Protest March and Demonstration in Honor of Jonathan's Birthday - A Runaway Success!
Letter from Esther Pollard to Jonathan - Justice4JP Release - August 6, 2003
(Click here to see photos from this event.)
My Beloved Yehonatan!
I am so glad you called last night so that you could hear the excitement in my voice and the sheer delight when I returned home from the protest march and demonstration in honor of your birthday! This event was a runaway success, the like of which we have never seen before!
More than 10, 000 people poured through the streets of Jerusalem today, singing, clapping, shouting, chanting and calling your name! The energy was electric!
Eli Joseph and I led the march and the crowd fell in behind us. I was carrying the Pollard Bear mascot - a large white plush bear, outfitted like a patriot in a blue and white kipa and sweater decorated with a menorah, and holding a large Israeli flag. I held the Pollard Bear high and the flag waved proudly as we marched.
We poured out of Gan Ha'atzmaut and marched to the Knesset, singing songs, carrying signs, and calling out slogans for your return home. Over and over again throughout the crowd there were spontaneous outbursts of "Happy Birthday Jonathan!" and the song would move like a wave through the crowd until everyone was singing, "Ha'yom yom huledet! Ha'yom yom huledet lih Yehonatan!" the Hebrew version of "Happy Birthday to you! Happy birthday dear Jonathan!" As we marched and clapped and sang, people along the route to the Knesset came out of their houses and stood on the sidewalk and clapped and sang with us as we marched by them. The songs were old and new and they all were about you.
The crowd was so massive it overflowed the streets of Jerusalem and the police had to shut the roads down for us. Every now and then I would turn around to look at the crowd following behind us and I just starred in delight and disbelief. Wave after wave of people kept thronging forward. I could not see the end of the mass of people; it ran for city blocks and it looked like there was no end. As we went down the hill towards the stoplight at Wolfson, just where you make the turn towards the Knesset, I looked behind me and the crowd stretched all the way up the hill and back into the city center! I kept thinking, "If only Jonathan could see this! He would never believe it! If only Jonathan could see this!" There are some wonderful photographs of all the marchers which Adi will be sending you shortly. We will also be posting them to the web for all to enjoy.
While there were official crowd estimates of 10 to 15 thousand people, I do know for certain that there were more than 10 thousand participants. How? By the number of prayer cards we distributed. Larry brought 10, 000 Pollard / Nishmat Kol Chai prayer cards to the Knesset and there simply were not enough to go around!
The hardest thing to describe about this event was the ruach, the spirit of the event, the atmosphere, the energy. It was so intense, so genuine, so alive, so infused with devotion that it was as if the Shechinah (G-d's own presence) rested upon us. Although it is a substantial walk from Gan Ha'atzmaut to the Knesset, I never felt the distance. The crowd thrived on collective consciousness and it carried us along, fueled by a collective sense of Ahavat Yisrael. At first I walked with Eli and other people whom I knew personally. After a while I found myself walking with people that I have never met before but who felt like family all the same. There was a tremendous sense of unity that pervaded the entire march and the demonstration that followed. I am deeply grateful for that because I know what that kind of unity means on a cosmic level: it is the stuff miracles are made of!
When we arrived at the Knesset, the crowd poured into Gan HaVradim in wave after wave. Another miracle: communities all over Israel chipped in and arranged their own bus transportation! Buses streamed in from all parts of the country to join us. There were so many people arriving at Gan HaVradim (the Rose Garden opposite the Knesset) that it took some time for the masses of people to assemble and settle in. Giant signs, pickets, posters, and huge portraits of you were everywhere!
The air was charged with energy and enthusiasm which spread through the crowd like wildfire! Eli tried to begin the program of speakers, but every time he opened his mouth or mentioned your name, the cheering, shouting, clapping, whistling, and chanting would start and drown him out! Groups of people kept bursting into spontaneous chants, thundering slogans like "Arik! Arik! Heetorair! Et Pollard l'shachrair!" (Arik! Arik! Wake Up! Free Pollard Now!) Any time one segment of the crowd began chanting and clapping, the chant would ripple through the crowd for miles until everyone joined in. The effect was thunderous!
I went over to Eli at the mike and told him that perhaps he should hold off the speakers in favor of starting with Nishmat Kol Chai and the Pollard prayer. I reasoned that this might calm the crowd a tad and make it easier for the speakers. Eli agreed and handed the mike over to me to announce the prayer.
