Part II: Esther Pollard Updates Jonathan About Recent Events in Israel
RE: Honorary Citizenship; FM Silvan Shalom; MK Gilad Erdan's New Bill, The Birthday Demonstration and More
Justice4JP Release - August 7, 2003
My Beloved Yehonatan!
Happy Birthday, Darling! May the Almighty grant that this be the last birthday that you spend behind bars. May he speedily return you home to us in health and in strength to celebrate your birthday here in Eretz HaKodesh, and soon! Amain!
At the Honorary Citizenship ceremony in Gush Katif on Monday, the young people presented me with a birthday cake they baked for you. It is fantastic! It is a big cake decorated with white icing and a very large key on top! The key is a segula for your speedy release. The cake is here in the refrigerator and waiting for your return. It takes up the whole bottom shelf; hope you get here soon!
The Head of the Gaza Coast Regional Council, Avner Shimoni, presented me with a beautiful framed certificate for you which reads:
This is to certify that Citizen Yehonatan Pollard is now recognized a Citizen and Honorary Member of The Gaza Coast Regional Council (Hevel Katif).
This honor is bestowed with love and appreciation as an expression of gratitude on the part of the citizens of the Gaza Strip in recognition of the bravery and self sacrifice you demonstrated in order to save the lives of the citizens of Israel.
The certificate is signed by Avner Shimoni and dated the 8th of Av, 2003.
Shimoni made his presentation to me after listening to the talk that I gave to a packed community center in Gush Katif. The crowd was so large that it spilled out of the main hall and into the corridors outside. I addressed both the past history of the Pollard case and current political developments. In response to questions, I explained the 18-year failure of the government of Israel and the American Jewish leadership to show any integrity or any honest initiative to resolve the Pollard case. I illustrated with many examples including the most recent fashla concerning the MKs petition to the American president which Sharon himself signed and then refused to deliver.
Shimoni began his presentation to me by thanking me from the bottom of his heart for my speech. He said that he always knew that the Pollard issue was important and that the State of Israel owes you and that it is disgraceful how you have been treated. "But," he said, "until I heard you speak tonight, I never really understood deep in my heart, right to the depths of my soul, why Jonathan's release is a deeply personal issue for me and for every single citizen of Israel; and why each of us must do everything we can to spread this awareness and to bring him home without delay."
Shimoni said that everything that I had said about the Israeli Government abandonment's of you and their indifference to your fate tracks with his own recent experience on the matter. He told us of his meeting earlier in the day with Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. This is the story that I mentioned in my last letter to you. Here is how it goes:
Shimoni happened to run into Silvan Shalom - unplanned- and they stopped to talk. Shimoni mentioned that the Gaza Regional Council is making a special solidarity evening for Jonathan Pollard that night, and that he would be given honorary citizenship and be made an honorary member of the Regional Council. Shalom allowed as how that was very nice and started to talk about you and about the case at length.
Shimoni said that he was very taken with the depth of Shalom's knowledge about Pollard and with the vastness of his expertise on the case. This does not surprise you or me, Jonathan, since we know that Silvan Shalom was previously the Deputy Minister of Defense. As such, he had access to your file and he knows not only the injustice perpetrated by the Americans but also the dirty deeds and sabotage that Israel has engaged in.
Seeing how knowledgeable and how interested Silvan Shalom appeared, Shimoni asked him, "So tell me, what is the story. Why didn't Sharon take the petition to Bush?"
Shalom said, "It was Sharon's call. He is the Prime Minister and it was his call."
Shimoni persisted, "So why didn't YOU give the petition to Bush?!"
Shalom replied, "I did not go to America with Sharon, so I couldn't."
Shimoni, "Then why don't you give it to Bush now?"
Shalom, "There is no reason to."
This response only made Shimoni more determined. He told Shalom that leaving Pollard to languish is an outrage that screams to the Heavens and he demanded to know what the Government of Israel is doing about it. That was when Silvan Shalom revealed his true colors.
He smiled and told Shimoni to relax, that there is no great urgency to do anything for Pollard because, "Pollard is at the end of his sentence and will automatically be released within a year or two." - AN OUTRIGHT LIE! Shalom was trying to play Shimoni for a fool, but Shimoni was no fool and handed it right back to him.
