Over There is A Man Who Loves Israel

HaRav Shlomo Aviner - Special to IMRA - June 15, 2003

Over there, across the great Atlantic, is a man serving a life sentence within the walls of an American prison. He is a man who loves the Jewish People with all his heart and soul, and his name is Jonathan Pollard. He is no traitor. He never betrayed America. He is a faithful citizen of America and a Jew devoted to his People who dwell in Zion. When he found out that the United States was deliberately imposing an illegal embargo on information vital to the security of Israel, regarding the development of nuclear, biological and chemical warfare by Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya, he transferred this information to the State of Israel for the Sake of Heaven, without receiving a single penny in return. He deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

The betrayer was the American Government which blatantly violated the plea-bargain agreement it signed with Jonathan Pollard. Pollard honored the plea agreement and cooperated extensively, but the US abrogated its commitment to him. The Government of Israel betrayed Pollard even more, on the self-serving pretext that "Pollard's been squeezed for all he's worth; he can now be discarded." Israel's leaders used him and threw him away.

Pollard's Israeli handlers in the United States instructed him that if he were in danger of being exposed he should immediately seek asylum at the Israeli Embassy. But when he sought asylum at the Embassy he was thrown out and handed over to the FBI.

His handlers implored told him: "Please hold off the US interrogators until we evacuate all of the Israeli team from the United States." That is what he did, and as soon as the last Israeli was safely out of the U.S., Pollard was summarily abandoned to his fate. It is amazing that after all this, after eighteen years of imprisonment and suffering, that he still loves the Jewish Nation to the depths of his soul. He is full of love for the People and the Land. He thinks about them all day long, making plans for the future and designing technology to help the Jewish State cease its dependence on foreign energy and water. Incredible!

Can anyone imagine what it means to spend a day in an American prison? It is hard to wrap one's mind around the unceasing travail that Jonathan Pollard has endured every day for the last 18 years. This is what our suffering brother experiences day after day, month after month, year after year, not knowing what awaits him tomorrow, how long he will sit in that Hell, a different planet, nothing like the world we know. It is a place in which every minute is an eternity. Can any of us truly understand? I doubt it. But let's take a look at a few examples that may help us to begin to fathom what Jonathan has been through.

Here is what Jonathan Pollard himself had to say about his first prison, the Springfield Psychiatric Prison where he spent a year in harsh conditions, deprived of his clothing, his eyeglasses and even books, newspapers and writing material:

"The inhuman shouts of the patients, many of whom were suffering from insanity due to AIDS, seemed to emerge right out of Dante's Inferno

"Even though the local rabbi tried many times to get me simple ear plugs, he was turned down time and time again, and was warned that he should mind his own business.

"Can you imagine what it means for me to be in a locked cell 2 meters long and 1.8 meters wide, 23 hours per day, under such frightening conditions as these? Besides the lack of sleep, bathing is likewise extremely difficult. You understand, most of the ward's inmates cannot control their bodily functions when they are finally allowed to use the facilities, and the only shower available to us usually looks like a latrine. Although I do not enjoy smelling like an animal, it seems better to me than stepping in feces contaminated by AIDS.

"Probably the hardest thing for me to deal with is the fact that the toilet in my cell regularly overflows, filling my cell with organic matter impossible to describe, I am forced to wait three to four hours until the staff, dressed in protective garb against biological risks, comes to clean out the cell. The stench is so overpowering that in a few instances I was forced to wear an improvised gas mask that I prepared for myself out of toilet paper, rubber bands and a styrofaom cup

"Later on there were the inmate suicide attempts. I don't know if you have ever had the deplorable opportunity to see a man slash his own throat from ear to ear

I will take pity on the reader and spare him any more horror stories. Yet why didn't we take pity on Jonathan Pollard? It was ultimately a member of Congress, a true emissary of G-d, who intervened to have Jonathan removed from Springfield. He received a response from the Bureau of Prisons indicating that "Mr. Pollard was never classified as being insane and does not receive treatment for such at Springfield. Inmates are not held in the insane ward for reasons other than to receive treatment." Pollard was then transferred to K Unit at USP Marion, the harshest unit of the harshest penitentiary in the US Federal Penal System.

