My Visit with Jonathan Pollard

Shmuel Sackett - Manhigut Yehudit - July 25, 2004

It's not every day you spend with 2 hours with a Jewish hero and a true Ayshet Chayil. It's even less frequent to meet people whose love of our Nation, Land and G-d knows no bounds.

I don't know what I did in life to merit this meeting but I thank G-d for the opportunity He gave me - and my best friend Moshe Feiglin - for making a dream become a reality.

Last week, (25 Tammuz/July 14th) Moshe and I traveled to Butner, North Carolina to spend time with Jonathan and Esther Pollard. The visit was arranged by the Israeli Consulate in Atlanta, and facilitated by Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive VP of the National Council of Young Israel, whom Jonathan refers to as his "brother". Rabbi Lerner is very outspoken on behalf of Jonathan Pollard and always ready to help him - 24 hours a day. In today's world of apathetic, timid and scared Jewish leaders it's a pleasure to know that someone like Rabbi Lerner is defying this trend by taking a stand, unafraid to defy the establishment on behalf of a Jew who many would love to forget.

Butner, North Carolina is typical of "middle America". Winding country roads, houses separated by corn fields and not a soul to be seen. After driving through this town - which appears to have missed the technology revolution - we came upon a wide building surrounded by several concentric layers of barbed wire fencing. Suddenly, the peaceful, serene feeling left me and one of imprisonment and bondage took its place. Welcome to the Federal Correctional Institute at Butner, where - as the famous song goes - "you can check in any time you want but you can never leave."

Moshe and I were accompanied on our visit by Rabbi Lerner, Aviv Ezra (Israel's Deputy Consul General in Atlanta) plus an official "observer" from the US Intelligence community. The first thing Jonathan said to me was, "Please thank your son, Gabi, for his wonderful letters. I am not allowed to write back so people mistakenly think I never received them. Please tell him - and everyone else - that I get each letter, read and enjoy every word and sincerely appreciate the fact that people take time out of their busy schedules to write to me." Later that day I told this to my son and he was ecstatic! "Jonathan Pollard reads my letters and even remembers my name! I'm going to tell more people to write him as well." (Note: Please see the end of this article for Jonathan's contact information)

Prior to this meeting I read a lot about Jonathan Pollard. I've followed the case since its beginning, read hundreds of articles, talked to many people and now I had the tremendous "zechus" (merit) to meet Jonathan himself. It's a terrible shame that much of what is being written and said is simply falsea 100% lie. Allow me to list the facts, including Jonathan's own 3-point plan for his release:

Fact #1:

Jonathan Pollard is a brilliant man. His mind is clear, he is focused and he knows exactly what he wants. His love of Jews is infinite and his love of the Land of Israel is second to none. He is deeply religious and is connected to our Father in Heaven as no man I have ever seen. Jonathan knows about all the people who have double-crossed him and all the promises that have been broken. Yet, despite all this he remains totally sane and optimistic about the future. Most men would have cracked long ago but not Jonathan. No sir!!! He is happy, emotionally strong, confident and psychologically fit. His truth and faith in G-d is unquestionable and my personal "Yirat Shamayim" (awe of Heaven) is pale when compared to his.

Fact #2:

Esther Pollard is an incredible person. She has given up her own life to work towards the release of her husband. Esther and Jonathan think as one and work closely together on designing and implementing his freedom campaign. Living in a tiny room in a dingy motel room a few miles away, Esther has no life other than Jonathan's. She is with him every second she is allowed and when not physically at his side is busy writing, calling, faxing and emailing on his behalf.

When I saw them together in the prison I thought of Rabbi Akiva and his wife Rachel. How many years did Rachel wait - all alone - for her beloved? How old was Rabbi Akiva when he started coming close to G-d? How proud was Rachel when her husband defied the authorities to sanctify G-d's Name? This famous Jewish couple lived 2,000 years ago in Israel yet, last week, in Butner, North Carolina, I felt as though I was sitting with their reincarnated souls.

Fact #3:

Everybody imaginable has let down these two holy Jews. From Israeli Prime Ministers, cabinet ministers and MK's to Jewish American leaders, activists and Rabbis. Members of Jonathan's own team double-crossed him 20 years ago and more deals have been broken that can ever be recorded. People have used Jonathan and Esther for their own personal gain - both politically and monetarily - without ever "delivering the goods" when it came time to do so. As stated before, this would have broken the spirits of most people yet Jonathan and Esther are strong and well focused in their program. Talking to them and hearing their story is like watching a movie about "Gam Zu L'Tova" (this too is for the good). Everything rotten that can possibly happen actually did yet they persevere in their journey with hope in their hearts, love in their souls and smiles on their faces.

Fact #4:

For years I believed that the fate of Jonathan Pollard rested in the hands of the Israeli leadership. Many have argued against me and have made valid points or so I thought. Now that I had the privilege of spending 2 hours with Jonathan, I see quite clearly - without a shadow of doubt - that I was indeed correct. His release is solely on the shoulders of Israel. While Jonathan believes and relies quite heavily on the power of prayer (see below, fact #6) in the world of "teva" (nature) it is the responsibility of those in power in Jerusalem to secure his release.

Weak and poorly planned attempts have been made in the past as well as a lot of "window dressing" to give the public the impression that a bona fide plan is in place, only to have been torpedoed by the Americans. Unfortunately, experience has shown that regardless of what the USA has done the leadership from Israel could have closed a deal. This leadership failed Jonathan each and every time because they were worried more about public opinion than authentic Jewish values.

