"Every Single Day I Get Ready All Over Again Waiting To Be Released"
(Pollard to Edelstein)

November 25, 1997 - Orly Azulay Katz - Yediot Achronot

Just before entering the visiting room at the prison FCI Butner in North Carolina USA, Esther Pollard turned to the Minister of Immigration and Absorption, Yuli Edelstein and made a request: "Please give us a moment to embrace before you start to speak because afterwards, the guards will not allow us."

Minister Edelstein smiled understandingly. For the next hour and a quarter Esther and Jonathan Pollard sat, holding hands, and talking with the first Israeli government minister to visit Pollard in prison.

"He looks a little heavier," (Pollard's appearance is the result of illness, and reflects the deficient diet he must subsist on without kosher food.) This is how Edelstein described Pollard to a Yediot Achronot writer immediately upon concluding the visit. "He is suffering from migraines and ear, nose and throat problems. I spoke with prison officials and they promised me that they would get treatment for him."

"Not Given Up Hope"

Edelstein said that he was impressed that Pollard, who has been in prison for 12 years for spying on behalf of Israel, has not given up hope. "Before I came to the prison, I had been warned that that Jonathan Pollard is a very bitter man. That is not how he came across to me. While he does speak cynically of how Israel has treated him, he has not lost hope. He told me something interesting: 'If the Americans see that the Israeli government, which I served, does not go out of its way to help me, why should the Americans lift a finger to resolve this case?' And he is right in his thinking."

"While he did not come out and say that he feels that the Government of Israel abandoned him, it is easy to understand how hard it must be for him, the fact that the Government of Israel has not done enough for him."

According to the Minister, Pollard requested that he invite other cabinet ministers to visit him. "Jonathan spoke with great warmth about the people of Israel, not the politicians. He said he gets hundreds of letters of encouragement and support from all over Israel, from as far north as Kyriat Shmona , and as far south as Eilat.

"Here and there, he salt-and peppered-his speech with Hebrew expressions.

"He is very much relying on public opinion to pressure the government to free him.

"He dreams of coming to Israel and of developing scientific technology which he has created specific to Israel's water and energy concerns. He follows carefully every thing that is going on in Israel, and is amazingly knowledgeable and up-to-date."

Those attending the meeting were Jonathan and Esther Pollard, Minister Edelstein, the minister's spokesperson Yehuda Glick, and the minister's advisor for Diaspora Affairs Vera Golavsky. An American Naval Intelligence officer was also present at the meeting.

"Hundreds of Letters of Encouragement"

When the meeting ended, Edelstein gave Pollard a letter that had been written in the name of Prime Minister Netanyahu by his advisor, David Bar Illan, in which the Prime Minister promised that he would "spare no effort" to seek Pollard's release. Pollard, on the other hand, was not permitted to give a letter to the Minister.

"It was a very exciting visit," said Yehuda Glick, after the meeting. "Jonathan said that every single day he gets ready all over again waiting to be released."

"On the one hand, he is optimistic. On the other hand, he doesn't trust the government. This was obvious throughout the conversation. He proposed that the Prime Minister and the Head of the Opposition, General Barak write a joint letter calling for his release.

"He is suffering very badly in prison. He said that there is a lot of violence. So far it has not been directed against him, but he doesn't know from one minute to the next what may happen tomorrow. He stated repeatedly that he is the victim of self-serving politicians and their political games."

At the conclusion of the visit, Minister Edelstein announced that he would seek an emergency meeting with the Prime Minister immediately upon his return to Israel to urge him to intensify efforts to free Pollard. As well, Edelstein promised to remain in constant contact with Pollard and to encourage other ministers to visit Pollard.

See Also:
  • Pollard to Edelstein: Bring Me Home
  • Israeli Minister Visits Pollard in U.S. Jail