A Wife Battles For Her Husband's Freedom
Esther Pollard Travels to Israel to Lobby for Jonathan
Jacob Horowitz - The Jewish Advocate (Boston) - May 17, 2001
BOSTON - For almost 17 years the world has stood by and watched convicted spy Jonathan Pollard wither away in solitary confinement while numerous promises and petitions by American presidents and Israeli Prime Ministers have come and gone.
Last month, Jonathan's wife Esther went again to Israel to lobby Prime Minister Sharon and the rest of the Israeli government for the needed pressure to ensure her husband's release.
According to the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot, "On the eve of Passover a senior American official told Esther Pollard that the time was ripe for Israel to act; that there was an unprecedented opportunity to secure the release of her husband, Jonathan. She immediately flew to Israel, met with Prime Minister Sharon, asked for his intervention, and he responded by doing nothing."
"It was simply another painful episode in this ongoing outrage," fumes Esther Pollard from the home of her hosts in Jerusalem. "Sharon would not even agree to send [Jonathan's rabbi and former Chief Rabbi of Israel] Rav Eliyahu to the United States to meet with President Bush as a representative of the
"The amount of effort put forth by the Israeli government right now is saddening," she adds.
Last month, two Knesset members visited Pollard in his North Carolina prison. Ophir Pines-Paz (One Israel) and Michael Eitan (Likud), who had met with Pollard several years ago, were shocked by his deteriorating physical health and morale.
"He's sick!" insists Esther Pollard in a frustrated tone. "He is pale, swollen and his immune system is crippled. He is in constant pain and with the exception of a small few, no one in the Israeli government is doing anything about it."
Pines-Paz and Eitan reiterated her statements to Israeli radio, saying that Jonathan is succumbing to depression and has stopped taking his blood pressure medication. Though they urged Pollard to continue his drug treatment, the prisoner replied that it was pointless since hefeared he would never be freed from his cell, the MKs reported.
In addition to having high blood pressure, over the past few years Pollard has also been diagnosed with diabetes, chronic arthritis, a glaucoma-like condition and ongoing sinus infections caused by unbiopsied growths that fill his sinus cavitiies.
"The medical facilities in prison are horrific," notes Esther Pollard. She went on to describe one of the few times that Jonathan was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
"He was chained, shackled and brought into the hospital under extreme armored guard. The doctors looked at him with a 'who in the world is this monster' expression."
Though the efforts to have Pollard released from prison have been active since his incarceration began, his name returned to the media headlines in 1998 when President Clinton and the United States committed to releasing Jonathan as part of the Wye River negotiations.
Prime Minister Sharon, who played a key role in these talks, is well aware of America's promise but is simply not willing to initiate even a small request for Jonathan's release, says Pollard.
"It would take so little effort on Israel's behalf, but Sharon is not willing to ask the U.S. to make good on what they've promised," she says.
In a recent interview with Arutz 7 Radio News, Esther Pollard described some of her husband's conversation with the visiting MKs: "He told me that he told the MKs that there are moments when he envies Ron Arad (the Israeli airman who has been missing in action for years). Again, they were stunned and they asked him, 'How can that be?' He replied that Ron Arad might at least be able to understand why Israel is having so much trouble securing his release since he is held by our enemies and we do not even know where. 'But,' he said, 'Here I am in the hands of Israel's best ally, yet the government of Israel acts as if they had to secure my release from our worst enemy.'
When President Clinton left office earlier this year amid a slew of controversial pardons, the emotions surrounding Pollard's imprisonment intensified.
"It is disgusting," explains Esther, "that a fugitive from Justice, Marc Rich, a man who did not spend even one moment in jail is walking free, while my husband, who has lost the last 16 years of his life, remains behind bars. The entire Israeli and American Jewish leadership rallied around the millionaire Marc Rich while Jonathan, an Israeli agent, is sitting in prison without any support.
"No doubt, it would be more convenient for a lot of people for my husband to die in prison," she added. "They would bring him home in a box, give him a wonderful eulogy and say 'what a shame' it is."
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