Rabbis Visit Jonathan Pollard

Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum - The Jewish Press [NY] - February 14, 2003

Justice4JP Preface:

When His Eminence, HaRav Mordecai Eliyahu visited Jonathan Pollard in prison on November 21, 2002, the 18th anniversary of his incarceration, he shared a number of divrei Torah with Jonathan and his wife. With Jonathan's permission, Esther Pollard shared one of HaRav Eliyahu's divrei Torah with the group of rabbis who visited Jonathan on February 5, 2003. Here is what she recounted:

ESTHER POLLARD: "I will share with you something HaRav Eliyahu told us during his last visit with Jonathan. He spoke of the verse from tehillim that is very familiar to prisoners: "Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I shall fear no evil because Thou art with me." (Psalm 23)

The Rav said that the simple meaning of this verse is the obvious one, "Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil, because Thou art with me." Meaning that even though a prisoner like Jonathan is in a bad place he does not fear because He knows G-d is with him, watching over him.

But, said the Rav, the deeper meaning is when we read this verse as two sentences: "Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I shall not fear" - FULL STOP - "Evil, because Thou art with me."

When we do that, said the Rav, the meaning we achieve is: "Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I shall not fear. EVIL IS THAT YOU [the Schechina, the Presence of G-d] ARE [here] WITH ME [in prison! ]"

The real evil, said the Rav, is the monstrous subjugation and degradation that the Shechinah must endure as long as Jonathan remains in prison. And the Rav explained that that is precisely what has occurred throughout Jonathan's long ordeal. That as long as Jonathan remains in prison, the Shechinah (G-d's own Presence) is forced to remain in prison with him. The Rav stressed that it is bad enough to have no pity on Jonathan, but that to have no pity for the Shechinah is unspeakably evil.

How is it that Jewish leaders can turn their backs, not only on Jonathan, not only on the mitzvah of pidyan shvuyim, but on the Schechina itself, for 18 long years? That is the question that breaks our hearts most of all."

Mrs. Pollard then added, "A colleague of yours, an American Rabbi, writing on the Holocaust said that we may not have been able to prevent the Holocaust, nor to stop it. But we should have at least been out there in the streets screaming our heads off, trying to. And so it is with the injustice in my husband's case. Jewish leaders may not be able to free Jonathan, but at very least they should have been out there for the last 18 years screaming about the injustice."

The Pollards appreciated the prison visit organized by Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Exec.VP of the National Council of Young Israel and attended by 3 of his rabbinic colleagues. The visit which took place at FCI Butner, February 5, 2003, is described in the article below:

Rabbis Visit Jonathan Pollard - Jewish Press [NY]

After davening Shacharis at the crack of dawn in the early hours of Wednesday, February 5th, a group of distinguished Rabbis headed south. Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President, National Council of Young Israel, (NCYI); Rabbi Kenneth Auman, Rav, Young Israel of Flatbush, and First Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America; Rabbi Yosef Viener, well known magid shiur and Rav of Agudath Israel of Flatbush, and Shlomo S. Mostofsky, Esq., President, NCYI, convened at LaGuardia Airport in NY. In addition, Mrs. Esther Pollard, Jonathan's wife, joined the group.

The group flew from there to the Raleigh-Durham Airport in North Carolina. Rabbi Lerner rented a car and drove the 45 minute distance to the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina. Permission to visit Jonathan was obtained well in advance. At the prison entrance, after filling out numerous forms, picture identification was presented to the courteous prison officials. The rabbis emptied their pockets and walked through a metal detector before being allowed to enter the restricted area. Their forehands were stamped with an ultraviolet stamp to ensure that the person who walked in, was the same person who would walk out.

Then the delegation walked through a double electronic steel gate and were taken to the visitors room. Wednesday is not a regular visiting day in the prison. However, the delegation was there as a rabbinic clergy visit which, with special clearance, is sanctioned on non-visiting days. Consequently, they were the only ones, besides the ever present guards on duty, who were in the visiting room.

Having arrived at the prison about 11:00 a.m., they were ushered into the visiting room at about 12 noon. The visit lasted until 2:30 p.m.

