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 attorneys.

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 near Hevron.

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 someone's cat.

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 agreed.

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 himself.

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!