Jonathan Pollard Freedom Forest Event A Great Success!
J4JP Release - February 8, 2004
Upwards of 10,000 people took a 4 hour trip today (to and from Jerusalem) to participate in the planting of the Jonathan Pollard Freedom Forest at a site south of Be'ersheva. The Pollard Freedom Forest is located in the wilderness, some five miles off the main road. A new road to the forest was paved last Friday in preparation for today's ceremony.
Entertainment at the event was provided by Aaron Razel, Ariel Zilber and other top name Israeli entertainers. The enormous crowd was lively and clapped and cheered and chanted slogans calling on PM Sharon to bring Pollard home. (Yehonatan HaBayta! Yehonatan Habayta!)
In addition to the thousands of adults who participated in the event, hundreds of buses brought in young people from all over the country. J4JP notes that no help whatsoever was lent by the Ministry of Education or the established Youth Movement Organizations which usually provides transportation to such events. But the youngsters were not deterred and arranged their own buses! Participants included youth from ORT, the Scouts, Shomer HaTzair, religious schools, yeshivas, kibbutzim, the military academies and from every possible background across the political and religious spectrum.
Jonathan's rav, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, The Honorable Rav Mordecai Eliyahu, whose health did not permit him to attend sent the following blessing:
"It is a great mitzvah to participate in the planting of a forest in honor of a living hero of Israel, Jonathan Pollard, who sacrificed himself on our behalf. There are two great mitzvahs involved: the Mitzvah of Planting the Land of Israel and the battle for the Mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim... Ashrei kol ha'mishtatfeem! Blessings upon all the participants! May it be HaShem's will that we should all speedily merit to see Jonathan here in Israel and to all participate with him in celebrating our joy, and that of his wife and of all Israel!"
Official speakers at the event included Ministers Israel Katz and Dani Naveh as well as MKs Gilad Erdan and Orit Noked. Eli Joseph, the initiator of this event and its driving force spoke as well. Joseph put aside his own prepared speech to read a letter which Jonathan Pollard had personally prepared for the event. Pollard's letter was read in Hebrew. It appears below in English, and can also be viewed in Russian on the Arutz7 Russian web site. The Hebrew website www.freepollard.org carries the original Hebrew version that was read today.
Jonathan's Divrei Bracha at Planting of Jonathan Pollard Freedom Forest
Acheinu HaYikarim, Kol Beit Yisrael, Shalom ooVracha!
I hope and I pray with all of my strength and all of my heart to stand before you in person and speak these words... No matter what the future holds, Esther and I are with you today fully in thought and in spirit.
This official Israeli Government ceremony marking the establishment of The Jonathan Pollard Freedom Forest, is an extraordinary event, an important moment in Jewish history.
Why is this event so extraordinary? Because it is a great Kiddush HaShem which is taking place during a morally-debased and very turbulent era in our history. It is an oasis of purity and holiness in a wilderness of brazen corruption.
These are unusually troubled times, and Israel is fighting not only for its life but for its very soul:
These are times of extreme poverty. An unacceptably large percentage of Israeli children go to sleep hungry every night. They wake up hungry, they go to school hungry and they go to sleep hungry again. Why? Unemployment is rampant. There are no jobs. Even those who are employed simply aren't making enough money to make ends meet. And why is that?
A gross failure by our leaders to ensure the country's national security, coupled with personal greed and a lust for power have essentially destroyed the Israeli economy and forced upon us a humiliating addiction to American foreign aid. As a condition of American foreign aid, we have repeatedly trashed our own military and civilian industries to buy American goods. Now, an industrious nation that loves to work and to produce, can find no jobs for idle hands, and our children go to sleep hungry.
In accepting American sovereignty over us, we have lost far more than our independence; we have lost our national pride. Without national pride, we lack the will to stand up for our own national interests. We have become cowards, afraid to defend our own interests, and afraid even to defend our own lives.
Fear envelopes our country. Our streets, our shopping malls, pizzerias, synagogues, buses and cafes have become killing fields. Our people ride in bulletproof buses and cars, equipped with protective screens. But the enemy does not cower in bulletproof vehicles. The enemy lives comfortably in our midst. The enemy walks free and mocks us.
Our leaders talk out of both sides of their mouths to reassure us. They tell us that we are "making peace." They ignore every atrocity perpetrated upon our people. Our boys and girls, our mothers and fathers, our children and our lifeblood are sacrificed daily on the altar of "peace."
