Rabbis, Azzam Urge Pollard Release

Mati Wagner - The Jerusalem Post - May 3, 2005

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger and Azam Azam, who was recently released from an Egyptian prison, joined over a thousand people at Safra Square in Jerusalem on Tuesday to call for the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew serving a life sentence in the US for spying for Israel.

The demonstration was launched with a live telephone message from Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who for the last several weeks has been bound to his home by body guards after Israeli intelligence discovered an assassination plot against him by Islamic terrorist groups.

"Everything Jonathan did was for the sake of God," said Yosef. "It is imperative that anyone who is in a position to help must do everything in his power to help."

Azam Azam, an Israeli Arab who was sentenced to 15 years in an Egyptian jail for purportedly passing on Egyptian state secrets to Israel, added his voice to the call for Pollard's release.

"The Jewish people cannot forget Pollard," he said in an emotional speech before the predominantly religious and haredi crowd, many of whom were yeshiva students on Pessah vacation.

The large of proportion of haredim in the crowd are likely the result of a three-month campaign sponsored by Radio Kol Chai, a haredi radio station, which has been airing jingles of prominent rabbis calling for the release of Pollard. Among the rabbis featured were Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, Rabbi Meir Israel Lau and others.

Azam Azam conjured up his own experiences from his Egyptian prison stint, he was released in December 2004 after serving eight years of a 15 year sentence, but added that his unjustified punishment paled in comparison to Pollard's 20-year incarceration.

"What I suffered is nothing compared to what he must be suffering," said Azam.

Metzger, who met with Pollard for four hours in his maximum security prison cell in Marion, Illinois about a year ago, described Pollard as a "strong, proud Jew" who was suffering tremendous hardship at the hands of his incarcerators.

"I came to comfort and found myself being comforted," said Metzger.

"I saw an oily kippah on Jonathan's head and asked him how long he had been wearing it," recounted Metzger. "He told me 15 years. I asked if he wanted mine. He said, 'I do but 'they' won't let me'.

"I noticed that the nosepiece of his glasses were broken and were cutting into the skin, almost to the point of bleeding. I asked if I could arrange for a new pair to be sent. He said, 'I would love that but 'they' won't let me'."

Metzger said the time for diplomacy had passed and every attempt had to be made to appeal directly to American leaders to release Pollard.

In November 1985, the FBI arrested Pollard, a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, on charges of passing classified material to Israel. Pollard was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment, the most severe prison term ever given for spying for an ally.

Pollard denied spying against the United States. He said he provided only information he believed was vital to Israeli security and was being withheld by the Pentagon. This included data on Soviet arms shipments to Syria, Iraqi and Syrian chemical weapons, the Pakistani atomic bomb project and Libyan air defense systems.

Justice4JP Note:

Radio Kol Chai and the Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home, the sponsors of the rally, report that some 2500 people attended. They note the unusually large turn-out for a rally which was held at mid-day during a regular work-day and school- day which precluded thousands of other from attending.