Shimoni's eyes grew wide and his mouth dropped open and he said to Shalom, "I can't believe that you are saying that! Pollard's sentence is not ending! It has no end! How is it, Silvan, that you are such an expert on the Pollard case and you do not know that Jonathan's life sentence is without limit?!!"
After Shimoni told this story, he wished us strength and perseverance and then he presented me with the beautiful certificate for you. I thanked him profusely for the certificate and for sharing his story with us. I also told Shimoni to reconsider Sharon's perfidious behavior towards you in the light of what he now knows about the attitude of one of Sharon's senior ministers, Silvan Shalom. If a senior minister is willing to resort to an outright lie in order to stem interest and action for Jonathan Pollard, then it is no wonder the Prime Minister is able to get away with blatantly abandoning him!
I then asked permission to tell a story related to Silvan Shalom of my own. I told Shimoni about the special solidarity meeting of ministers and their wives that was held for you at Silvan Shalom's house in Ramat Gan circa 1996. He and his wife hosted the meeting. That was the first time I told the story of how you had been treated at USP Lewisberg. We did not share it publicly or on the web until 2001. Here's an excerpt of what we have on the web.
Taken from: An Unusual Snapshot of American Justice:
"...They arrived at USP Lewisberg. It was December and it was cold. Jonathan was thrown into a dungeon cell in the basement. His clothes and his glasses were taken away. He was left naked. No bedding, no blankets, - no bed at all - just a hard metal slab to sleep on. Other than that the cell was empty except for an open toilet that could not be flushed from the inside. No diversions, no books, no paper or pens, no television, radio or newspaper - just the bitter cold chilling him to the bone.
Periodically the guards would take Jonathan out of his dungeon cell "to shower". They chained him to the shower stall, and in the dead of winter turned on the cold water full blast. They left him there, chained to the shower stall with the ice cold water beating down upon him for what was perhaps an hour, but what felt to Jonathan like an eternity. Jonathan said it took every ounce of strength he possessed to will himself to stay alive.
Jonathan was held at Lewisberg - incommunicado - for a month. No one knew where he was. His attorneys filed in court to find him. The sentencing judge, Aubrey Robinson, shocked by Jonathan's sudden disappearance, issued a court order to force the Justice Department to return him to Washington."
I told Shimoni that the ministers and their wives gathered at Silvan Shalom's house that day were deeply troubled by this story and others they heard from me. One of them who was dumbfounded by what she heard, and came over to tell me as much, was Natan Sharansky's wife, Avital. (By the way Jonathan, there isn't a day that goes by that someone doesn't ask me why Sharansky has never done anything to help you.)
When the solidarity meeting ended, everyone - including Avital - told me that they were bound and determined to help you. They said that they needed to talk among themselves to figure out what to do and they would be back in touch with me as soon as they could formulate a plan. To this day, I am still waiting for them to get back in touch with me!
I finished telling the story and again thanked Shimoni and all of the citizens of the Gaza Region for having me and for bestowing this honor upon you. I expressed the hope that G-d grant us the merit to return to Gush Katif again very soon to celebrate Jonathan's return with the citizens of the region, and everyone responded loudly and enthusiastically, "Amain!".
Jonathan, about the meeting at Silvan Shalom's house above. Do you remember what happened at that meeting with Yuli Edelstein's wife, Tatanya? I asked Karen (Dub) today if she remembered - she was there too - and she did.
Edelstein's wife started a real ruckus when she began to berate me for sharing with the ministers and their wives verbal snapshots of the abuse, privation, and pain you have been made to suffer in prison. She insisted that you do not have it so bad and that her husband, Yuli, had suffered much worse than you in the 3 years he was in prison. She was adamant that since you are not in the Gulag there is no need for any real concern. I responded to her at the time saying that the comparison is offensive; that NO comparison is in order; that whatever Yuli went through was for only 3 years as opposed to Jonathan's on-going ordeal which has lasted nearly 2 decades; that Yuli is no longer in harm's way but Jonathan is; and if you want to help Jonathan then please drop these spurious comparisons and let's get down to work.
But she wouldn't stop; she seemed to want some kind of special recognition for her husband and had no problem with trying to get it by disparaging the seriousness of your situation. The other ministers' wives finally told her to be quiet, but I remember this unpleasant episode very vividly.