Our leaders rationalize the destruction of Jewish settlements and synagogues. They are so fearful of "world opinion" that they cannot even contemplate destroying a vicious enemy in our midst, much less destroying those mosques and churches which harbor terrorists and stockpiles of explosives and arms.
Graft and corruption amongst our leaders is so all pervasive that it is now the norm. Our top level politicians routinely, callously deceive the People of Israel. And a weary nation, overcome by incessant tragedy and grief has become indifferent to the corruption and lies of leaders who continually subvert the nation's affairs to their own.
Only days ago, our Prime Minister stood up in Cabinet and declared that freeing 463 murderers and terrorists to secure the release of 1 Israeli and the return of 3 dead bodies was "the moral choice" and "the right and decent thing to do." He justified this chillul HaShem as the "mitzvah of pidyan shvuyim." And no one opposed him.
Not a single Minister had the courage of conviction to stand up and tell the Prime Minister: Stop! This is NOT the mitzvah of pidyan shvuyim! This is a chillul HaShem! This is Laag LaRash to Ron Arad, to Zacharia Baumel, to Tzvi Feldman, to Yehuda Katz, and to all of the nation. It is a grave sin against the dead and an act of utter contempt towards the living!
But that is not all. At the funeral ceremony for the 3 dead captives, Shaul Mofaz, the Minister of Defense publicly betrayed all of our soldiers. He reiterated Israel's commitment to bring home all of our MIAs and captives, mentioning them all by name and even including the civilian, Azzam Azzam. Only my name was omitted. The Minister of Defense, the man who is directly responsible for my file as an Israeli captive and for my fate as an Israel agent in peril, did not even mention my name - and not a single word of protest was raised.
By leaving me out, the Minister of Defense of the State of Israel demonstrated his fear of and his subservience to the Americans. He effectively sent a clear message to all of our soldiers: that not all who serve the State are equal; that Israel does not and will not stand behind all of her boys equally, but will pick and chose whom to rescue and whom to abandon according to craven political considerations; not moral or decent ones.. And again, no one protested.
At FCI Butner, in the prison TV room, I watched CNN as terrorist chieftains Sheik Obeid and Mustapha Dirani alighted from the plane which carried them to freedom. They were thronged by crowds rejoicing at their arrival and singing songs of victory. As I watched, I imagined the family of Ron Arad and how they must feel watching this scene. Ron's family KNOWS and we KNOW that Ron is alive and still waiting for us to rescue him. Dirani and Obeid were supposed to be the bargaining chips for Ron's release.... I have no doubt that Ron's captors forced him to watch their release on TV.
As I watched this spectacle, I began to feel deeply ashamed. I felt humiliated. I felt ill. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to scream. But as a prisoner, giving vent to one's emotions is a risky proposition and may have severe consequences. So I just slumped down in my seat, and covered my face with my hands and sat there in utter despair.
A guard in the TV room approached me. He began to mock me. "Hey Pollard!" he said, "Looks like your People made a bad deal!" I removed my hands from my eyes and looked at him. He continued, "Tell me Pollard, if your Government gives a damn about you, why are those guys (Obeid and Dirani) free and you're still sitting here?" I did not respond. All I was thinking is how much worse Ron Arad was probably experiencing from his captors now. The guard sat down next to me. Trying to draw me into conversation, he said, "Tell me Pollard. Was it worth it? You gave your heart and soul for that country. You've been in prison for nearly 20 years, and they don't give a damn about you. Was it worth it?" I never answered him. But I will answer you:
My service to Israel was not on behalf of a particular government or party. I did not volunteer my services to advance political ambitions or goals. My only desire, my only aim was to protect and defend and save the People of Israel. Every single person who is here today to plant a tree in the Jonathan Pollard Freedom Forest is the reason I risked my freedom and paid so high a price. And if you want to ask me if it was worth it, without a second's hesitation, my answer is an emphatic: Yes! Yes, you are worth it! Yes! Without question and without a single doubt, you are worth it!
