Op-ed: And what about Jonathan?

Chilean mine rescue brings to mind thoughts about failure to rescue Jonathan Pollard

With apologies to Anat Meidan - YNET? -October 14, 2010

See J4JP comment following the text below.

When the life-saving capsule emerged from the depths of the Chilean earth carrying 31-year-old Florencio Avalos, the first miner to be rescued, it marked the beginning of the miracle in the Chilean desert. About two hours later, when the 39-year-old Mario Sepulveda cried out "Viva Chile" and handed out stones from the mine he was trapped in for 69 days, it was clear this was no coincidence, and that the rescue tactic is working

Yet the solidarity, joy and excitement were tainted by the image of Jonathan Pollard, who was there, present but missing. "This is precisely how he should have returned to his wife, to his family, to us, and mostly to his life," we were thinking. "Why were the Chileans able to rescue their men, yet we could not come up with the creative solution for getting a man out of a pit? How is it that for 25 years we know almost nothing about Jonathan ?? Those were the vexing, somewhat nave thoughts that came up and refused to let go.

After all, he is so close to us. Where is his capsule? Yet there is no answer. Only great yearning and a dream, knowing that we too want to see Jonathan returning to us, just like Florencio, Mario and the other rescued miners came back.

At once, the men trapped deep underground became international heroes. The world held its breath during their rescue, and the concern for their well-being became a universal common denominator. Did the fact that we were dealing with 33 poor miners in Chile enhance the sense of drama, while the fate of one Israeli held in captivity for 25 years by our best ally does not prompt the world to hold its breath? Apparently this is the case.

Jonathan Pollard will not become a Chilean-style hero and the world won't hold its breath, just like it did not act with all its power and hold its breath for the sake of Pollard's release in the past 25 years. But who needs heroes, or symbols, or emotional Hollywood movies about men involuntarily trapped in a mine? All we want is to bring back one soldier whose life crashed when he was 29, as he shifted from being a free man in his country to being a captive at the hands of his enemies.

Words backed by actions

Yet we can envy the Chileans: Because of the quick deployment, because of the impressive technological solution, and mostly because of the solidarity and enlistment for the cause of the miners. The day after the mine collapsed, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera promised his people that he will do everything possible in order to find the miners alive and rescue them. Yet he did not make do with words: He immediately dispatched a rescue team to the site.

On Wednesday, when the rescue mission succeeded, Benjamin Netanyahu told Chile's president that the people in Israel are sending their well-wishes to the Chilean people and added that we are all moved by the human act of saving civilians trapped deep underground. Yet did Netanyahu see before him Jonathan's image, dressed in prison fatigues, when he wrote the Chilean president? Did he hear Jonathan's cries for help? Did he think about Esther Pollard?

A 69-day stay deep underground exacts a physical and mental price, and the miners as well as their families know this well. Jonathan's family do not dare think what kind of man will return to them when he's released. They just want to see him alive. The words "we shall do everything," which were uttered by the Chilean president, have faded around here after being used so much. In respect to Jonathan, it is no longer clear what we mean by action.

At this time, no miracle awaits Jonathan on the horizon and no ray of light illuminates the darkness around him; we can assume he is the only person in the world who knows nothing about the miracle in the Chilean desert.

* * *

J4JP Asks: Did this touching op-ed really appear in YNET?

J4JP Answers: Yes, this op-ed really did appear in YNET today.

But it was not about Jonathan Pollard. J4JP simply replaced the name Gilad Shalit with the name Jonathan Pollard and changed a few minor statistics such as age and length of captivity and the op-ed was perfect - just as if it had been written for Jonathan Pollard.

But it wasn't written for Jonathan..

No op-eds were written about Jonathan Pollard in response to the heart-rending rescue operation that reunited 33 Chilean miners with their families and their nation.

Why is it that no one thought of Pollard?

Why is it, in spite of a spate of news items about Pollard lately emphasizing the injustice of his sentence and underlining the failure of Israel to make any serious attempt to rescue him, absolutely no one - except perhaps his wife - was distressed about Pollard?

As we watched the bold rescue of the Chilean miners from the bowels of the earth, how is it that Pollard was not front and center in our thoughts? After all, the Chilean miners were trapped underground for 69 days. Pollard spent nearly 7 years in a dungeon cell in captivity 3 stories underground without ever seeing the sun or a flower or a tree; and to this day he continues to sit in captivity

25 years

into his ordeal. Why is it that PM Netanyahu's own ears did not hear what his mouth was saying when he praised the Chileans for valuing every single life so highly. How is it no one thought to ask him, "Mr. Prime Minister, What About Jonathan Pollard?!