You are probably wondering why I brought that up. I relived this episode at the Pollard Demonstration on Tuesday and it brought the whole thing back in Technicolor for me and for Karen and for Eleonora, who was also there at the time. Here is what happened on Tuesday:
Yuli Edelstein showed up at the Demonstration. He told Eli he would like to speak to the crowd and Eli put him on the roster. When I arrived at the podium where Edelstein was seated, he greeted me like an old friend. I did not take his hand. I was polite though and smiled tersely and said, "It has been a long time since we've seen you around." He looked embarrassed but did not respond.
When his turn to speak came, he began by talking about how he prays for you in synagogue every Saturday. He said that at every opportunity he encourages others to pray for you and to say a 'mishberach' for you. He continued in this vein and I sat there thinking to myself, "Buddy, if you were a private citizen this would be nice, but you are a Government Minister. For a Government Minister to rely on prayers to help Jonathan Pollard while doing absolutely nothing else is not only an outrage it is a chillul HaShem!"
I continued to listen, curious to hear what he would say next. What I heard was a cunning repeat of his wife's performance at Silvan Shalom's house years ago. He soft-pedaled but made it very clear that 'Jonathan is ONLY in an American prison, whereas HE (Yuli) was in a Soviet Gulag; but nevertheless even though Jonathan is NOT in the Gulag, and ONLY in an American prison; all the same, prison is still prison; especially since he has been in for so long; so even though it is not as bad for Jonathan as it was for ME (Yuli), we still have to help Jonathan.'
I wanted to vomit. Eleonora wanted to take him apart. She told me afterwards that she was shocked that I did not respond to him. I told her that I did not have to respond to him because I was watching the crowd's response. He did not have their attention. They were restless and disinterested. Many people were getting up and moving around. They seemed to know that Yuli's speech was really about him, not about Jonathan. They did not cheer any of his words, and they applauded only perfunctorily when he finished speaking, mainly out of relief. What could I add to that?
By the way, did I tell you that Azzam Azzam's brother came to the demonstration on Tuesday? He came to speak with me when it was over. I introduced him to Larry and the 3 of us talked. Azzam's family is frustrated and angry at the way that Israel is mishandling his release. He said that if Israel wants to free Azzam, all they have to do is to see to it that the US releases you and then Egypt will have no excuse for holding his brother. He said that he had been invited to the Knesset earlier in the day to meet with visiting US legislators and Israeli MKs. He said that he had no patience for their platitudes and solicitous comments. He told the Americans, "You know very well that if you wanted my brother to go free, he would be free. You KNOW how to do it! All you have to do is release Pollard and Mubarak will release Azzam Azzam. You know very well that my bother's freedom is linked to Pollard, but you don't care."
Speaking of the Knesset, MK Mickey Eitan is scheduled to meet with Arik Sharon today to ask him why he refused to take the MKs petition for your release to President Bush. Mickey told us that a number of people - even one MK who is a rabbi - tried to discourage him from attending the meeting with Sharon today since it is scheduled for Tisha B'Av, a very inauspicious date for the Jewish People. To his credit, Mickey contacted your rabbi and asked if he should decline the meeting with Sharon. HaRav Eliyahu assured Eitan that he should attend the meeting and that G-d's blessing will be with him in his mission. "But what about all the bad luck on Tisha B'Av?" asked Mickey. The Rav assured him that Tisha B'Av also has its positive side since our tradition teaches that the Moshiach (the redeemer) is born on Tisha B'Av! So Mickey happily went.
You asked about media coverage of the Demonstration other than my interview with Channel One. Yes the media covered the event. Perhaps it did not get as much coverage as it deserved, but there were a number of news items about it. Only the Jerusalem Post, which has difficulty restraining its clearly inimical editorial position on the Pollard case, did not report on it. Not a word about the protest march or demonstration was mentioned in the Post before or after it took place, though it was mentioned in all the other papers.
Which reminds me. Someone brought a copy of the last Friday's edition of the Jerusalem Post (August 1) to the Demonstration to show me. The Post invested a full page on the Pollard issue. The top one third of the page contained an artistically feeble, morally offensive cartoon lampooning you. Fortunately, it was so poorly done that no one could understand it. But they did get that it was hostile to you.
