Can Elijah Free Jonathan Pollard?
May 28, 1997 - William Katzberg
Well...here we were drinking from The Cup of Elijah again this 5757. And
as the sweet, red wine entered my throat, I had the distinct feeling of the
Prophet's presence. I felt him in the room of almost 200 guests in a friendly,
Jewish (commercial) environment.
No - I couldn't recognize nor see anyone garbed in a robe and sandals. Of
course not! Elijah will come dressed like you and me. Maybe he'll be
wearing a different kipa. Or maybe he'll...be a she?
No - I didn't drink too much wine. It must be because I expected someone
to deliver a miracle and free Jonathan Pollard after almost 12 years in jail.
It's Passover time. You know - "Let My People Go" time.
Surely, Elijah could do it. We seem to have exhausted the more natural
possibilities. "On to the metaphysical," I say. "It can't hurt."
As a matter of fact, I cannot explain why President Bill Clinton refused to
offer clemency or parole for time-already-served? Or do Presidents confer
their pardons for rogue-ish, convicted pals like Casper Weinberger courtesy
of ex-President George Bush?
Meanwhile, Jonathan Pollard remains only a convicted, minor U.S. naval
official...and a Jew at that! And the guy (after all) committed a serious crime
against his country. So what if he sits and sits?
After drinking the First Cup of Wine, I found myself straying from the
pages of the Hagaddah reflecting: "But his spying was for a friendly nation,
an ally, Israel. And this kind of spying goes on (between allies) every hour
of the day in the real world, believe me. Or you can ask John Lecarre,
This gets countered with: "Spying is a nasty game no matter how you spin
the details. And punishment must be more than a slap on the wrist.
But sitting for 12 years (part of which was in solitary confinement) and in a
"maximum security" facility is nobody's idea of "a slap on the wrist." Be
fair. The guy has paid plenty!
My mind was wandering off the Haggadah pages when we arrived at a
major seder event: Asking of The Four Questions. I could only imagine
some gifted, prescient youth raising less traditional questions which the
rabbi clearly couldn't answer.
Question 1: Why is The Pollard Case different from all other spy cases of
Question 2: Why is the government offering us only the bitter herbs of
evasion? Why does it still refuse to disclose the mortar of Casper
Weinberger's poison pen letter to the presiding judge?
Question 3: Why has the Jewish community taken this huge injustice lying
down..truly reclined, forswearing to raise the roof in protest?
Question 4: Is there some residual, embarrassing evidence which links
American Presidents and top government officials with the "Iran Contra
Affair" - linking one administration to the other...with tracks to the late
Ayatollah Kohmeini...no less?
My imaginary little lad then sat down. The rabbi instead read all the
answers from the ancient Haggadah - all of which seemed very much
besides the point, a clear evasion. The rabbi had a job - to finish telling of
And as he droned on about the Plagues visited upon the Egyptians as some
proportional punishment for their sins, I remember a recent piece taken off
the Internet about the much smaller jail terms to other Americans who spied
for our enemies! The disproportionality was eyebrow-raising - meaning
grossly unfair. But who was caring?
While I was thus disturbed and musing, a little lad was sent to open the door
for Elijah, the long-expected messenger to redeem mankind from
But no, nobody was seen entering - even as I strained to imagine Elijah
coming in among us. There was no one...other than an old man, a little man
coming from the direction of "the powder room" area. Strangely, appearing
"Who'd you think I was? Elijah?" laughing, then adding: "I'm sometimes
mistaken for a miracle-maker. I'm the president of Paradise-Found
Condominium, Phase Three. And the problems I solve, believe me, are
almost miracles. Our building is 26 years old. Oh yeah - my name is
I decided to play along with Herman, who was the only authentic
miracle-maker in the room.
"Herman, do you think you could deliver a miracle and convince President
Clinton to finally pardon Jonathan Pollard?.."
His answer was frank, disarming: "Do you expect me to use up a miracle
when there's only a handful of Jews in this room who care a hoot
about...what's his name..Jonathan?..."
"Yes, Jonathan Pollard, Herman...and I care."
"But you're only one, pal. Besides, if enough Jews cared, their 461 Jewish
organizations would have spoken in one, clear voice. I've heard nothing in
Phase Three - other than a stray flyer now and then. For this you want me to
manufacture a miracle? Get serious."
"Try," I said "We're speaking now of major, truly major mitzvah."
Herman put down the fork from his gefilte fish, turned to me and said:
"Why should I deliver when Jews aren't mad enough to mount a protest
greater than what goyim carry on weekly at abortion clinics. Why?"
"But Mr. Goldstein," I countered, "Jews aren't into protests these days.
They've grown older, too respectable, and so have their organizations."
Goldstein turned, lifted his spoon from the matzoh-ball soup, saying: "For
such I couldn't even deliver a minor, half-baked miracle. You expect too
much from me. Finish your soup. It's good."
In despair, I managed to ask: "Herman, could we at least sing Chad Gadya