Why was Jonathan held in a prison for the insane? Each month, officials from the FBI would visit him and promise him that if he revealed the names of his so called "collaborators" amongst the heads of the American Jewish Community, he would be transferred to a regular prison. They showed him a list of prominent Jewish Americans and asked him to just put an "x" beside any name and he would have his "ticket" out of Springfield. Jonathan refused to betray his brothers, even to save himself. These are the same Jews that have for the last 18 years turned their backs on him.

It is a miracle that Jonathan did not go crazy in that prison insane asylum or during the long and harsh incarcerations that followed, but the fact is that he remains sane, focused, clear and quite brilliant. This being the case, it is hard to grasp the maliciousness of those agents of our own Government and secret services who, while serving another agenda, spread rumors about him losing his mind. It is stunning that such a pure, pristine individual can be so viciously maligned and libeled!

Don't imagine that the prison that followed Springfield was any better. Far from it. Jonathan spent seven years at USP Marion in solitary confinement, in a dungeon cell, three stories underground behind 13 locks and keys! Buried alive! There, as well, the toilet often got stopped up and filled his cell with human waste, but Prison Health Services refused Jonathan's repeated requests to vaccinate him with gamma globulin as a protection against disease.

I neglected to mention that there is no end to the creativity of Jonathan's enemies in their efforts to malign and besmirch him. Regarding this man, who operated solely for the Sake of Heaven, they spread rumors that he sold the vital information to Israel in exchange for money - an utter lie. Recently the libel being spread is that he and his wife have just received a million dollars in compensation from the Government of Israel. A complete and utter lie and deeply damaging to Jonathan. Who spread this rumor? Our own Government! Unbelievable.

In spite of it all, Jonathan Pollard remains a marvelous person, noble, gentle, sensitive, understanding and considerate. To know him is to love him. Everyone who meets with him in prison comes away with the highest praise for him. They speak of how they planned to strengthen Jonathan but came away from the visit strengthened by him instead. It is no surprise then that Jonathan's wife Esther is so deeply in love with him. She lights up when she describes him. She refers to Jonathan as the love of her life, her mentor and her best friend.

Freeing Jonathan Pollard is not just the simple Mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim (the Redeeming of a Captive.) Rather, it is the Mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim for one who was Moser Nefesh l'mahn Am Yisrael - for a man who sacrificed himself for the Jewish People. Jonathan saved Israel during the Gulf War and again now during the last war with Iraq. The sealed rooms we built were thanks to him, as were the gas masks which the Government distributed. We are all in prison together with him, "Indeed he bore our illnesses and our pains - he carried them." (Isaiah 53:4).

We said previously that we think that Jonathan deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet we know as well that he has no interest in such things. He has never sought recognition nor asked for recompense. All he has ever wanted is to regain his freedom in order to come home to his wife and his People. So, do you know what Nobel Peace Prize we are going to give him? The blessing that he should come to live with us in Eretz Yisrael!

Let us all pray and learn Torah for the sake of Jonathan's speedy release. We must all work for his release and cry out to Heaven for him to be freed. At the Western Wall, at Rachel's Tomb and everywhere, let us say the following prayer:

"As for those of our brethren within the whole house of Israel, who are handed over to distress and captivity, including our brother Jonathan, on sea or on land, may G-d have mercy on them and grant them relief, bringing them from darkness to light, from servitude to liberty, speedily and very soon! And let us say Amain!

Biographical Note: Rabbi Shlomo Aviner is the Rabbi of Bet-El and Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Cohanim in the Old City of Jerusalem.

See Also:
  • Special Order of Prayers To Save Jonathan Pollard
  • An Unusual Snapshot of American Justice