Jonathan had been in the room, waiting. After a few minutes of private conversation with his wife, he joined the rabbis. Rabbi Lerner and Jonathan hugged each other warmly and Rabbi Lerner then formally introduced Jonathan to the other Rabbis.

Seated around a table, drinking sodas purchased from the vending machines in the room, the group animatedly talked with and listened to Jonathan for approximately two and a half hours. Questions were asked, wide ranging ideas discussed, and requests made. Each Rabbi committed himself to get more involved. Jonathan, on numerous occasions throughout the meeting, thanked Rabbi Lerner and the NCYI for being there for him, knowing that he can always count on them.

Although, Jonathan seemingly looked well, the Rabbis quickly realized he was not , that he was in constant pain and that his health is not good. His words were carefully thought out. He was smiley and quite personable. Jonathan described the prison atmosphere as a moral degradation, worse than the worst of Mitzrayim. Jonathan prays that Heaven protect him from becoming part of his environment. Imagine what it is to be in a prison, fighting to keep one's sanity!

Many feel that because Jonathan is not just a prisoner, but that he is a Jewish prisoner and an Israeli agent, and as such he represents the Jewish community. At the same time, there is no religious life for him in prison. He davens daily and he is the only one who proudly wears a yarnulka. He tries to keep to himself, it is safer that way.

In spite of all the headlines, all Jonathan wants is to leave the prison, to be with his wife, go to the land of Israel which he loves, to have a family and be a simple part of the Jewish community. Especially now, in these difficult times, all he wants is to go home to Israel and be with his wife.

To Jonathan, wearing a yarmulka means the physical verbalization of fearing only G-d. The Torah community, Jonathan feels deeply, should "fear only G-d, and do what is right." In the current situation, our people are being murdered. We must, Jonathan stresses, show the nations of the world the words of Torah, and we must act accordingly. We must have pure and absolute faith that G-d will redeem us. Jonathan, of course, encourages greater involvement in his pursuit of justice.

Jonathan spent much of the discussion time focusing on the legal initiatives now being coordinated by his attorneys, (as well as the hard work of NY Congressman Anthony Wiener ), legal aspects of the case and developments of the last week or two. [See updates on the web at jonathanpollard.org]

The Rabbis discussed the great mitzvah of pidyon shvuyim and how the Jewish community, especially the observant community, should be doing so very much more. Jonathan deplored that only the NCYI is actively pursuing his case. Where, he wondered out loud, are the other Orthodox/Torah organizations? Where are all the Rosh Yeshivos and Rabbis who signed that famous kol koroh ad in 1994 about pidyon shvuyim regarding Jonathan? (See this image)

Jonathan spoke often, with great love and admiration about his own Rabbi, HaRav Mordecai Eliyahu, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel. After seeking permission from her husband, Esther Pollard shared a dvaar Torah with the visiting Rabbis that HaRav Eliyahu had told Jonathan and his wife when he last visited with them in prison. [See J4JP Preface above.] The visiting Rabbis were impressed with the emunah [faith/trust in G-d] that both Jonathan and his wife Esther, so obviously have. Jonathan is very strong in his beliefs. This emunah has sustained him during these very difficult, long years in confinements.

At 2:30 p.m., the group left. The three first-time visitors were impressed with the man they met. They all promised to speak publicly about their visit and to do more. The Rabbis walked back to the front entrance, put their forehands under the ultraviolet lamp to expose and confirm the ultraviolet stamp, went through the double gates and out to the rented car.

In the car, the Rabbis discussed the moving experience they just had and reiterated their commitment to do more on behalf of this Jew who has risked his life for Israel. The Rabbis pondered about that information Pollard actually gave to Israel - the very fact that Iraq was accumulating weapons of mass destructions was something Pollard exposed. That information enabled the Israeli government to prepare and distribute gas masks and instruct its populace in regard to having sealed rooms (See article: The Ghost of the Sealed Rooms). Yes, he committed a crime and according to the law should pay for that crime. But 18 years is more than enough. It is far too much.

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