Thousands Rally at Wall for Pollard

Amir Efrati - The Jerusalem Post - June 5, 2003

Thousands gathered at the Western Wall on Wednesday in the latest move aimed at freeing Jonathan Pollard, who has served 18 years of a life sentence in the US for spying for Israel.

In a two-hour prayer led by former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, organizers estimated that upwards of 4,000 helped to take an "important first step" in the latest struggle to bring Pollard to Israel.

"We're praying to Hashem that the gate for Jonathan will be open," said Elie Yoseph, a spokesperson for Pollard Action Now. Pollard, a former US Navy intelligence analyst, was caught passing classified information to Israel in 1985.

Yoseph, one of the event's organizers, said, "The Jewish people will no longer stand by while somebody languishes in prison to rot there for the simple reason that for 40 years after the Holocaust he decided to warn Israel about a potential threat."

Yoseph zigzagged among crowds near the Wall and greeted activists, mainly young people from yeshivas and seminary schools nationwide. He said Pollard's "crime" was warning Israel of chemical threats from Iraq, Iran, and Syria. "By warning [Israel], he did a service that every single Jew has to do."

Crowds at the Wall, some wearing T-shirts emblazoned with "Free Pollard Now" in Hebrew and English, read from a prayer sheet arranged by Eliahu, who took up Pollard's cause in 1991.

The prayer asks God to open the gates of mercy for Pollard, and that "all the good deeds he did for the Jewish people should be remembered before You... so that it should be good for him and his wife... [so that they will merit] to establish a Jewish home with healthy sons and daughters," said the rabbi, his voice booming across the holy site with the aid of loudspeakers.

Also in attendance was Esther Pollard, Jonathan's wife, who said she was "overwhelmed and touched" by the crowd's diversity and scale. "What brought tears to my eyes was to see so many young people who weren't even born when Jonathan was sentenced and who grasp the meaning of what he did for Israel," said Pollard, who made the trip from North Carolina for the event.

Also present was Pollard's lawyer, Larry Dub, who accused Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of inaction, explaining that he had personally asked Sharon on eight occasions to bring up the issue of Pollard with US President George W. Bush and to demand his release "as a matter of right and not as a matter of courtesy," he said. "Ariel Sharon is 0 for 8," he added.

Wednesday's event was the second in a broader public campaign for Pollard; the first was a rally outside the US Consulate in Jerusalem three weeks ago. A week-long hunger strike outside the Knesset is scheduled for the beginning of July, Yoseph said, in which over 100 students are planning to take part. "If we abandon someone who worked for us," he said, "we are abandoning our secret weapon: the love of Israel without condition."