Report: Pollard Demonstration: A Great Success!
Esther Pollard Reports - J4JP Release - June 24, 2003
(Click here to see photos from this event.)
The demonstration for Jonathan Pollard yesterday outside David's Citadel Hotel where Jewish leaders were meeting was a great success, in spite of the physical hardships that participants were forced to endure.
A heavy police presence was already on the scene to greet demonstrators as we arrived on the west side of the Hotel. The police quickly herded us into an enclosed area surrounded by the prison-like bars of police barricades. No demonstrator was allowed to set foot outside of the barricades.
People kept pouring in and the enclosed area became crowded and uncomfortable. No move was made to extend the enclosure, though numerous requests were made. By the time that organizers asked Larry Dub, Jonathan's attorney to intervene, the police agreed with him that there were at least 3,000 people penned inside the barricades. Dub pointed out that people were still arriving, and that the permit allows for 5,000 participants and the closure of HaEmek Street to accommodate them. The police agreed, but made no move to remove the barricades or to close the street so that the crowd could overflow onto the road. It became very uncomfortable to remain in the pen.
Not only that. The area that was assigned to the demonstration was directly in front of huge ventilation shafts covering an entire wall of the hotel. Sheets of hot air from the hotel's air conditioning system walloped the speakers and the crowd over and over again throughout the
2 1/2 hours we assembled there for Jonathan. Some people just found it too physically hard to remain penned up and drenched in sweat, overwhelmed by the searing ventilation and its fumes, and simply had to leave. But for the most part, the crowd responded by becoming more resolute and stayed in place, well over two hours, cheering and clapping for speakers, listening to singers; chanting slogans and shouting in unison in English and in Hebrew, "Free Pollard Now! Free Pollard Now!"
As people continued to arrive, the crowd found ways to spread out onto a circular walkway which the police could not barricade effectively. Eli Joseph, the driving force behind the demonstration and its main organizer, opened the rally and handed me the microphone to welcome the crowd. I warmly welcomed everyone and told them to look around and see the prison bars surrounding us, to know that these bars signify how afraid the establishment is of the truth. They try to pen us up and limit us; they try to break our spirit, but it is too late - we have already won! They cannot stop us and they cannot stop the truth from being heard!
Look around, I said, and see all the beautiful young faces that are here today. The fact that so many young people are here is nothing short of a miracle. That they know about Jonathan, that they care so much about him - in spite of a Ministry of Education which will not allow Jonathan to be part of the education curriculum, and in spite of 18 years of Government efforts to bury the Pollard issue and hide it from public view. In spite of this, the young generation does KNOW, and does CARE, and for that reason alone we have already won! These youngsters are the future. No one will be able to stop them! For the first time there is hope, not only for Jonathan Pollard, but for Israel as a nation! The crowd cheered loudly. I promised to speak again later and gave the microphone back to Eli to introduce Nadia Matar, co-chairperson for Women in Green.
Nadia spoke eloquently about Jonathan and the debt of gratitude Israel owes him. She spoke of the true test of leadership as being the ability to rise to the occasion during times of trouble; and of how bitterly our leadership has failed Jonathan and now fails Eretz Yisrael. She compared the smallness of the Jewish leaders today to their predecessors, the leaders of the 12 tribes that Moshe Rabbeinu sent to spy out the Land, and the disaster that their fearful report brought upon the nation for all generations. She encouraged faith, consistency and hands-on activism to save both Jonathan and Israel.
Other speakers included a Jerusalem City Councilor - the only politician to attend the event; Eleonora Shiffrin, activist and former head of Yamin Yisrael Party; and Larry Dub, Jonathan's attorney. They all spoke eloquently and from the heart.
Larry Dub pointed out that Jonathan is the living symbol of America's consistent failure to honor promises. This includes America's promise to share with Israel information vital to our survival, and the promise made by the former U.S. president to free Jonathan. Israeli leaders, instead of insisting that America honor its commitments to us, look the other way, abandoning first Jonathan and now the entire nation. He said that this situation is intolerable and we must work vigorously to let all leaders know that the nation will no longer tolerate the scapegoating and sacrificing of Jonathan Pollard.
Eleonora Shiffrin reminded the nation that the fate of Israel is tied to the fate of Jonathan Pollard, whether one looks at it cosmically or just pragmatically. If one Jew can be abandoned in this way by our leaders, then the abandonment of 5 million Jews is simply the multiplication of 5 million times 1. She warned that our mission as a Holy Nation is not subject to the whims of a temporal self-serving leadership and that we are all accountable to the Almighty for our actions both individually and as a Nation. She said that it is intolerable to allow our leaders to repay Jonathan's devotion by abandoning him to rot in prison for 18 years. Whether or not we recognize the direct cause and effect, this abandonment has bought nothing but hardship and suffering for the Nation.
