The Pollard Syndrome

HaRav Shmuel Eliyahu - Olam Katan [Parshat Vayishev 5768] - December 18, 2007

Translated to English by J4JP

Notwithstanding their appreciation of what Pollard did for the People of Israel, there are those who still ask: why should we fight for the freedom of one man? There are more important things to fight for. There is the fight for the Land of Israel. There is the fight for Jerusalem. These are issues where so very many lives depend on the outcome. Our resources are limited. Why should we invest so much in the struggle for Pollard's freedom?

This question is similar to the question 'Why don't we leave a wounded soldier behind on the field of battle?' There are times that the army pays a very high price just to rescue one single soldier. Why struggle to uphold this principle? The answer is simple. One does not abandon a friend. "V'ahavta l'recha kmocha" (Love your neighbor as yourself.) Were you in his shoes, you would expect him to help you. So help him! This would be true even for someone who has contributed nothing to the People of Israel. In Pollard's case, we are talking about someone who has sacrificed for every single one of us. He sacrificed his freedom and his life for us. Because of his selflessness on our behalf, he now sits in prison. The man put his life on the line for the State of Israel, and the State abandoned him.

This is not just a question of moral values, but also a practical matter. Giving up on the life of a single soldier demoralizes the entire battalion. Giving up on the life of a single soldier destroys critical 'battlefield solidarity' amongst all of the soldiers. It undermines the motivation to fight. It destroys selflessness and personal heroism.

This is a principle our enemies never understood. Time and time again they abandoned their soldiers in the field. Time and time again they lost every battle against Israel, even though they far outnumbered us both in manpower and weapons. We, on the other hand, understood that the main thing was not fire power but strength of spirit, our morale. We called it 'reuth' (comradeship). We adulated this value, composed songs in its honor. We knew that because of it, we were victorious.

This value of 'reuth' (comradeship), we lost at Kever Yosef in Shchem. It was there that the Government of Israel allowed one of our soldiers to bleed to death to strengthen a new friendship with the treacherous Palestinian Authority. Over the years, the Government of Israel has repeatedly abandoned soldiers who fought for us, for the sake of good relations with the Arabs. This is how the Government behaved towards the two soldiers who were mob-lynched to death in Ramallah. This is how the Government now behaves towards Pollard.

With the conviction born of these same abandonments, the Government also gives guns and ammunition to the Palestinians, even though it knows that in the past these weapons were used to kill Israeli soldiers and citizens. The Government frees terrorists, knowing full well that ultimately they will kill more Israelis. Where is the sense of comradeship towards those who will be murdered? Where is solidarity towards those who risk their lives for us? Where is friendship towards the families of the murder victims?

The Government of Israel is deliberately abandoning Jonathan. Top Israeli officials use winks and nods to signal to the American Administration that any talk of freeing Pollard is simply "lip service" for domestic consumption. Our relationship with you is more important to us than Pollard.

Consequently, the Americans hold us in contempt. Our sages taught: False friends are despised by those who buy their services. One who sells his values, also sells his honor. The villain himself is the first one to turn on others. The first ones to turn on Israel after Kever Yosef were the Palestinians. The Americans are no different.

Whoever holds the honor of Israel dear must fight for the release of Jonathan Pollard. This struggle restores the honor of Israel to its rightful place. Whoever is aware of the Halachic value of "the honor of Israel" understands that it is synonymous with "Kiddush HaShem" (the sanctification of G-d's name).

Blessed be all who are fighting for the life and freedom of Jonathan Pollard. They are fighting for Israel's honor. They are fighting the honor of G-d Almighty. The Blessed G-d of Israel will reward their efforts. May they merit to see their deeds bear fruit. May the Lover of Israel who sacrificed himself for her, merit to have fulfilled for him the verse " from prison he went out.." just like Yosef HaTzadik. Amain ken yihi ratzon! (Amen, may it indeed be thus!)

The author, HaRav Shmuel Eliyahu, is the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat. He is the son of the former Chief Rabbi of Israel and Rishon LeTzion, HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu, shlita.

  • See Also: Hebrew Text: The Pollard Syndrome: