refusing to die in
prison to make this case go away. But they have taken their disappointment in stride by
consistently relating to Jonathan as if he were dead anyway. This began 18 years ago and
in all the years since then the political establishment has never stopped relating to Jonathan
as if he were dead.
Like Yehuda, to the Israeli political establishment and its Security services, Jonathan is "just
an accident" that happened. So sorry. No big deal. No one's fault. Just an accident. Oops, we
killed you. Never mind, it was just an accident.
When the Commander of Hevron came to Baruch tonight, he came with the same attitude that
Ezer Weizman took with Harvey. Both expected immediate forgiveness from the family. After
all it was an accident, wasn't it?
Tomorrow is another day.
Which leaves us to wonder, whose son will it be tomorrow?
G-d forbid! And may He have mercy on us all!