Column J Post Refused to Publish: Jon, Ron & Elchanan
Charley J. Levine - IMRA - November 28, 2003
IMRA: Charley J. Levine has contributed an opinion column to the JERUSALEM POST's popular IN JERUSALEM magazine for the past 18 months. This column about the plight of Jonathan Pollard was inexplicably rejected on the grounds that it lacked "Jerusalem focus," despite these facts: Over 6,000 pro-Jonathan demonstrators, largely Jerusalem residents, took to the streets of the capital; the GA was a mega-event taking place in Jerusalem; over 4,000 GA tourists to Jerusalem witnessed the event in question - and a considerable portion of the coverage of the GA events in Jerusalem mentioned Pollard-related activity.]
Jon, Ron & Elchanan
Charley J. Levine
We don't always see it. In fact we don't always like to admit it. But events of Biblical proportion have always happened in this unique town. Yet another one just flew by a few days ago.
Picture the scene: Thousands of leaders of the American Jewish world had assembled in Jerusalem at the International Convention Center for important sessions, deliberating and planning the future of the world's prime Diaspora Jewish community, North America.
Rising to address them was the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, a proven military hero, a man who not only talks the talk but walks the walk.
So far, all is as it should be. Except for one "small" thing. One travesty of justice. One abomination and blight on the record of both contemporary American Jewry and the government of Israel alike: One of their own, Jonathan Pollard, is missing.
Pollard, with his Israeli passport and long-cherished devotion to be a living, breathing citizen of this, our beloved Jerusalema commitment that seared an indelible mark when he shared it with me upon visiting him in prison in Butner, North Carolinahas not yet come home.
Imbued with the legendary prophetic impulse that supposedly so characterizes our people, several individuals stood up and made the point, as one, that Pollard must be freed. They chanted, they shouted, they were forcibly ejected.
It was not an easy thing to do. We are taught to respect and abide by the norms of open discourse, meaning polite behavior at public forums, respect to visiting delegations from abroad and certainly, the utmost dignity for any Israel Prime Minister, no matter who he is, out of devotion to the office and the dignity of the state.
And yet, the relatively lone cries in the wilderness calling for Pollard to be moved to the top of the agendafor Diaspora Jews and Israel alikewas the single most compelling message to emerge from this forum. I salute the 6,000 or more other pro-Pollard demonstrators who made their voices heard outside the meeting hall, for their presence showed that something might just be changing.
Amongst the cherished values espoused by our nation is the principle that we never abandon soldiers on the battlefield. The truth, hard to swallow, seems something else altogether. We may not abandon them, but recent history shows that we do precious little to free them and bring them home.
Consider Ran Arad. Successive governments have dealt with the frustration of following blind leads. Long stretches of curbed public interest have been punctuated every few years by spurts of focused activity. I sincerely hope I am wrong, and perhaps I ambut I sense that this issue which concerns a real person's real life has frequently fallen between the cracks of governmental bureaucracy.
I had occasion to speak with some of the people who were considering posting a huge (up to $5 million) reward for information leading to the freeing or even proof of death of Ran Arad. They were sincere people. Dedicated people. But they were around ten years too late. (The irony was not lost when I asked them, as gently as I could, if they would give me only $1 million were I to tell them where Jonathan Pollard was located! Ironic that that particular "soldier's" presence is known to all, yet still nothing is done to bring him home to Jerusalem.)
Which leads us to the recent headlined talks of a deal in which Israel would release over 400 terrorist prisoners, some with blood on their hands against IDF soldiers, in exchange for the remains of some of our boys killed in Lebanon and Elchanan Tannenbaum.
I for one do not know the whole Tannenbaum story. I know only what I read in the newspapers, and there all signs seem to indicate rather dubious circumstances surrounding the businessman's capture.
I pray for the day that Elchanan Tannenbaum is reunited with his family in Israel. I pray for the day that Ron Arad is located and brought home. I pray that Azam Azam be freed from horrendous captivity in a Cairo hell-hole.
Yet I also rue the state of mind that keeps Jonathan Pollard in perpetual solitude and isolation. How dare this man find himself serving more prison time than any other American citizen in history charged with the act that led to his imprisonment? That haunting fact alone should be sufficient to awaken Israel and American Jews to cry "foul" and light fires under bureaucratic bottoms everywhere. We do not have to release hundreds of criminals to free Pollard. The right people just have to make it their top priority, and it will happen.
Once again, it is far, far too late. The Jewish people should have rallied to the Pollard cause years ago. Even though it was "embarrassing" and made US Jews squirm.
But yesterday was yesterday and today is today. Today, and every day, Pollardthe only citizen of Jerusalem who has been barred for nearly 20 years from setting foot in the city he so cherishesremains incarcerated, doing hard time in life-threatening circumstances.
Slowly, slowly the waylaid prophetic sense of justice is rising again. The thousands in the streets of our capital, the tens inside the hall chanting "Pollard, Pollard" are in the right. Theirs is justice. And everyone NOT doing that is on the wrong side of the moral divide.
The pressure has commenced in earnest. It is growing, spreading. I promise you, when the OTHER participants in that hall join the demonstrating few in their calls for freedomand no less importantly when the Prime Minister of Israel joins in the call, not in public forums, but in one-on-one earnest conversations in the White HouseJonathan Pollard will come home to pray at the Western Wall and live in the Jerusalem home he so deserves.