As soon as I took the mike, the crowd broke into wild cheering and began chanting, "HaAm! HaAm! HaAm rotzeh et Yehonatan!" ("The Nation wants Jonathan!")! Booming louder and louder, the chant switched to "Achim! Achim! Achim loh mafkeerim Achim! ("Brothers! Brothers! Brothers don't abandon brothers!" This was followed by various renditions, of "Pollard HaBayta!" (Bring Pollard Home!) and L'shachrair et Pollard! (Free Pollard now!) - all punctuated by clapping out a rhythm and repeating the slogan over and over.
It was overwhelming to listen to! Again and again I felt like rubbing my eyes to see if I were dreaming. Throughout this event I would keep telling myself, "I can't believe I am seeing this! If only Jonathan could see this! If he could only hear this! If only Jonathan were here now!"
I finally had to put my hand up to request silence and a hush fell over the crowd. I thanked everyone for coming and for their wild enthusiasm which has deeply touched our hearts. Gesturing towards the Knesset building behind me, I told them that I do not care what kind of impression this gathering of the nation may be making on the politicians, because salvation is not going to come from them. The only place where our voice truly matters is in Heaven. I told them that their shouts and their chants for Jonathan are heard in Heaven as prayer and that the Almighty Himself welcomes their outcry. They started to cheer again and the cheers and chants again drowned out my words.
I waited a few moments and again put my hand up to ask for silence. The cheering died down. Again I thanked the crowd for their heart-felt outpouring of love and support for Jonathan and asked them to please join us now in a more formalized kind of prayer. I explained the Pollard/ Nishmat Kol Chai prayer card, how we worked with HaRav Mordecai Eliyahu to design it so that it can be used to daven (pray) for Jonathan now and still be used to daven for him after he is released. I told the crowd, "Today we are saying Nishmat Kol Chai as a segula and request for Jonathan's release; G-d willing, tomorrow we will gather together to say it in thanksgiving and praise to the Almighty for sending Jonathan home to us! Amain!" The applause was deafening!
As the applause began to subside, I called on Rav Yosef Mendelovitch (the famous former prisoner of Zion) to lead the prayer. As Rav Mendelovitch approached the mike, the entire crowd rose to its feet as one to say Nishmat Kol Chai . What blew me away, was the unity of the crowd! Jonathan, in synagogue as part of formal prayer, the congregation rises to say Nishmat Kol Chai, but under ordinary circumstances it is said any time, anywhere, and it is not necessary to stand. That is why it is so amazing that everyone stood! No one asked them to! No one gave directions! And it was not as if one section of the crowd stood and then everyone followed. They ALL rose at the same time! As one!
Even though we brought 10,000 prayer cards to the event, there were not enough to go around. Many people shared their cards. Rav Mendelovitch chanted Nishmat Kol Chai aloud and the entire crowd chanted with him. Larry (Dub) was utterly blown away by this scene. Across the vast campus of the Rose Garden, wall to wall Jews standing and saying Nishmat Kol Chai for Jonathan! He told me afterwards that if the entire demonstration had ended at that point, it would have been enough! It was that perfect!
Rav Mendelovitch then said the "Prayer for Jonathan Pollard" on the back of the card written by HaRav Eliyahu. Mendelovitch invoked Heaven to open all the Heavenly Gates of blessing for you. After every single blessing - even though each blessing was mid sentence - the crowd shouted "Amain!" over and over again.
After Nishmat Kol Chai, there was a slight calming of energies and the crowd sat down. The miraculous thing is that there never came a point in time where the enthusiasm, the clapping and cheering and chanting ever completely subsided! For the next two hours, the crowd went wild every time your name was mentioned, and as you can well imagine since this rally was about you, it was mentioned a lot!