Eli Joseph spoke next. He spoke from the heart about Jonathan as a Jew who put himself on the line for Israel, who is a true model of love of Israel, and who not only deserves our love and gratitude, but deserves to be home with us. Eli spoke of Jonathan as a man whose actions and vision unite Israel in common cause, not only for his sake, but for ours as well. Jonathan, he said is so unique in his devotion to the Land and People of Israel, that it is certain that his homecoming will be a great blessing for all of Israel. We must not rest, said Eli, until Jonathan is here with us.
I could not help but marvel at the reaction of the young folk, especially as Eli spoke. Youth respond to Jonathan on a very visceral level. They remember more about Jonathan than their parents ever knew, and many of them were babies or not yet born when Jonathan was arrested. You can see how they feel about him. You see it in their eyes, and on their faces. For them, Jonathan personifies love of the Land, and love of one's fellow Jew. Jonathan's resolute survival and his endless love for Israel reassures the youngsters that this beautiful Holy Land that G-d has given to us is worth fighting for, and the people of Israel are worth it! If Jonathan Pollard can endure so much for this Land and his People all these years, they tell us, we can too. They long for Jonathan to come home with such sincerity and passion, that I must admit I am often moved to tears speaking with them.
After Eli spoke, 4 different entertainers presented songs that had specifically been written for Jonathan. The crowd, deeply moved, clapped, swayed and sang along.
Then Ruth Matar, Nadia's co-chair of Women in Green, motioned and shouted to Eli who was back at the microphone, "Free Pollard Now!" Spontaneously, the crowd, mainly Hebrew speakers, picked up the invitation and began to chant in English, over and over again, "Free Pollard Now!" They chanted and clapped so long and so hard that Jewish leaders began to come out on one of the hotel balconies to see the crowd shouting at them. Eli challenged the Jewish leaders in the hotel to come down and address us. Instead they ran away.
At that point, I was given the microphone to speak again, this time in English to directly address the leaders who had disappeared back into the hotel. What I said about the on-going betrayal of my husband by the American Jewish leadership, came straight from the heart and it went straight into the heart of the participants. They punctuated my remarks by thundering in Hebrew, over and over again: "Free Pollard Now!" "Free Pollard Now!" "Free Pollard Now!"
Before the demonstration was over, I turned to the crowd first in Hebrew and then in English, and asked if there were any Government Ministers or Members of the Knesset in the crowd who had not yet had a chance to speak. But there were none. No Ministers. No MKs. The ones who usually attend Pollard events, were pretty candid with us when they were invited to participate. They indicated that they would not participate in a demonstration against American Jewish leaders, for fear of biting the hand that holds U. S. Dollars and other goodies they want.
The most moving part of the demonstration was the way it ended. Eli announced a meeting of Pollard activists on King George street later in the evening to plan the next event. He then began to thank everyone for coming and to announce a minyan to daven mincha directly after the rally, when a lady came running up to me and said, "Please, you have to stop him! Tell him the kids want to sing for Jonathan! They want to sing "Acheinu Kol Beit Yisrael" ("Our Brothers, The Whole House of Israel").
I alerted Eli and he asked the musicians if any of them would lead us in this moving song about Ahavat Yisrael (Love of Israel). There was a moment of hesitation. Then suddenly a man - not one of the musicians - just stepped forward and took the microphone. I later learned that he was Rabbi Taibak of Machon Meir. In a clear, strong voice he began to belt out the words of this hauntingly beautiful and touching song. He smiled and closed his eyes as he sang. The crowd smiled back and sang along. The youngsters joined hands and swayed as they sang. The unity of purpose and sense harmony that pervaded the crowd was so overwhelming that it was almost palpable. They sang so deeply from the heart that I could imagine that thousands of miles away, Jonathan was actually hearing them.
I think now of all the beautiful faces - young and old - of Acheinu Kol Beit Yisrael, standing together, singing for Jonathan; praying for Jonathan, loving him for his service to our Land and our People; and longing for his homecoming. I am comforted. They can pen us in, they can try to stifle our voice, blur the truth, ignore us in the mainstream media, and force us to endure physical hardship, but we will never give in. The truth, like Jonathan, must come out.
If after 18 years of this ordeal, Jonathan has become a catalyst for Jewish unity and for the re-igniting of Jewish accountability, then all is not lost. For the first time in 18 years we have a chance of becoming a nation that deserves to have Jonathan home, as much as he deserves to be home with us. May it be speedily and soon! Amain!