One Tough Jew

My Second Visit With Jonathan Pollard

Shmuel Sackett - Israelinsider - February 25, 2006

Most people grow up idolizing "stars" of one sort or another. Most of my friends idolized athletes, music stars or famous actors. As we grew older and more mature those icons changed. Today, my secular friends are mesmerized by successful businessmen or politicians while the more religious ones revere various Rebbes. For me, although my beard has turned white and half my hair has fallen out, the superstar in my life has not changed. I always did -- and always will -- idolize the "tough Jew".

In my Jewish dictionary, "tough" means a Jew who is unselfishly prepared to fight for his people. Sometimes that means standing up to an anti-Semite, with baseball bat in hand, to teach him that real Jewish heads are attached to real Jewish fists. Sometimes that means sacrificing the "good life" in America and putting one, and one's family, on the line in places like Elon Moreh, Shilo and Hebron. Sometimes that means putting a college career on hold to serve in the IDF and sometimes it means helping your country, with no personal benefit at all, and as a result, spending over 20 years in jail.

In a nutshell, that last example is the personal story of a great Jewish hero who Moshe Feiglin and I had the privilege to meet for the second time; the holy Jonathan Pollard. Over 20 years ago this Jew passed classified information to his beloved Israel. He knew that this was illegal so he first did everything in his power, appealing all the way up the chain of command to the Pentagon to have the legal flow of information to Israel restored. It was being illegally embargoed by the likes of Casper Weinberger and Bobby-Ray Inman. When all of his efforts to save Israel through legal channels failed, he determined to act on his own and provide the information to Israel despite the personal risk involved. His motive was pure and simple; That information was necessary to save the lives of thousands -- and possibly millions -- of Jews. He knew that if caught, he was risking substantial punishment and a serious term behind bars. He never dreamed that his arrest would turn into a show trial against Israel and the Jews, or that he would be sacrificing his future, his family and his life. Most of us would have run the other way. Not Jonathan. He gave up everything to fight for his people. In my world, he is in the Top Ten of Tough Jews and one whose presence I long to be in.

Twenty plus years of prison, most in solitary confinement and severe conditions, would have made an ordinary person bitter, angry and depressed. I can testify that Jonathan Pollard is none of those because he is not an ordinary person. His love for the Jewish People knows no bounds, his positive mental attitude is incredible and his mind is razor sharp. He is upbeat and happy. His beautiful smile was upon his face when he greeted Moshe and me and he cracked a few good jokes during our two hours together.

This does not mean he is not in pain. On the contrary, he is in a lot of pain. He is in physical pain all of the time; the result of numerous ailments caused by his long prison term and the harsh treatment he has endured. He is in pain from being betrayed by the Israeli government he worked for; in pain from the Jewish establishment, including most Rabbis, who have ignored him; and in pain from the international Jewish community who have forgotten him. He is in most pain from being prevented from being a real husband to his wife. Constant pain from the forced separations he must endure from her. But through it all, Jonathan Pollard has persevered. He longs for the day that he will be able to be with his beautiful wife, Esther, all day, every day, in Jerusalem. He yearns for the day when this nightmare will be over and he can go home to his Land and his People.

Our meeting was an interesting one. Jonathan spoke of the situation in Israel and expressed serious, heart-felt concern. The prison walls of Butner, North Carolina cannot break this man. Instead of speaking about himself and his situation, he spent most of the time talking about how to help Israel. He follows the news and is troubled by recent events.

Jonathan mentioned that he studies the Bible many hours a week and that he longs for a restoration of leadership in Israel, according to the paradigm of King Yosheyahu. As you will recall, (Kings II, chapters 22-24) this man became king at the tender age of 8. His grandfather was the wicked King Menashe who filled the Land of Israel with idols. When King Yosheyahu was 26 years old the High Priest found a Torah scroll and read portions of it to the king. This inspired him to begin the most massive "Return to G-d" movement in history! All idols were removed from the Land, the Passover sacrifice was reinstituted and Torah was taught to the masses. The next 13 years saw tremendous observance and study of Torah by the entire nation. Simply put, Yosheyahu became the greatest king in Jewish history. As it says, "Before him there had never been a king like him who returned to Hashem with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his resources, in accordance with the entire Torah of Moses, and after him no one arose like him." (Kings II, 23:25)

In addition to learning and teaching, King Yosheyahu was also a great fighter who did not allow the king of Egypt, Pharoah Neco to pass through the Land of Israel. Unfortunately, because of the enormous sins committed by Yosheyahu's grandfather, Menashe, G-d removed His presence from Israel and Pharoah Neco killed the great Yosheyahu in a major battle in Megiddo.

Jonathan told us that he studied these chapters of Biblical hundreds of times. He has read every commentary available to him and is convinced that we need a modern day King Yosheyahu who will restore honor, dignity and glory to the Jewish Nation. All I kept thinking is how amazing this man is! He doesn't talk about himself, doesn't sulk and brood and refuses to get depressed. Instead he talks about leadership for Israel, restoring Jewish pride and finding a new King Yosheyahu!!!

I came to give my friend, Jonathan, strength and wound up leaving strengthened by him! This is what I meant at the top of this article by "tough Jews". I love these people. They motivate me to fight for my people. They inspire me to overcome failure and keep pressing on. They teach by example and live a life of meaning and service to G-d.

When I told my son in Israel about my visit with Jonathan he told me something amazing. On Tu B'shvat, the Jewish New Year for trees, he and his friend planted a fruit tree in our settlement. When they were finished planting my son looked at the little tree and offered the following prayer; "May Jonathan Pollard sit under this tree and eat its fruit".

May that prayer come to FRUITion, soon -- in our day! Amen!

The author, Shmuel Sackett, is the International Director of Manhigut Yehudit.

  • See Also: Moshe Feiglin Discusses His Recent Visit with Jonathan Pollard: Arutz7