Esther Pollard Reports on the June 4 Prayer Rally at the Kotel
J4JP Release - June 5, 2003
(Click here to see photos from this event.)
Writing about the massive prayer rally for Jonathan at the Kotel today is a challenge. We saw such miracles that I am afraid to diminish them by the inadequacy of words. Against all bureaucratic odds, without any funds, and working on a very short time line, we called to the people of Israel to come to the Kotel to pray for the release of Jonathan Pollard. And they did!
We had not wanted to schedule the rally at 3:00 PM, in the heat of the day, at a time when most people are still at work but that was the only time the Ministry of Religious Affairs would give us a permit. His Eminence, HaRav Mordecai Eliyahu arrived at the Kotel punctually at 3:00 PM. Several people suggested that the Rav wait until more people arrive, but he responded, "We will start and they will come."
And come, they did! In droves! First in a trickle, and then the trickle grew to a steady stream, and they just kept coming and coming and coming. I later learned that people came from all parts of the country to pray for Jonathan - from the Golan, from Haifa, and from Ramat Gan and from Be'ersheva, to name a few. People representing every segment of the population came to the Kotel. There was an amazing cross section of every age, babies, teenagers, middle-agers and the elderly; members of every community; Ashkenazi and Sephardi; right wing, left wing and every political shade in between; from every walk of life; religious and secular; able-bodied and people in wheel chairs and with white canes and so on. And lots and lots of young people.
The sight of all the young people davening in earnest, from the heart, for Jonathan reduced me to tears. They wore Pollard T-shirts and Pollard buttons which they themselves make and sell at cost, and most had Pollard bumper stickers stuck to their clothing. These kids were not even born when Jonathan was arrested! That they turned up at the rally in such numbers is a miracle. That they care so deeply and are so committed to seeing Jonathan home is an even greater miracle. They care about their fellow Jew in a way that their parents did not know how to care. They truly love and admire Jonathan. They respect what he did for the People of Israel. And they know the value of a Jewish soul. I am now convinced that these youngsters are the pure souls that will bring redemption to our nation.
Tonight my phone keeps ringing and people keep calling to share their feelings about the prayer rally. People report that they were deeply moved by the intensity of the prayer. Although it was blazing hot at the Kotel, people stood and davened as if they did not notice the heat. Many people cried openly, their teardrops staining the prayer sheets. Others report the wonderful feeling they experienced as it got more and more crowded and they realized that they were being engulfed by the crowd and immersed in prayers of Ahavat Yisrael. Thousands of copies of special prayers for Jonathan were handed out. There were none left lying about when the Tefillah was over, and there were only a few copies left for me to take as a souvenir for Jonathan.
HaRav Eliyahu began by saying a special prayer for Jonathan Pollard. Then various rabbis led the crowd in saying a series of special Tehillim. In between the recital of Tehillim, special Kabbalistic prayers were recited by rabbis schooled in the esoteric tradition. The great rabbis, HaRav Eliyahu among them, all say that the redemption of Am Yisrael is tied up with the redemption of Jonathan Pollard, so the prayers were as much for Am Yisrael as for Jonathan. There was such unity of purpose that the prayer and all the special Tehillim were spontaneously repeated several times. Although the plan was to end the rally after the special order of prayers, the sense of unity prevailed and HaRav Eliyahu and the crowd remained together for an unanticipated early Mincha. By the time we left the Kotel, some 2 and a half hours had elapsed - much longer than anticipated. And it passed in the wink of an eye!
We went straight from the Kotel to Yeshurun Synagogue on King George Street where Ha Rav Shlomo Aviner spoke about Jonathan. He spoke to a packed house. The men's section was filled to capacity and the women's section upstairs was just as crowded. People sat on the stairs or stood in order to participate. The full house was, in itself, a miracle since the program at Yeshurun was only decided last night, and there really was little or no time to advertise it. Mostly word of mouth at the Kotel brought the huge crowd to Yeshurun.
Whereas at the Kotel, there had been a real cross-section of ages and walks of life, at Yeshurun, the crowd was predominately a young one. Ha Rav Aviner spoke about Jonathan and about the mitzvah of Vih Ahavta lih Re'eycha K'mocha ( loving one's neighbor as oneself). The young folks listened in rapt attention. They listened with all of their hearts. It was overwhelming to see how they listened. It was clear that they were there because they wanted to be there, and not for lack of something better to do, and they listened because they WANTED TO HEAR and they wanted to know.
After HaRav Aviner spoke, musicians Doron Bar-On and Mordecai Fischer performed a special song written by HaRav Aviner for Jonathan. The audience loved it and they clapped, hummed and sang along.
Eli Joseph then spoke briefly to introduce me. As Bella (Jonathan's and my "adoptive" mother in Jerusalem) later told me, she was very surprised when she met Eli. He is a quiet unassuming man; one would never have expected that someone so humble in manner would be such a great person. Without Eli, there would have been no Atzeret (rally). Without Naomi Knobel (of the Rav's office) there would have been no Atzeret. The three of us worked hand-in-glove, with no funds and against all odds, around the clock, to organize it. Many others - the nameless heroes behind the scenes (some of whom I met at Yeshurun tonight) worked tirelessly with Eli and made things happen that were vital to the success of the rally.
When I spoke at Yeshurun it was straight from the heart and the crowd listened attentively. At HaRav Aviner's instruction, I spoke from behind the mechitza, upstairs, in the ladies section. It was a formula for losing the audience, but the men just turned around in their seats and focused their attention upward. They clapped and cheered when I spoke acknowledging all of the miracles we saw today. They also cheered when I spoke with pride and amazement about our youth today. The young people who turned up at the Kotel today davened for Jonathan and Am Yisrael with such intensity and tears, that their passion was palpable. When the lecture was over, the kids swarmed around me, many with hugs and kisses, and all with endless blessings for Jonathan and Am Yisrael.
I look at our youth, and for the first time I see hope for our nation. This is the generation that will, with G-d's help, save our nation. This is the generation that will wake up their elders and teach us all to love our fellow Jew. This is the generation that that can teach us achdut, the unity that G-d so desires in His People.
In the merit of ALL the countless beautiful Jewish souls who came to the Kotel today and to Yeshurun tonight, may HaShem bless you and yours abundantly in the mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim! And may we all merit to return to the Kotel very soon, in the wink of an eye, WITH JONATHAN, to give thanks and praise to the Almighty. May we merit to see the redemption of Jonathan Pollard along with the Land and People of Israel speedily in our day. Amain!
Post Script: We will be posting the Special Tefillah for Jonathan to the J4JP web site along with the special order of Tehillim to make them available to all. Everyone is encouraged to say the Tefillah and to share it with others. Even more important: take the Special Tefillah for Jonathan to synagogue with you. The prayer power of a minyan is immeasurable; ask that this Tefillah be included in the MiSheberachs whenever the Torah is read, so that all may share in the merit of the mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim.