Five Days to Go: Esther Pollard Pleads for Prayers

Hillel Fendel - - Jan. 15, 2009

Five days before a crucial decision is to be made on Jonathan Pollard's fate, his wife Esther wants to concentrate on only one thing: "What's left now is to storm the gates of Heaven with prayer."

Outgoing U.S. President Bush is poised to make a fateful decision in the coming days: Whether to include Pollard in a list of those slated to receive presidential clemency or pardons. The list is customarily compiled in the waning days and hours of a presidential term.

Given Pollard's blocked legal avenues, ill health, and the entry of a rookie president into office, it is unclear when Pollard will ever have another chance to be released from prison if Bush does not grant him clemency.

Esther Pollard does not wish to speak about activism, protests, or the like: "Just prayer. That's what we need now. The People of Israel have been absolutely wonderful, uniting together for Jonathan. Every person who made a phone call, or wrote a letter, or prayed, or shed a tear - they will all have a share in this amazing mitzvah and great miracle. But we can't count on that now; what we have to do now is to pray our hearts out, that G-d should have mercy on Israel, and should bless Mr. Bush upon his leaving office and soften his heart towards us and make this magnanimous and important gesture for all of us."

"I can tell you," she said excitedly, "that just this moment I got a call from the office of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu [the former Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel]. They said that Rabbi Eliyahu had just walked into his office for the first time in nine months after being critically ill - and that the first thing he asked to do was to call me and pass on his blessing to Jonathan. I was so excited at hearing this that before he had a chance to do so, I gave him a blessing!"

"The major thing is that we have done all we could in terms of the natural course of events," Mrs. Pollard added, "and Rabbi Eliyahu said that the most important thing now is prayer. We must increase the level of our prayers for all the captives, and in every synagogue and in every minyan [prayer group] there must be Psalms and prayers for all the captives, including amongst them Yehonatan ben [son of] Malkah."

A Bereaved Mother's Plea

"The Jewish People have been wonderful," Mrs. Pollard said, "and possibly the most touching and wonderful of all was the appeal this week by Malki Netanel - whose son Yehonatan was killed in the war last week - and her amazing family. She noted that her son's name was Yehonatan ben Malka, just like Jonathan's name, and that it had been her son's dream to see Jonathan here in Israel. She told me she wants to take her personal tragedy and turn it into something meaningful for the Nation of Israel. I told her that with G-d's help I would bring Jonathan to visit them; they are the personification of a Sanctification of G-d's Name. She said that her son is no longer Yehonatan ben Malka, but rather Yehonatan ben Amos, because now that he is no longer alive, the name goes after the father - but, she said, 'I still have a Yehonatan ben Malka to pray for, as if he was my own son.'"

Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel, agrees with Mrs. Pollard: "We've really done a lot, but it's now upstairs, in more ways than one. 'A king's heart is in G-d's hand,' it says in Proverbs... We have to think positively, and I'm hoping to be able to accompany Jonathan on a plane to Israel as soon as possible. But it's no longer in our hands; prayer is our only avenue."

Efforts Hinge on One Thing

"We have left no stone unturned throughout these years," Esther concluded, "but the success of all our efforts hinges now on the prayers of the People of Israel."