Esther Pollard: Her Agenda is Kiddush HaShem
September 6, 1996 - Prof. Livia Bitton Jackson - The Jewish Press
Esther Pollard opened our conversation with a statement that stunned me. "This is not about Jonathan Pollard's release from prison," she said. "This
is about Kiddush HaShem. The struggle for Yonatan Ben Malkas's release is a
wake-up call for the people of Israel to unite. And they have united in
support of Yonatan, spreading Kiddush HaShem, the sanctification of G-d's
name throughout the nation."
I came to meet Esther Pollard in the lobby of the Sheraton Plaza Hotel just
two and a half days after she ended a 19 day hunger strike in the
relentless Jerusalem summer heat. I intended to discuss her extraordinary
experience and to empathize with her profound suffering. I was eager to get
to know the woman who had married Jonathan Pollard and committed her life
to saving him from prison, and who had made such remarkable sacrifices for
the sake of this cause.
I was unprepared for the Esther Pollard I met. Instead of a person weakened
by hunger and overwhelmed by the enormity of her tribulations, I faced a
young woman consumed by an inner fire of faith and determination, who was
disinclined to talk about herself. Esther Pollard dismissed any reference
to herself and to her act, focusing solely on the drive to save Jonathan
Pollard whose health, she explained, is rapidly declining, in the American
prison where he is languishing for having transmitted information to Israel
vital to its security needs.
"G-d asks us to move towards truth," she said, and her dark eyes sparkled
with the glow of her convictions. "Jonathan is imprisoned because of gross
lies. While he is kept in prison, truth is in prison," Esther continued.
"Rabbi Mordecai Eliyahu, my husband's rabbi, said to me: Until now you
were the only shofar to sound a wake-up call to the people of Israel. But
now they are united, and they too sound the shofar, to bring redemption not
only to Yonatan, but to Am Yisrael."
While Esther Pollard carried on her hunger strike in front of HaMashbir
department store in the heart of Jerusalem, men and women, young and old,
flocked to be with her, embrace her, give her encouragement. Esther asked
them to pray, and to light Sabbath candles. In an incredible show of
solidarity, some young people, boys and girls, made their way from Maalot
in the North and from Eilat in the South, to the small square to lend
Esther Pollard spiritual strength to carry on. Over 80,000 people, a
cross-section of the nation transcending ethnic, gender and religious
lines, signed Esther's petition calling on Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu to strive for justice and Jewish national pride, and effect the
immediate release of Jonathan Pollard.
"It was the will of the people that brought about my meeting with the Prime
Minister, and ultimately his explicit promise for Jonathan's release,"
Esther said. "Rabbi Eliyahu was present at the meeting in the prime
minister's office, and at the conclusion pronounced a blessing on Mr.
Netanyahu, adding the prophetic announcement: I guarantee the prime
minister's words. With the help of the Almighty, and in the merit of the
people of Israel, Yonatan will be home before Rosh HaShana."
"My suffering is a reflection of his suffering," Esther Pollard answers
when I refer to her agonizing efforts to free her husband Jonathan Pollard
from prison. I am reminded of the powerful symbolism of Elul an acronym of
the verse "Ani l'dodi V'dodi Li" I am for my beloved and my beloved is for
me. Indeed Esther's strength seems to radiate from her total oneness with
How did this singular union come about? It started with a letter Esther
wrote to Jonathan Pollard six years ago in response to a newspaper article.
A bundle of 25 letters were brought to the cell of the lonely prisoner on
that day. With an unerring sense of destiny, Jonathan selected Esther
Zeitz's letter for a response with his stamp allotment for the day. A
correspondence ensued between the attractive Canadian-born teacher of
English at the Hebrew University and the American-born spy serving a life
sentence in an Israeli prison. Their deepening friendship led to Esther's
role as Jonathan's spokesperson and ultimately to their unique marriage.
Although growing up in an Orthodox Jewish milieu in Montreal, Esther
Zeitz's faith and Jewish commitment became more profound through her
marriage to Jonathan Pollard, whom she calls "a hero of the Jewish people."
She says, "G-d chose a very special man to give the Jewish people an
opportunity to do Kiddush HaShem." As to her personal life, her marriage to
Jonathan Pollard ended Esther's lifelong loneliness, and her search for a
purpose. She explains: "Since I married Jonathan, even when we are
separated by an ocean, I'm never lonely." Jonathan phones Esther every day,
by no means a minor accomplishment: he stands in line for hours among
hundreds of prisoners in the Butner, North Carolina penitentiary for his
turn at the pay phone on his floor.
Sipping diet Coke in the elegant lobby of Jerusalem's Plaza hotel, I find
it difficult to harmonize the various aspects of the issue - the Jewish
prisoner, victim of the US State Department's anti-Semitic pro-Arab
sentiments, incarcerated in a high-security American prison, reaching for
the lifeline to Jerusalem and the woman he loves, for the promise of
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now the head of the Jewish State for
whose welfare Pollard bartered his future. Will he indeed discharge his
government's responsibility towards its agent in a manner that four
previous Israeli leaders had failed to do, and secure his freedom with "a
new creative approach" as he promised?
And President Clinton in Washington - will he grant "equal justice" to the
agent of a friendly nation and reverse his earlier stand? Will he rise
above his advisors with vested interests in Pollard's punishment, admit his
error in his reasons for refusal, and realize that Pollard's alleged
"enormous crime" had not "done damage to the US." and that Jonathan "did
express remorse" for what he had done?
Will the prophetic words of former Chief Rabbi Mordecai Eliyahu heralding
not only the freedom of Jonathan Pollard but the focus of the people of
Israel on Kiddush HaShem be realized? Will his words that Jonathan will be
imminently released be fulfilled in the month of Elul, the month of mutual
devotion, crowning Esther Pollard's efforts with the ultimate blessing?