Two-Week Pollard Countdown Begins With Giant Prayer Rally

Hillel Fendel - Arutz7/ - Tevet 10, 5769, January 6, 2009

The Tenth of Tevet - a traditional Jewish day of fasting marking the start of the destruction of Jerusalem over 2,500 years ago - has been marked for a day of prayers at the Western Wall on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, the soldiers fighting in Gaza, and troubled Jews around the world.

The event was originally called exclusively on behalf of Pollard, who has been in prison in the United States for

well over 23 years.

The campaign for his release has entered possibly its most critical phase ever, with President George W. Bush set to leave office in just two weeks.

In accordance with well-entrenched American tradition, the President pardons many prisoners in his final hours in office. Jews around the world are hoping and praying that Pollard is on the list as well.

Phone Campaign Still Critical

Well over 10,000 Israelis have used a special phone line set up to call the White House for the price of a local call and ask President Bush to grant Pollard clemency. The number in Israel is 077-566-4305, from 4 PM to midnight, five days a week; within the U.S., the number is 202-456-1414 or 202-456-1111, Monday-Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM EDST.

Organizers say that the successful continuation of the phone campaign is still critical.

Chief Rabbis Will Be There

At the same time, they emphasize the importance of prayer. "If I had a brother who was in prison for 24 years," says Rabbi Asher Mivtzari, "I would hire the best lawyers, etc. - but I would certainly make sure to employ my power of prayer to the One Who ultimately makes the decisions. Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu got out of the hospital on Sunday, and immediately afterwards I heard from his son that he asks that everyone make a special effort to take part in these prayers." Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar will be there, together with many other leading rabbis.

Other important causes will also be the focus of the prayers, especially the soldiers in Gaza and the fate of troubled Jews wherever they are, such as captive soldier Gilad Shalit, other MIA's, and people in areas battered by Hamas rockets.

Conservatives for Pollard

Just last month, for the first time, the Conservative Jewish movement in the United States and around the world urged the American president to consider clemency for Pollard. Raymond Goldstein, International President of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), and Rabbi Jerome Epstein, the organization's Executive Vice President, wrote to President Bush as follows: "We do not minimize the treasonous* nature of Pollard's espionage, for which he was rightfully arrested, tried, and sentenced. But he has been imprisoned since 1985, and has served far more time in prison than anyone else convicted of espionage, even those who were in the pay of enemies of the United States. Given the disproportionate length of his sentence, we strongly believe that it would be an act of kindness consonant with the deepest American values to grant him clemency." *[

J4JP Note:

Jonathan Pollard was never accused, indicted or convicted of treason, a crime the U.S. Constitution defines as the aiding and abetting of an enemy state during wartime. Contrary to the above, Pollard was sentenced without benefit of trial. See The Facts Page.]

Three days earlier, on Dec. 21, the USCJ's board of directors passed a resolution calling on Bush to commute the sentence of Pollard. The movement's rabbinical arm, the Rabbinical Assembly, adopted a similar resolution in 1999.

Iranian Spy Gets 15 Months

Also last month, Muhammed Raza Alawi, an American-born Iranian, was sentenced in the U.S. to just 15 months in prison for having passed nuclear plans to Iran. The judge explained the lenient sentence by saying that no "immediate damage to the U.S." could be attributed to the acts of the accused.

Pollard supporters note that this was precisely the opposite of what happened in his case. Pollard was sentenced to life in prison, instead of the expected 2-4 years, because it was estimated that damage would one day be caused to the U.S. as a result of his acts. Even though this fear has been proven false over the past 23 years, his sentence was not commuted, and he continues to see his health and life wane away as he cleans latrines for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Followed by Mincha The prayers at the Western Wall are to begin at 3 PM, followed an hour later by the special fast-day Mincha service.

Nissan GanOr, chairman of the Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home, also notes that "this is a time of grace in the United States" because of the traditional pardons and clemency given at the end of a presidential term, and therefore urges "everyone come to the rally and storm the gates of Heaven, to bring the blessing down to earth and open the prison gates for Jonathan in time to save his life and bring him home to Israel."