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Op-Ed: 25 Years And Still Counting

Freedom Through Another’s Eyes: Sweeping Pollard Under the Rug [By Ruth Lichtenstein –  Hamodia: Publisher’s Note Column – June 23, 2010]

When Judge Reade announced that she was sentencing Sholom Rubashkin to “25-plus years” in prison, American Jews turned pale and began to tremble… and sprang into (more) action. Good Yidden would not let a fellow Yid simply rot in prison for decades!

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The save-Rubashkin achdus (unity) shown now by Yidden the world over is gratifying — and appropriate.

But what about another Yid who has ALREADY been rotting in prison for “25-plus years” — what about him?

Another Yid has ALREADY served Rubashkin’s sentence and has to start all over again, because if the U.S. government has its way, Jonathan Pollard will die in prison, chas v’shalom.

Can we look ourselves in the eye if we forget him just because too much time has passed and we have a short attention span? Can we face ourselves, can we face G-d, if we don’t come to Pollard’s aid?

Rubashkin worked for the survival of shechitah and kashrus — and is paying a high price. Pollard worked for the survival and safety of Eretz Yisrael — and is giving up his entire life.

It’s quite obvious — and yet, when you mention the name Jonathan Pollard, you invite a host of opinions. Some are expressed with extreme conviction; others with a shrug, indicating an unwillingness to commit — but everyone has something to say about The Pollard Affair. Many declare that yes, he violated the law, and it is only right that he pay his debt to society, but it’s been 25 years — more than anyone else in the history of the United States guilty of a similar crime — and enough is enough.

On the other side are those who feel that the true story has never been told, and that if it were known, all would agree that Pollard deserves to rot in jail until he breathes his last.

And then there are those, mostly young people who weren’t even born when this sad chapter in our history began, who, when hearing the name Pollard, say, “Oh, sure. I’ve heard that name! Is he still alive? Is he still in prison? I thought all of that was over 50 years ago.”

Well, Jonathan Pollard is still alive, he is still in prison, and after all these years he still manages to elicit strong reactions.

Actually, Pollard is the ugly stain on the otherwise polished mirror reflecting the image of American Jewry. His sad saga is what ruins the beautiful reflection that American Jewry would like outsiders to see. And as much as there are those who wish that stain would somehow simply be eliminated, it will not disappear on its own.

The most popular expression connected with the Pollard affair on both sides of the ocean is, “You don’t know what we know.” Every side of the debate claims that it possesses — in their minds? in their imaginations? — the very secrets that prove Pollard deserves either freedom or continued captivity.

“You don’t know what we know” is a statement hard to accept after 25 years. If we don’t know, tell us.

“You don’t know what we know” enabled people in the Israeli government to cover up their handling of this case, to bury their mistakes.

“You don’t know what we know” enabled irresponsible people, such as Rafi Eitan, the Israeli spymaster who recruited Jonathan Pollard to spy against the United States and ultimately turned against him, to use all kinds of clichés, shallow, empty words, to obstruct justice and shield the guilty.

Rafi Eitan has much to repent for, as does the government of Israel. Israeli officials have absolutely no excuse for their abandonment of Pollard. They know what they must do to bring him to freedom, yet they have never done it for their own selfish reasons. It is easier for them to point a finger at the American Jewish community. Thus, Pollard has fallen between the cracks.

Finally, “You don’t know what we know” has enabled American Jews to continue sleeping peacefully, year in, year out, because after all, what can they do if they don’t know? 

In America, since it continues to be a volatile topic that no one wants to deal with, people continue to sweep it under the rug. But davka now, as we prove our achdus and labor tirelessly for Sholom Rubashkin’s freedom, keeping the issue of Jonathan Pollard under the rug can no longer be an option.

Two years ago when I visited Pollard in federal prison, it occurred to me that it is only when sitting with someone who has been imprisoned for 25 years that one can understand the full meaning of the concept of freedom. Only then can one appreciate the ability to make choices that most of us take for granted: to dress as we wish, to take a walk when the fancy strikes us, to select our own food and drinks, to choose a book that interests us, to decide when to go to sleep and when to get up, when to be active and when to remain idle, to make a decision and then implement it, to buy a can of soda or not, to enter… and to exit. All of these are freedoms that you and I take for granted and enjoy.

Two hours of conversation passed. The guard approached and told us that our time was up.

As I was about to leave, Pollard wished me, “L’shanah haba’ah biYerushalayim.”

“Maybe still this year?” I suggested. Pollard’s answering smile was grim.

The sky of North Carolina was very blue. The grounds surrounding the federal prison were green and beautifully tended, the parking lot a beehive of arriving and departing cars. My cellular telephone sprang instantly back to life. But behind the gates that had been firmly closed and locked remained a Jew who has been cut off from the world for 25 years, and with him remain many questions that nobody is ready to answer.

