Hopes Mounting for Pollard Release

All Eyes on Obama-Peres Meeting

Avraham Weissman - Hamodia [Front Page] - June 11, 2012

NEW YORK - When the president of Israel meets with President Barack Obama on Wednesday, he will hand-deliver to Obama a petition addressed to Peres and signed by 70,000 citizens bearing a powerful and moving message: "Out of great fear for Jonathan's health and out of a desire to see him live out the remainder of his life as a free man, we are asking you [President Shimon Peres] to employ your extraordinary diplomatic skills and your close relationship to President Obama to work intensively and without delay for the immediate release of Jonathan."

Last week, during a very emotional meeting at Jerusalem's King David Hotel, Peres promised a group of relatives of terror victims that he would give to Obama their sentiments on the issue and do "everything possible" to bring Jonathan home.

In an interview with Hamodia, longtime Pollard advocate Rabbi Pesach Lerner, executive vice president of the National Council of Young Israel, sounded optimistic.

"We are hoping that Obama will have the courage to do the right thing and commute Pollard's sentence to time served," he said.

"Peres is well aware that at his first news conference after the meeting with Obama, and at every news conference he will have for weeks after, he will be asked, again and again, by reporters about his efforts for Pollard," Lerner said. "This is the talk of the town of all the media outlets; this is the conversation of the man on the street, in Israel and in the United States.

"Peres's success at bringing Pollard home to Israel will be the only legacy that Peres will leave and people will remember," he added.

Pollard has now served 9,698 days in prison for passing classified information to Israel, an American ally. The average prison sentence for such a crime is two to four years.

Rabbi Lerner stressed that in addition to the unjustness of his incarceration, Pollard is ill and in need of serious medical care that is unavailable in the prison system.

"It's a miracle that he survived until now," Lerner said. "Twenty-seven years is more than anyone can withstand. After he is released and reunites with family and friends, he will need to spend serious time caring for his medical condition.

"Jonathan wants to give back to his wife all the years that she has so selflessly given him. He wants to contribute to the growth and success of the state of Israel."

Lerner urged continued tefillos on behalf of an individual who serves Hashem with great personal sacrifice.

"Jonathan is moser nefesh for kashrus, Shabbos, and mitzvos; he gets up early in the morning to daven before others even awaken," he said.

Five years ago, Rabbi Lerner visited Pollard with Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginzberg, Rav of the Chofetz Chaim Torah Center of Cedarhurst, N.Y. During their conversation, Pollard spoke of a phone conversation he had had with Rabbi Moshe Sherer, z"l, the leader of Agudas Yisrael of America.

"Jonathan, I want you to promise me three things," Rabbi Sherer had asked of him. "You will keep Shabbos, eat only kosher, and never grow to hate Hakadosh Baruch Hu despite whatever happens to you."

"If Rabbi Sherer were to walk into this room right now, what would you say to him?" Rabbi Ginzberg asked.

Pollard paused for a moment, then smiled and said, "I would say, 'Rabbi Sherer, I keep kashrus to the best of my ability, I keep Shabbos and Yom Tov to the best of my ability; I am not angry at Hashem. I have many difficult conversations with Him, but I am not angry at Him."

"We must at every opportunity daven and say Tehillim for this remarkable individual," Rabbi Lerner concluded.