Eli Joseph, a hero in his own right and the driving force behind this event, was the first speaker. He told the story of Raoul Wallenberg as a cosmic parallel to your own story. He held the crowd spellbound with his heartfelt words about the moral imperatives that good-hearted people feel towards others. He spoke of who you are and what you did and what you represent to our nation. His words struck a chord in the innermost being of all the listeners, as he spoke of the need to restore our national moral conscience, for without it we are lost. "Only a government that has no sense of morality could abandon its own agent," he said, "only a government that has no morality can free murderers and terrorists who are only going to go out and kill more Jews." He made everyone understand that "Jonathan Pollard is not - as the Government keeps claiming - an unrelated issue that can be dealt with when more pressing problems are out of the way." "On the contrary!" said Eli, "Jonathan Pollard, is at the root of every urgent problem that Israel now faces. Until we first rescue Jonathan, every other issue will remain beyond our grasp. The first step towards fighting the Roadmap, is to fight for Jonathan Pollard. Everything else will follow."
There was such enthusiasm for you that it even spilled over onto me. Nearly 2 hours into the speeches, Eli announced that I would speak. As I approached the mike the crowd began clapping wildly and welcomed me by shouting and cheering and chanting my name. "Es-ther Pol-lard! Es-ther Pol-lard!" This has never happened before! It was their love for you that they were addressing to me... and it was amazing!
Another thing that stands out for me, Jonathan, is how the crowd identified with you physically as well as spiritually. The spiritual longing for you was clearly expressed through songs and chants and prayers. The physical was expressed in a number of other ways. Everywhere there were thousands of people wearing white or navy t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "L'Hasheev et Yehonatan Pollard Habayta!" which means "Bring Jonathan Pollard Home!" Thousands had Pollard bumper stickers plastered to their clothing. Also, a new round sticker with the same slogan and your face behind prison bars made its appearance yesterday and thousands of people plastered stickers on their clothing. And Jonathan, I am not talking about just the youth pasting stickers all over themselves, everyone did! Grandmothers, soldiers, old and young, business people, housewives, everyone wore Pollard stickers and t-shirts! Even the Pollard Bear sported a large round Pollard sticker on the front of his sweater and a Pollard bumper sticker on the back!
A quick word about the t-shirts. The manufacturers are a group of wonderful young boys whose names I unfortunately do not know, even though we meet at every Pollard event. These youngsters got together and took a loan to make their first batch of Pollard t-shirts. Once they sold them, they paid off their loan and started all over again. They sell the t-shirts practically at cost price at every Pollard event. They make barely enough money to cover their expenses, and nothing in profit. This is their mitzvah, to boost public consciousness by making it possible for everyone to own and wear a Pollard t-shirt. All of their work and efforts are l'shaim Shomayim (for the sake of Heaven). I know you would be very proud of them for this and G-d willing some day soon you will meet them to tell them so yourself.
At this event, as with the others, there was an overwhelmingly large presence of youthful faces. Pure, holy, sweet young people. Beautiful Jewish neshamas suffused with love of Israel, and longing for you, Jonathan, whose love of Israel is equal to their own. These are our leaders; these lovely souls are our hope for the future. They are the ones who will redeem this nation and save us from the depths to which our current leaders have brought us. May G-d bless them and watch over them. May He bless our young people with success in restoring His might and glory and power to the Land and People of Israel. Amain!
Larry reminded me to tell you how impressed he was with the young people who spoke at the event. This was an innovation of Eli's for this demonstration, to invite the young people to speak to crowd. Adi Ginzburg, a key Pollard activist is only 17 years old. I tell everyone he is 17 going on 37. He is extremely self-assured, very astute, and uncommonly capable. Among the many hats he wears, he also maintains a Pollard Web Site in Hebrew at www.jewsite.org/pollard .
Adi addressed the crowd and spoke with wisdom and maturity. He addressed comments made earlier by MK Mickey Eitan and Minister Benny Elon. Both MKs spoke of the petition for your release addressed to President Bush and signed by 112 of their colleagues which Sharon jettisoned before leaving for Washington. They said how they regretted Sharon's actions but both vowed that the petition would reach the President via other means. Adi got up and politely pointed out that the petition is effectively dead. Without any slight to the MKs, he explained that when Sharon signed the petition and then failed to deliver it, the message to the President was clear: Pollard is a non issue. "Should the President receive the petition with Sharon's signature on it from any other source," Adi pointed out, "the negative message would simply be reinforced."