Can we look ourselves in the mirror, and hold our heads high? What are we going to do, l’maaseh, to help Jonathan Pollard get out of prison?

(Hamodia Newspaper – YWN NYC)

17 Responses

  1. Dear Ruth Lichtenstien; where were you? i didn’t hear you speak out for Sholom Rubashkin yet! The past “two years” you remained silent! now your asking us to help Pollard, how nice…!

  2. i read lots of things about Jonathan Pollard that he got a very harsh sentence which is very true . however based on a guest on the zev brennner radio show , Jonathan Pollard has to ask for clemency , however he has never asked for it , therefor that is why sits at the moment.

  3. Very well written and to the point. This is exactly what I wrote about the protests in BP and elsewhere that took place last week.

    If only our Jewish leaders (aside from the National Council of Young Israel) would take this article to heart, maybe he would be a free man by now.

    Hard to fathom why they don’t……

  4. I will say this again, Jonathan Pollard should apply for parole. His situation cannot be worsened by applying but he will definitely lose that possibility, however slim, by not applying.

  5. 57, I don’t see it that way. Yated was clearly in the forefront re R’ SMR, and Hamodia, rather than turn this into a tacky competition, has quite graciously acknowledged this while continuously providing their own coverage and appeals. At least, that’s how I see it.

  6. Perfect editorial especially now when gdforbid Rubashkin may face 27 years…. How many times has there been a tefillah gathering, yom iyun or anything for one who is in jail because he gave Israel info about Syria that America was willing to shove under the rug? Unreal.

  7. The LAST people who want Pollard relaesed is the Israelis! I believe that both Pollard & Amir will one day be free men. But it will take nothing less than a New Jewish Order……which means that the existing Jewish order….wil have to go!

  8. Has everyone forgot Gilad ben Aviva who wasn’t zocheh to “rot” in an american jail, didn’t commit any fellonies or espianoge but has been incarcerated for four years already and there were no tehilim rallies for him even though his crime ws that he was trying to protect klal yisroel!

  9. Ruth; if you want then, you can use your newspaper Hamodia to spin up sympathy for Pollard, i have no objections. Give it a try. But if at the same time your downplaying this right worthy cause, (even though you don’t intend to) Then ask yourself this question: Why was Hamodia sitting silent for the past 2 years? why did we treat this like “just another piece of news”? First show us your effort in raising Public awareness and fundraising for Sholom Rubashkin, then you can ask about Pollard. Why would you take away the inspiration that Has united klal-yisroel? Is that the opinion of your gedolim?

  10. Fifty seven,
    Obviously you don’t read the Hamodia and that’s fine. However if you would read the paper you would know that Hamodia has been vocal and passionate in the rubashkin case. Every editorial of that paper has Mrs. Lichtensteins approval or handwriting. Every news story they cover has her editorial oversight. I’m not her defender but the lessons of the rubashkin fiasco is we need more achdus not more bickering and finger pointing.Be smart or be quiet but please don’t be nasty. Smr and pollard and shalit and samit all needs more zchusim and so do we.

  11. Should we spend our days protesting everything that’s wrong?! Do you realize that there were no public gatherings about Rubashkin until recently, when the sentencing was imminent. Something was happening and we reacted. Once we arrange protests for this and for that you’ll start hearing complaints about how come we don’t protest the situation in Zimbabwe. Are we a nation of protesters?

    Both papers were uniting klal yisroel thru fundraising ,tefilahs and appeals for letter writing. Why do they both have to give pound for pound on every single issue under the sun? Hamodia does talk about JPollard often while Yated does not, so what?

  13. Its not my opinion only, its the way many people see it. when a newspaper tries to be “unbiased” at the wrong time, then they should be called out for it. yes i mean “unbiased” the term may sound wrong to you but at the moment but thats “their” way of thinking. (and btw i very often read the hamodia too)

  14. Pollard has been eligible for parole for 15 years but has never applied. Unfortunately, since Pollard’s sentence, parole has been abolished for persons newly convicted. Pollard could have gotten out years ago but Shalom Rubashkin may be stuck.

  15. What are we going to do for Jontathan Pollard now?
    When we were asked to write to the White House and call them, we did (my wife and I, every day). He is in our prayers! What does he need now? Is it money, to finance an appeal? Is it pressure and public opinion to sway the public officials? Are there suggestions or recommendations from Young Israel that we should be acting on but do not know about? Does Just complaining about not doing andoesn’t help anything.

  16. A Jew in prison bears a unique challenge, there is no community to shield him or place to hide. His worse enemies many times are Jew hating jailers who let sadistic inmates know that he is unprotected. The cornered Jew cannot help himself, and if he can afford it must quickly find a few bodyguards. The best choice would be an assortment of Rabbis, corrupt jailers , and gang leaders. If he is broke he better find something to offer or else he will be psychologically tortured and driven insane.

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