YERUSHALAYIM - U.S. President Barack Obama may be coming to Israel in March with the intention of discussing Iran, Syria and the Palestinians, but a fourth item, no less urgent, has also appeared on the agenda and refuses to be stricken from it---the plight of Jonathan Pollard.
One of the president's official hosts for the visit---Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, has written a heartfelt letter adding his voice to what has become a nationwide appeal for Pollard's freedom.
Noting that "Divine Providence, acting through the American People, has appointed you to the most exalted office in the world: President of the United States..." Rabbi Lau implored Obama to use his country's "spiritual power as the flag bearer of liberty and freedom" to intervene in the Pollard case.
"Let him live the rest of his life with his wife, Esther, in the State of Israel that granted him citizenship," Rabbi Lau wrote on Friday. "This action would be seen as a humanitarian gesture by the seekers of freedom in the world."
"In Samuel (I:14), the People of Israel cry out: 'Shall Jonathan die?' This outcry which refers to Jonathan, King Shaul's son, screams from the chambers of my own heart with regard to Jonathan Pollard, that he should merit to leave prison alive..."
Rabbi Lau's letter is unprecedented, as it marks the first time in 28 years that he has taken a public position on Pollard's on-going incarceration.
Lau will have an opportunity to raise the Pollard issue face-to-face with Obama during the latter's scheduled visit to Yad Vashem, where Rabbi Lau heads the board of directors.
Meanwhile, the number of signatories to a petition to Obama to free Pollard has already risen to more than 60,000, since it began circulating less than two weeks ago.