"What! Is Pollard Ill?"
Moshe Burt - Viewpoint Magazine - March 26, 2002
Passover 5762 begins at sundown, March 27, 2002. Jews all over the world will celebrate their historic national redemption and mark the event with a Passover seder. For Jonathan Pollard there has been no redemption. Pollard will not have a Passover seder. He will not be permitted to see his wife. He will remain ill and alone, in his 17th year of incarceration in an American prison, for his activities on behalf of Israel. Once again, the failure of both the Government of Israel and the American Jewish leadership in 5762 (the year 2002), to invest any of its political capital to secure the release of Jonathan Pollard - in spite of virtual unanimity that the life sentence he is serving is grossly disproportionate and unjust - is a sad comment on the Jewish community at large. The following article was printed in the Spring edition of the National Council of Young Israel's Viewpoint Magazine.
Each Shabbat morning, I ascend to the Bima to make a special MiShebeirach for Cholim (prayer), for Yehonatan Ben Malka -- Jonathan Pollard. And every Shabbat morning, when I make this MiShebeirach followed by my saying Pollard's full name in English and in Hebrew, no matter which shul I find myself in here in Ramat Beit Shemesh, I hear the same derisive muttering in the background, "What? Is Pollard ill??"
And every Shabbat, I feel the same shock, to put it mildly. No, make that outrage.
Some of what I feel is particular to the case of Jonathan Pollard and the frank indifference to his plight on the part of Olim, of Anglos. Notice, I said Anglos, not native-born Israelis.
I hear the mutterings and its always Anglo voices, not Israelis. I never hear Israelis mutter either in Hebrew or in broken English, "What? Is Pollard ill??"
Granted, Israelis don't know near enough about the Pollard case and the Israeli Government's part in it. They are not aware of the fact that when Pollard tried to take shelter and ask for asylum in the Israeli Embassy in the U.S., sovereign Israeli territory under international law, the Israeli Government rewarded Pollard for saving thousands, tens of thousands of Jewish lives by turning him over to U.S. for prosecution.
Pollard gave vital information - information that the U.S. was bound by agreement to provide, but violated by not providing - to Israel, a U.S. ally. This information enabled Israel to take out the Iraqi nuclear reactor in the early 1980s. Israel's action in bombing the Iraqi reactor ironically didn't save just Jewish lives, but American lives as well, re: the Gulf War in 1991.
Israelis are not aware that the U.S. made a plea-bargain agreement with Pollard to plead guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence, which the U.S. Justice Department also violated when it sentenced Pollard to life in prison based on then, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger's dubious, "If you only knew" document, submitted to the sentencing judge shortly before sentence was passed.
Israelis also are not aware of the daily mistreatment Jonathan Pollard received for some 17 years at the hands of the U.S. Prison System. They don't know of the years when Pollard was incarcerated in isolation, denied the barest minimum of medical care and denied a kosher diet.
They don't know that, despite all of this, Pollard had the strength and will of character to become a religious Jew, a ba'al teshuva.
Israelis, by and large, don't know that there is a so-called "principled Jew" named Joe Lieberman, who after attacking Clinton re: the "Lewinsky Affair," nearly became U.S. Vice President in the closely contested election between Al Gore and President George W. Bush.
Israelis don't know, have no clue of the fact that Joe Lieberman, to this day, proclaims that Pollard had a trial by jury when, in fact such trial never occurred; rather, Pollard was sentenced as a result of a violated plea-bargain and never had "his day in court."
Israelis don't know that Lieberman has spent years evading attempts by people such as NY State Assemblyman Sam Colman to set the record straight. Israelis also, by and large, don't know that their current Prime Minister and previous Prime Ministers, with the possible exception of Netanyahu, have acted with equivocation and have made no effort to bring about Jonathan Pollard's freedom.
They also, by and large, have no inkling, no clue that the current Prime Minister has tried, on two occasions -- first with $1 million and then with $2 million, to buy Pollard's silence until he languished and perished in prison, G-d forbid.
Israelis don't know and must be brought "up to speed." For Orthodox Anglos, however, no such excuse ["we didn't know"] exists. One would have had to be deaf, dumb and blind not to know. Numerous Orthodox publications: The Jewish Press, Young Israel Viewpoint, Hamodia, Yated, etc. have given extensive coverage over the years to the Pollard Case.
Through these many years, American TV and radio talk shows have devoted countless hours to Jonathan Pollard's plight.
The bottom line is that in light of the great mitzvah of Pidyon Shvu'im -- freeing of unjustly imprisoned Jewish captives, the murmur of "What? Is Pollard ill??" is really pitifully lame and very infuriating.
As I said, although some of my sentiments are Pollard-particular, much of my dismay is directed toward what I feel is symptomatic of our collective malaise. The malaise of doing things totally by rote, of constantly playing "beat the clock" at the expense of the quality, concentration and intensity of our tefillah (prayer) as delivered to and ultimately received by HaKodosh Baruch Hu (the Holy One, Blessed Be He).
When tefillah is continually said at break-neck speed in order to break a time-barrier and when the Gabbai similarly utters the MiShebeirach for Cholim at break-neck speed, mumbling as he races against the clock so that chas v'shalom (Heaven forbid), the Ba'al HaBatim (gentleman members) don't spend one extra minute in shul on Shabbat, how do you think that such tefillah and the MiShebeirachs are received in Shamayim (Heaven)?
Why do I make a point each Shabbat, in front of the largest shul attendance of the week, to assure that an appropriate tefillah is said for my brother Jonathan Pollard?
If there is no other tefillah which reaches Shamayim unimpeded and ungarbled by break-neck speed, this one will. And, G-d willing, if others pick up this call in other shuls, both in Beit Shemesh and throughout Eretz Yisrael and in Chutz L'Aretz (the Diaspora), we hope to be zoche (to merit) to soon witness Jonathan Pollard's freedom and the day when he is physically among us here in Eretz Yisrael. I know that I long for that day and will do all that I can to bring it about.