Today's ceremony stands in stark contrast to another Government ceremony held last week which welcomed home the Israeli citizen and the 3 dead soldiers. That ceremony conferred well-deserved honors upon the 3 dead soldiers and their families. Like all of the nation, Esther and I appreciated that. But the immoral route which our leaders took to secure these 3 bodies for Israeli burial has brought our nation to its knees, has destroyed our morale and wounded our soul. Our leaders have added new depth to our level of national humiliation. They have shown us just how low we can sink. How ugly we can be. How we can subvert hallowed concepts like the mitzvah of pidyan shvuyim in such a debased and perverted way, that any victory obtained is shallow and leaves a bitter taste in our mouths.
Today's ceremony is the diametric opposite. Today, by showing solidarity with an Israeli agent in peril, you give honor to all who serve the State and you remind them, that just as you do not forget Jonathan Pollard, you will not forget a single soldier in the field. In doing so, you are practicing the true mitzvah of pidyan shvuyim, as it was meant to be. You are demonstrating all of those uniquely Jewish traits that characterize us as a nation: national honor, commitment, loyalty, righteousness, truthfulness, and faithfulness. Today, with purity of heart, you demonstrate the 3 virtues which characterize a Jew: you are a fine model of how the Jewish nation are bayshaneem, rachmaneem and gomlei chasadeem.
Your expressions of kindness, comfort and appreciation to me today are deeply touching.
I am grateful for the encouragement you offer. Your participation today, affirming the concept of "Kol Yisrael arevim zeh l'zeh" is a credit to our Nation and brings honor to The G-d of Israel. In short, Esther and I are deeply honored to be a part of such a principled event in honor of the mitzvah of pidyan shvuyim, which is a true Kiddush HaShem.
Equally important is the mitzvah of Planting the Land of Israel, which we are fulfilling here today. There can be no more meaningful way to reaffirm our commitment to the Land of Israel than by planting trees. With each tree planted, we are affirming our love of the Land and our eternal attachment to it. With each tree planted, our roots are sunk deeper into the Land. With each tree planted, we are assuring our future in Eretz Yisrael. We plant not for ourselves, but for our children and for all generations to come, with G-d's help.
The trees that we plant today will outlive us and outlast us, just as our love for G-d, Torah and the Land of Israel will outlive and outlast the hatred that our enemies have spewed upon us. Our trees will not be uprooted from the Land, and neither shall we. Our trees will bear fruit and multiply and so will we! With the help of G-d, in spite of our trials and tribulations, just like the trees, we and our children and our children's children shall overcome a difficult environment and all of our hardships and we will thrive! (Amain!)
Esther joins me in expressing our thanks to Minister of Agriculture Israel Katz. It was his hard work and dedication that made this event a reality today. Thanks are also due to MK Gilad Erdan and MK Orit Noked who worked hand in hand with Minister Katz.
Our most heartfelt thanks to Eli Joseph, the initiator and driving force behind this and so many of the Pollard projects - a true Jewish hero in his own right. All our respect to Eli and to all of the tireless and precious activists who work with him. We are deeply indebted to all of our activists the veterans and the newly enlisted, the young and the old - we salute you all. Without you, none of us would be here today!
Very special thanks to my Jerusalem attorney, Larry Dub, for his endless support and active participation in this event today.
To the Ministry of Education which refused to have anything to do with this event or any other Pollard activity past or present, we say no thanks. Your failure to educate students about all of the truly important Jewish values we have spoken of here today demonstrates how much things must change in the field of Israeli education if we want to ensure our survival as a Nation.
Achron acharon, chaviv! Esther and I want to express our appreciation and thanks to all of the participants here today. We take great pride in you. You make us feel fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful Nation. All our respect to you! And all of our love and appreciation to you! May you go from strength to strength and may you grow, like the trees we are planting today, to be shining models for all of Israel.
May the young faces in the crowd today - and thank G-d there are so many young faces at every Pollard event - be the faces of tomorrow's leaders and heroes in Israel. You are the generation of hope. I look at you and for the first time I can see a future for our People. You are the ones who have the vision and the morality to cleanse our nation of its sins and to restore Israel to its rightful place as a light amongst the nations and as a delight to our Creator. May G-d bless you all! May your wisdom increase and your strength be straight! May you soon lead us to a time where we can be proud Jews in our own Land. May this be the generation to throw off the yoke of gentile oppression and to restore G-d's might and power and glory to the land and the people of Israel! And May G-d bless us all! (Amain! Ken Yihi Ratzon!)