Adi spoke about the moral underpinnings of the struggle for your release, and of the degeneracy of our current leadership. He spoke of the necessity for a new kind of leadership based on morality and social accountability. He pointed out that if the kind of energy and awareness that we are seeing today for Jonathan Pollard had occurred when you were first arrested, there never would have been a Pollard case to begin with. And I agree. Had the Jewish leadership galvanized support for you 18 years ago and demanded equal justice for one of its own, there would never have been a festering wound called the Pollard case and you would have been out long, long ago.
Another youthful speaker was a lovely girl named Lital, from Ashkelon. Lital spoke passionately about how the rot that permitted the Jewish leadership to turn their backs on our brothers during the holocaust and that refused to aid in the search for Raoul Wallenberg, is the same rot that has created the Pollard case. She spoke from the heart about her fears for the future based on what has happened to you. She said that she and her friends are now of army age and when they look at you, they are afraid to volunteer: afraid to take on dangerous missions; afraid to trust the leaders that will lead them into battle and then perhaps abandon them, just as they abandoned you. She repeated over and over again, if Ariel Sharon is permitted to abandon Jonathan, how can any of us know that he will not abandon you or me next? She called out to the nation to remove this blot from our moral conscience and national consciousness. She said that no one has the right to rest until you are safely home with us. She blessed you on your birthday and uttered a prayer that we as a nation will merit to celebrate with you here in Israel, very soon. Amain!
Another event that stands out for me involved one of the young people who showed up for the march. A lovely young woman with red hair and a kind smile marched beside me the last leg of the way to the Knesset, but never told me her name. She told me that her brother was killed in a terrorist attack two years ago and that if he were still alive she knows that he would be here marching with us as well. She asked me about your connection to the Iraqi nuclear reactor and about your operation in general. I told her all that I know, including how the US routinely received information about upcoming terrorist attacks on civilian targets in Israel; how every time this information landed on your desk you tried to get the information released to Israel to save Jewish lives, but were thwarted in your efforts, all the way up to the Pentagon. Her eyes widened and she said, "You mean the Americans knew when a terrorist attack was going to occur in Israel and they did nothing to prevent it?!"
"Yes," I said, "that is exactly what it means. Jonathan tried and tried but his superiors just ridiculed him or dismissed him and the terror attacks went forward without interference. There came a point when Jonathan could no longer bear watching the funerals of the victims on TV and he vowed to find a way to alert Israel on his own." With a look of horror on her face, she asked me, "Did Jonathan also know about the attack my brother was killed in?" "No" I said, "He was in prison two years ago, he could not have known."
She nodded and started to cry. We stopped walking and she fell into my arms and just sobbed as the realization sank in that if Jonathan, an American intelligence employee, knew about upcoming terrorist attacks years ago, then whoever is doing your job today likely also knows when those attacks are going to happen.... including the attack her brother was killed in. And they are still not telling us.
What could I say? She cried and cried and I gave her a tissue, and she apologized for breaking down, and told me that she could not help thinking about how many other people's brothers are alive today because of what Jonathan did back then and how glad she is for them and how sorry she is for her and her family that Jonathan was already in prison and could not save her brother ...
Sweetheart, I have been writing for hours and still haven't skimmed the surface of the wonderful, miraculous, spiritually rich texture of the entire event! Forgive me, but I have to take a moment or two for the more mundane side of things.
I don't know if it was a coincidence, but the larger the crowd grew and the louder the chanting and songs got, the more our presence opposite the Knesset was felt, and the more politicians began to show up to participate!
Among the ones who spoke were Minister Benny Elon, MK Mickey Eitan, MK Uri Ariel and Deputy Minister Yuli Edelstein. Interestingly enough, every single one mentioned recent conversations with PM Sharon about you, either privately or in the Knesset. In every instance, Sharon ordered the MKs to please back off and "Let me deal with this quietly". In every case, they replied that the government's track record of 18 years of dealing with Pollard "quietly" does nothing to inspire confidence and that they are not prepared to remain silent any longer. Each one insisted that they told Sharon something to the effect of "It is time for results; time to bring Pollard home now! We will no longer be silent until he is here with us."
I spoke with Benny Elon afterwards. He approached me to underscore his statements about not remaining quiet any longer and making lots of noise until you are home. I told him that we appreciate the sentiments and if, indeed, he and his colleagues are serious about not giving the Prime Minister any respite on this issue, then it can only help.
