A Memorial Tribute To My Beloved Friend Rechavam Ze'evi z"l

by Jonathan Pollard

Presented by Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Executive VP. National Council of Young Israel
at The Rechavam Amikam Ze'evi Memorial Dinner - January 6, 2002, New York

Beloved Rechavam,

For all the years that we knew you, you treated Esther and me as your own children. You stood with us when we stood all alone. You laughed with us, cried with us, argued with us, strategized with us and loved us unconditionally. For 17 years, through thick and thin, you were the only Israeli politician who was always honest with us, and always there for us.

There was a story that you used to tell. It happened during the time you served the State as a General on active duty. One day, while out on a routine errand, your driver was ambushed and taken captive by enemy forces. You alerted the highest levels of the army and the government that an IDF soldier was now an imperiled hostage and you asked for orders. The orders came back: "Refrain from taking any action, lest your action provoke an all-out war in the region."

You quietly put the orders in the trash and rounded up your best men. In a daring sortie, you and your men took 6 enemy fighters captive. Within hours you received an offer to trade your driver for the 6 enemy fighters. Less than 24 hours later, your driver was returned without a scratch.

You were not a renegade or a militant. You always preferred diplomacy over force. But you used to tell this story to emphasize that a human life is not something to be taken lightly. That every soldier - from the lowliest driver to the highest ranking officer - is valued equally and deserves that all stops be pulled out to rescue him when he is in peril.

Rechavam, beloved friend, Esther recalls with tears the many memories she has of following you to rallies and meetings with government officials on my behalf. You accompanied her to Prime Minister after Prime Minister and pled with each one to show some backbone, to do the right thing, to bring me home.

Esther is inconsolable when she recalls the final meeting you and she had with the Prime Minister last Passover, when you literally begged him to save me. She weeps as she recalls your words, pleading from the heart: "Please Arik. You know me. We are old friends. We grew up together. We went through the army together. We had the same education. We were taught the same morality: you don't abandon a wounded soldier in the field. Arik, Jonathan is not going to make it unless we do something to rescue him. You must act now, before it is too late. I am begging you, please Arik."

Shortly after the meeting you called Esther to tell her the response from the Prime Minister. Your voice was strained. She heard the pain in every word as you said, "I am ashamed. I am deeply ashamed of our Prime Minister's response." You never did recover from the shock of hearing that rather than expend any effort on my behalf, the Prime Minister preferred to let me to die in prison. Even in Heaven, you remain a witness to how the Prime Minister feigns concern for me, but in reality ignores every opportunity to rescue me.

But you never gave up; never stopped trying. Before you were so cruelly torn from us, you presented the Prime Minister with a petition signed by 20 cabinet ministers to send a high level delegation to the United States to negotiate my release. This is what Israel routinely does for an agent in captivity - but in 17 years Israel has never done this for me.

This week I received a letter from the Prime Minister denigrating your last efforts on my behalf. In his letter to me the Prime Minister calls your petition and your initiative "counterproductive." We know this means counterproductive to his plan to let me languish in prison forever.

Beloved Rechavam, you were the consummate diplomat. You made yourself the spokesman for all who could not speak for themselves - for the soldiers missing in action, and for me, an agent in peril. You became our flag bearer. Everywhere you went, at every opportunity you raised the Israeli flag for us. You reminded the nation not to forget us. You reminded the world not to forget us. And whenever foreign dignitaries visited Israel you reminded them of us. You were the only one with the strength of character to stand up in Knesset when Bill Clinton visited and to call out, "Mr. President, what about Jonathan Pollard?"

Alas, the flag you bore for us is now lying in the dust next to your grave. Alas, no one has seen fit to raise it again for you, or for us.

You wore our names on a dog-tag around your neck. Everyone knew the names of the 6 MIAs you had engraved on the dog-tag. Few knew that my name was engraved there too. You died with my name over your heart. Your name will be engraved on my heart for the rest of my life. I am forever indebted to you.

With everlasting love and respect from Esther and me.