Maariv Exclusive: Without Saying Goodbye
Jonathan Pollard's Father's Funeral without Jonathan
Akiva Novik - Maariv [English Version] - July 10, 2011
Originally published in Hebrew June 21, 2011. May be reprinted with full attribution.
Morris Pollard was brought to his final resting place in the midst of a summer downpour. Despite appeals from Israel, Jonathan was not permitted to leave prison to attend. On the day that the United States celebrated Father's Day, the Americans refused to allow Jonathan, the son, to say farewell to Morris, the father, who had fought unsuccessfully for his son's release.
Torrential rain poured down throughout the morning hours in South Bend, Indiana. There were those who tried to link the bereavement and funeral to the flood-gates of tears that opened in the middle of June, on a hot day whose temperatures rose to close to thirty degrees. But yesterday, many of the scores of people who attended the funeral that was held in the Hebrew Orthodox Cemetery felt that the Heavens were not only weeping for Morris Pollard who passed away last Shabbat at age 95, but also for his son Jonathan -- who has been languishing in prison for almost twenty-six years.
"I know this may sound strange," said Barbara Lerman, a family friend, "but my first reaction when it started to rain was that this was God's way of telling us that He would fulfill Morris' last will and testament and free Jonathan-as well as bring down a reckoning on all those who harmed him over the years."
"The fact that he is still behind bars is no less infuriating," Charles Rice told Maariv a few minutes after the conclusion of the funeral. Mr. Rice had been a close friend of Morris' and a law professor in the Notre Dame University. In recent years, Rice was directly involved in attempts to bring about Jonathan's release as part of a team of amicus brief lawyers who wrote in support of Pollard's legal intiatives. "If Pollard requested to come to the funeral and the authorities did not allow him to do so, then we are taking about an unforgivable decision," he said with undisguised anger.
"We must remember that we are talking about a man who transmitted information to a country that is not an enemy country. We are talking about an unprecedented situation, and even after tens of years on this case, I still have difficulty understanding it."
Despite Morris Pollard's advanced age, he continued to frequent the Notre Dame University [Lobund] laboratory every day even during his last months; that lab was the center of Morris' world. He was a renowned scientist who was awarded a military medal for his scientific research after the Second World War, and even worked as advisor to the American Ministries of Defense and Energy. Yet even these achievements did not earn him a final hour of mercy by those government agents who had made use of his scientific services over many years. Even in his final moments, Morris was not allowed to say his farewells to his son.
"He used to talk about Jonathan all the time," says Roy Gatz, Morris' friend, "I cannot understand the logic of Jonathan's treatment, it is simply incomprehensible to me. This country is full of murderers who were set free after much less than twenty-five years, brutal rapists who were freed after only a few years, while only Pollard is deprived of a second chance."
Close family members, such as siblings Harvey and Carol as well as the two grandchildren who attended the funeral, refused to talk to us. "It is important to us not to transform Morris' funeral into a political event," they say.
Morris Pollard left this world on Friday night; the funeral took place on Monday. Meanwhile, the United States celebrated Father's Day. It is hard for us Israelis to view this day without a tinge of cynicism, but it is evidently no less than a national holiday for Americans. Very few fathers did not receive a festive a greeting card on Sunday; most even received a present. President Obama published a special article in which he wrote about his own experiences in fathering his two daughters. Millions of families gathered for festive barbeques. Many talk shows were dedicated to Father's Day; the Starbucks cashiers merrily called out "Happy Father's Day" to all the fathers they saw. Even the pilot of the flight I took to Indiana doesn't miss the opportunity to proclaim, "On behalf of the entire staff of the flight and the American Airlines company, we wish you all a Happy Father's Day."
Morris didn't want to have a family barbeque, not even a melodious greeting card. All he wanted was to hold the hand of his jailed son for the last time.
A HARSH BLOW FOR JONATHAN
"We are very sad," Esther Pollard says. "All we asked was that Jonathan be given a few hours of freedom, just a few hours to say goodbye to his father. But even this small request was refused.
"Ten years ago, when Jonathan's mother was ill, he also asked for permission to say good-bye to her and to attend her funeral. The government's refusal then was a bitter blow for him. Ten years have passed and many things have changed since then. Many senior American officials familiar with the case now say that Jonathan should have been released a long time ago. We were sure that this time the Government would show a little compassion, but it did not happen. We never dreamed that they would continue to be so unkind.
"This refusal is a harsh blow for Jonathan. What strengthens him is the fact that I'm here with him. I came directly to the prison in North Carolina because I hoped that I would see Jonathan be released in time for the funeral. Now that we have absorbed the disappointment and the blow, at least I am here with him.
"I am extremely worried about him. How much suffering can one man endure? What is more, he is also very ill; I'm afraid for his life. I implore Prime Minister Netanyahu to act; the American government must be made to understand that Jonathan's freedom is overdue. I will not rest until Jonathan returns home. I tell Jonathan about every rally and every initiative on his behalf. He smiles and draws some encouragement from this. We are deeply grateful for the recent outpouring of support from the Israeli public and from the Israeli media. Please continue your efforts; don't stop until he is home!"
The Committee to Return Jonathan Pollard Home (The Vaad) urges the public to send letters of condolence to Jonathan at the following address:
Jonathan Pollard #09185-016
P.O. Box 1000
Butner, North Carolina
WITHOUT THE MOURNER'S KADDISH
As they made their way to the gravesite, the Pollard family members still hoped that any minute now a helicopter would suddenly appear on the horizon bringing their longed-for son from prison. But the American government did not grant the hapless prisoner even this tiny gesture of compassion.