When an Israeli government arises that bases itself on Jewish concepts and turns Israel into a real Jewish state, Jonathan Pollard will be freed immediately! This is why Moshe Feiglin and I, founders and leaders of Manhigut Yehudit, have gotten more involved than ever in the Pollard case as it is yet another example of what happens when Jewish leaders hide from their identity and heavenly mission. Whether it is giving away G-d's Land, allowing enemies to terrorize our people or ignoring a Jewish hero as he languishes in prison - the common denominator is always the same: Lack of pride in who we are and an embarrassment to have been chosen by the Al-mighty. Jonathan himself told me, "In Israel today, we have freedom but we do not have independence." This is the root of 99% of our problems and only a change at the top - at the highest level of Israeli leadership - will change this tragic course and set our Jewish Nation back on track.

Fact #5:

Jonathan Pollard has designed a well thought-out three point agenda which, he believes, will secure his release. He and Esther explained it to me in great detail. These are basic steps that every government takes whenever it wants to secure the release of one of its captives. It usually takes these steps quietly, behind-the-scenes and then implements them as government policy and as its public position through its diplomatic staff and top officials. In all other cases the captive has never had to plead with his government to take these steps; they have all been taken automatically, as part of the process of bringing a captive home. Only in the case of Jonathan Pollard were these steps never taken.

Here is the 3 point agenda as designed by Jonathan himself:

  1. Formalization of a clear government policy on this case
  2. - If the government cannot bring itself to articulate the most basic facts of this case how can it possibly formulate a plan of action? Simply put, the government must dedicate itself towards the release of Jonathan Pollard in words and deeds. The Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Defense Ministers must publicly declare their concern for Jonathan Pollard and the State's determination to bring him home. A government which is serious about getting Jonathan home, must once-and-for-all formalize and articulate a policy to that effect and implement that policy both at home and abroad.

  3. Implementation of Jonathan's captivity status
  4. - In 1998 the Israeli government officially recognized Jonathan as an Israeli agent. By definition, that declaration made him a captive, but unfortunately Israel never acted upon it. Therefore, Israel has been able to duck all responsibility for him; financially, legally and morally. The implementation of Jonathan as an official "captive" would give the Government of Israel a say in the way he is treated and would be able to demand urgently needed medical care and humane living conditions. It would give him a right to financial and legal assistance as defined by the Ministry of Defense. Furthermore, it would give his wife, Esther, a monthly stipend for living expenses and something she does not have now: medical insurance! In short, it would mean an end to the abandonment of Jonathan Pollard and the restoration of the rights and protections owed to him by the State of Israel.

  5. Regular prison visits from Israel's U.S. Ambassador
  6. - Whenever Israel is serious about the release of a captive, senior diplomatic staff are always engaged. A prison visit from the Ambassador - backed by clear government policy (point "A") and armed with the formalization of Jonathan's captivity status (point "B") - would raise the profile of his case and would signal that Israel is serious about securing his release. It would also allow the Ambassador to ensure that Jonathan receives appropriate medical treatment and humane living conditions. It would allow the Ambassador to insist that Jonathan no longer be forced to do slave labor in prison, as he has done the last 19 years!

When Jonathan explained this three point plan to Moshe and myself we were amazed. Nothing is radical or extreme, yet, todate, it has not been implemented in whole or in part by any Israeli government.

Fact #6:

A lot of you reading this may be getting frustrated and depressed. How can this be? How can a Jewish hero languish in prison 19 years? These are the wrong questions to ask! Instead, ask, what can we do to help? Is there anything simple Jews can do to ease his burden, take his mind off his pain and help him get released? Here are several suggestions:

  1. Pray for Jonathan Pollard. His Hebrew name is Yehonatan ben Malka. Say Tehillim and ask Hashem to free him. A special Tefilla (prayer) has been written by the great Tzaddik, HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu specifically for Jonathan. HaRav Eliyahu is the former Chief Rabbi of Israel and Jonathan's personal Rabbi and spiritual advisor. This prayer - in both Hebrew and English - is available on the prayers page.

  2. Special prayer cards are currently being printed and will be distributed to any shul, school or individual that requests them. They will be sent free of charge. Please call Manhigut Yehudit at (516) 295-3222 or (888) 217-4820 or email me at: [email protected] to place your order. Make sure you leave an address and quantity needed. They will be mailed out during the month of Elul.

  3. Write letters to Jonathan. He loves to hear from children and adults alike. Address to: Jonathan Pollard - 09185-016, FCI Butner - PO Box 1000, Butner, North Carolina, 27509-1000

  4. Follow the case and all developments on Jonathan's official website Justice for Jonathan Pollard jonathanpollard.org; Subscribe to his email update list.

  5. Send emails of encouragement to Esther Pollard c/o [email protected] or [email protected]

  6. Contribute money towards his expenses and struggle. He and Esther do not receive any financial assistance from the Government of Israel or from the organized American Jewish Community whatsoever! They live in extreme financial distress. Tax deductible donations should be made payable to "Manhigut Yehudit" and mailed to: Manhigut Yehudit - PO Box 241 - Cedarhurst, NY 11516. Please indicate on the check that the donation is for Jonathan Pollard. Every dollar received will be given directly to Justice4JP. Receipts will be mailed to all donors.

In the merit of these positive actions, may Hashem - the One who released Joseph from jail and our entire Nation from slavery in Egypt - free Yehonatan ben Malka and bring him and his amazing wife, Esther, to a new life in the holy city of Jerusalem.

The author, Shmuel Sackett, is the International Director of Manhigut Yehudit.