Channel One Television showed up to interview me and the Pollard Bear. The Pollard Bear likes being interviewed and would gladly have spoken out for you, but they did not ask him any questions. Instead, the interviewer cooed at me, "Esther, after all of Israel's efforts to bring Jonathan home, and now Prime Minister Sharon was just in Washington and tried again to get Jonathan and failed, why are you demonstrating here today?" (It was such a ridiculous question that the Bear looked like he was going to laugh. I signaled him to be quiet.) Looking straight into the camera, I responded, "When Prime Minister Sharon went to Washington, he left the petition for Jonathan's release signed by 112 Members of Knesset at home in Jerusalem. But he took with him the list of 400 terrorists that he is planning to set free! When asked by the Israeli media why he sidelined Jonathan during his Washington meeting, Sharon's office explained' that he did not want to hurt' his meeting with Bush by bringing up Pollard, and that he simply had more important things' to focus on. The message to the President about the importance of the Pollard issue to both Israel and Sharon, was very clear: forget about Pollard."
The reporter leaned close to me and declared, "Nevertheless, Esther! Nevertheless! Maybe something good is going to happen for Jonathan anyway?! Do you think so?" I very emphatically replied, "Yes!"
His eyes widened and his mouth dropped in surprise, "Really?! Do you know something?! What can you tell us?! Is Jonathan coming home?!"
"Yes," I said, "Jonathan is coming home!" Just look at that crowd out there!" As he was interviewing me, the speeches were still going on and the crowd was still loudly chanting and cheering and wildly calling out your name. Pointing to the Knesset, I continued," The people in that building may not hear the nation's cries for Jonathan and may not care, but every word, every slogan, every chant for Jonathan is heard in Heaven as a prayer. Salvation will not arise from the Knesset, but it will arise through the hand of the Almighty G-d of Israel. As for the Prime Minister and the politicians, al apam v'al chamatam! (Let them rant and rave!) In spite of them, Jonathan is coming home !" Amain!
Jonathan, no matter how much I write, I will never be able to tell you everything. Nor will I ever be able to accurately describe the sheer electricity in the air, the yearning for you, the devotion, the enthusiasm! The Ahavat Yisrael that your being arouses in our People is a truly stunning phenomenon. Let me at least summarize the overall impression that I was left with.
For the first time I feel that I can understand why you have always loved our People more than yourself and why you sacrificed yourself for them. I remember standing on the podium looking out at the crowd and thinking to myself, how fortunate we are to be a part of this People. I remember thinking over and over again throughout the event, now I know why Jonathan loves this People so. Their feelings for you were so apparent, so raw, so visceral, and just suffused with love and the longing to see you home. Moshe Mashiach Kashi - the man who lost 3 generations of his family in a terrorist attack last year; the one that you sent a cheque to and your gesture, he says, gave him the courage and the strength to carry on - he spoke passionately for you at the demonstration. He came up to me at one point and gestured to the crowd and said, "Look at us, look at how much we miss Jonathan. Look at how much we need him. We need him home more than anyone can describe!" And it is true, Jonathan, there is a real void that only your return can fill. An empty space in the collective heart of Israel that will never be whole until you are home. Your People need you home, every bit as much as you need to be home with them. May G-d have mercy on us all and speed you to us! Amain!
The demonstration ended as beautifully as it had begun. Eli signaled and the crowd rose to its feet as one. Two young children came to the microphone, a boy and a girl, and they led us in singing Hatikvah, the Israeli National anthem. When Hatikva ended, the more than 10, 000 people in attendance quite spontaneously joined hands, crossing their arms over their chests, and began to sway together gently from side to side, singing songs of Ahavat Yisrael.
The last photograph taken was of everyone standing together in Gan HaVradim, swaying hand in hand, singing "Acheinu, Kol Beit Yisrael" (All our Brothers, the Whole House of Israel.) The scene fades and dissolves as people begin to head back to their buses and cars for the trip home.
May the G-d of Israel bless us all, and may the next photograph of a Pollard event be the one of you stepping off of an airplane at Ben Gurion Airport and kneeling to kiss the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael with Acheinu Kol Beit Yisrael there to welcome you home. And soon! Amain!
Happy Birthday, my beloved Yehonatan!
all my love,
P.S. Yes, of course, the Pollard Bear will be the airport to welcome you home as well! Amain, ken yihi ratzon!