We are guilty on account of our brother Jonathan

Professor Neriya Gutel - YNET - March 28, 2007 - [May be reprinted]
Translated to English by J4JP

"We are guilty on account of our brother, that we saw his suffering when he pleaded with us and we did not listen." [Genesis 42:21]

How can we recline like free men and women at the Seder this year, recite the Haggadah and enjoy a festive meal - when Jonathan Pollard is not free? Ladies and gentlemen, it is 22 years that Prisoner of Zion Jonathan Pollard has not been able to celebrate the Seder as a free man--and we are to blame!

If last year's Passover is any indication, we can guess what's in store for Jonathan this year. This is what he wrote about last year's Seder: "I will not have a Pesach Seder at all. No shmura matza, no wine, no reclining like a free man. During the week of the chag (festival), I will be busy washing windows and cleaning bathroom toilets -- exactly like any other week. I am completely alone here without family, friends or visitors. My heart is broken at the knowledge that my beloved Esther and I will both "celebrate" the Festival of Freedom as prisoners."

Every single one of us who does not act on Jonathan's behalf, who does not suffer pangs of conscience over his desperate plight, is guilty. This is not the time or the place for quibbling over who is more guilty and who is less; who did or didn't do what they should have done. What we all agree is the unequivocal fact that Jonathan Pollard, our brother and flesh and blood, is incarcerated in prison and is not free. It is also indisputable that he did what he did on our behalf--on behalf of the Jewish nation in Zion. Finally, it is common knowledge that the price he has paid for his deed --22 years behind bars and still counting--has long exceeded the accepted term of punishment for similar offenses. Here, too, we will not delve into the question of why him and for what reason. All these are useless questions for the moment, and we set them aside.

It is time to speak plainly and bluntly: we face an emergency situation. Reliable sources update us with grim facts relating to Jonathan's disintegrating health. His immune system is collapsing and his blood pressure is off the charts. He has high cholesterol, chronic arthritis, glaucoma, painful gall-bladder attacks, and tumors in his sinuses that may be malignant. He suffers from bleeding and vertigo, nausea and headaches. Add to all this a lack of Kosher food--especially on Pesach. Yes, the situation is horrific: Jonathan's Pollard's life is as stake.

We have heard that the present time period is a political time of grace. There are hints from the President that the possibility of Pollard's release from jail before Passover is not without merit. Former CIA director James Woolsey, together with other high ranking officials in the American government, are publicly calling for Pollard's release. What is now required is an official request from the State of Israel as well as a vigorous appeal from world-wide Jewry.

This is the time to petition the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, Congressman and Senators, governors, public figures and journalists--to move heaven and earth in a public outcry to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard. We must tell them that we do not come with legal arguments or claims; instead, we simply ask for mercy and grace in the form of an immediate commutation of his life sentence. The relations between our governments are such that it can and should be done immediately. We must thrust aside past arguments and focus on the future; we believe that the United States government will garner much respect by granting clemency to Jonathan Pollard.

Each and every one of us must ask themselves what they can do; in prayer and in deed. [Jonathan's name for prayer purposes is Yehonatan ben Malka.]The possibilities for activism range from exploiting personal contacts in the media and in public opinion (here as well as in the United States) as well as writing /publicizing on Pollard's behalf in Internet sites and various email forums. Other possibilities include putting pressure on Knesset members and ministers, and on the American embassy. We all share the same goal: to see Jonathan join us here in Israel.

Last year, Jonathan concluded his Passover message with the following sentence: "May this Passover be a true festival of freedom--for the public as well as the individual -- may it be a Passover of wonders and miracles for all the prisoners of Am Yisrael!. Amain, may this indeed be [G-d's] will!"

My dear friends, we do not rely on miracles. If we do not take immediate action, by next year, G-d forbid, the battle may be permanently lost.

It is in our hands now.

Prof. (Rabbi Dr.) Neriya Gutel is Head of Orot Israel Academic College

The original hebrew article may be read online