The bottom two thirds of the page was divided so that more than half of the space went to an article advocating a lame and spurious case for your continued incarceration; with far less space given to David Kirshenbaum to present the case for your release. One has to marvel at the self-abasement that the Jerusalem Post is engaging in. Can you imagine any other national newspaper openly participating in the savaging of its own national agent, encouraging in the prolongation of his ordeal?
Ruth Matar told me she tried to read the negative article about you in the Post but that it made no sense logically or morally so she gave up. Pretty much what we have heard from others as well. If someone is looking for an excuse - not a reason, an excuse - for not supporting the justness of the Pollard cause, then they will find succor in this kind of garbage. No honest person will pay it any mind.
When did I see Ruth, you ask. Last night at the annual Women In Green Tisha B'Av Walk Around the Walls of Jerusalem. I introduced Nadia Matar to the Pollard Bear last night; he also participated in the walk. She laughed and pointed to her T-shirt and lo and behold she was wearing her "Free Pollard Now!" T-shirt. As the organizer of last night's event, it was very nice of her to use the opportunity to call attention to your plight. I noticed that there were a lot of people at the event wearing Pollard T-shirts. Nadia also mentioned you in her speech last night. She said, (this is a translation.)
"...Instead of struggling for the return home of the POWs and the missing soldiers and for the release of our brother Jonathan Pollard, the government of Israel is releasing those Arabs who murdered Jews, and promises to them and their leaders to give over extensive parts of our homeland in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza District, so that they will be able to establish a death-state, a state whose entire raison d'tre is the destruction of the State of Israel and the destruction of the Jews..."
Before I forget, I am enclosing an article for you about MK Gilad Erdan's new bill in the Knesset. Erdan wants to bind the Government of Israel to secure your release as a condition of any signed agreement it makes with the P.A. There have been a slew of these articles but in case you haven't seen this one, it is from the Jerusalem Post and entitled: Bill Would Pressure US to Free Pollard. I will also send it to Andrew for posting to the web but just for the record, not because we expect anything to come of this.
Gilad Erdan is young and idealistic. He is a novice politician and he wants to help. He deserves to be praised for his enthusiasm and his initiative, but he is nave if he thinks that the Government of Israel will show any respect for this bill if it becomes law. This Prime Minister never lets himself be bothered by written agreements one way or the other. He makes concessions, and frees terrorists and murderers even when it is NOT in the written agreement (ex. The Roadmap); and ignores obligations and legal responsibilities even when it is in a written agreement (ex. your Israeli court documents.) Previous Prime Ministers ran their own little dictatorships as well, never really caring what the law limits them to. Nevertheless, it is nice that Erdan is at least trying to help, which is more than can be said for most
Before I end, your cousin Brian from Beantown sent you a note and a joke. His note says that he misses speaking with you as he did in the old days when you were college buddies and the joke follows below.
In the meantime, I am going to sign off and leave you to your laughter.
Happy Birthday again, Jonathan, love of my life and light of my soul! You are my reason for living, for laughing, for breathing! G-d willing, very soon we will celebrate together, forever! Amain!
All my love, now and forever, your own,
P.S. Here's the joke Brian wrote to you. He said that the word "Republican" can be interchanged with the name of any political party:
Republicans in Hell
While walking down the street one day, a Republican head of state is tragically hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
"Welcome to Heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you."
"No problem, just let me in." says the Republican.
"Well, I'd like to but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in Hell and one in Heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity."
"Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in Heaven," says the Republican head of state.
"I'm sorry but we have our rules." And with that, St. Peter escorts the Republican to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to Hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a club and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him, everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, hug him, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster and caviar. Also present is the Devil (a Republican, too), who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes.
They are having such a good time that, before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a big hug and waves while the elevator rises. The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on Heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.
"Now it's time to visit Heaven." So 24 hours pass with the Republican head of state joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.
"Well then, you've spent a day in Hell and another in Heaven. Now choose your eternity."
He reflects for a minute, then the head of state answers: "Well, I would never have thought it, I mean Heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in Hell."
So Saint Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to Hell. Now the doors of the elevator open and he is in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags. The Devil comes over to the Republican and lays an arm on his neck.
"I don't understand," stammers the Republican head of state. Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and club and we ate lobster and caviar and danced and had a great time. Now all there is a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable.
The Devil looks at him, smiles and says, "Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted for us!"