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Op-Ed: If I Forget Thee… Tears in North Carolina (Visiting Jonathan Pollard)

cbe.jpg(Chaskel Bennett – YWN) Last week I was invited to join a delegation led by Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the Executive Vice President of the National Council of Young Israel, and Rav Yaakov Shapiro Shlita, the Rosh Yeshiva of Mercaz HaRav Kook in Yerushalayim, to visit Jonathan Pollard in the Butner Correctional facility located in rural North Carolina. I accepted the invitation, glad to have the opportunity to encourage Jonathan with the knowledge that many of his fellow Jews think about him often. I did not anticipate that it would be Jonathan who would teach me what it really means to care about our brethren. I had never met him previously and found him to be surprisingly personable and engaging. Jonathan is understandably distressed by the betrayal he feels from most members of successive Israeli governments and the United States legal system. But, after spending over two hours with him, it is obvious that his ahavas yisroel and love for Eretz Yisroel is firmly intact.

With the Rosh Yeshiva from Merkaz Harav guiding the conversation, Jonathan painfully expressed that some of his most difficult and deeply emotional moments over the past several years in prison, had taken place during the Gaza disengagement and the Merkaz Harav massacres. I looked at Jonathan in astonishment. Before me was a man who by any standard has personally suffered far more than most, yet he was in turmoil over the difficulties and challenges facing his fellow Jew. That he has spent thousands of hours in solitary confinement and has been subjected to horrendous conditions over the course of his twenty five years in various prisons seemed not to be his main concern. Is it possible that despite a quarter century of mental and physical deprivation, Jonathan gets what is truly important and we don’t?

In our visit, we witnessed Jonathan teach by example, how to conquer personal torments and burdens and immerse oneself in the sugya (lesson) of noseh b’ol im chaveiro (which loosely translates to “sharing the burden of a fellow Jew”). Jonathan is overwhelmed with concern for the former members of Gush Katif, and fears for the soldiers who may be ordered to remove their parents and families from their homes in Yehuda and Shomron. The plight of the “Hesder boys,” not the plight of “Jonathan Pollard,” seems to consume him.

pollard.jpgJonathan believes that the construction freeze in Yesha will inevitably lead to the Israeli disengagement of Yehuda and Shomron. I do not know if he is right or wrong but recent history provides painful guidance. As these words are written, who can not recall the agonizing images of the forced evacuation of our people from their beautiful communities in Aza, communities created with special siyata d’shmaya (“assistance from the heavens”) from sand. The magnificent orchards and lush produce of Neve Dekalim have now been replaced by the murderous launching pads and missiles of barbaric occupiers. What was a masterful illustration of Israeli agricultural achievement has become a breeding ground of Islamic fanaticism. When it comes to the Gaza disengagement, the old adage “I told you so” has never been more painfully apropos.

Though Yehonosson Ben Malka is trapped in an untenable situation, his Yiddishe neshama (soul) cries out when any member of our Nation is hurting, and with all of the difficulties surrounding us it is clear that these are indeed tough times. Tragically, K’lal Yisroel recently lost Rav Meir Avsholom Chai HY”D, a rebbe of young students and a father of seven children. He was brutally gunned down by Arab terrorists in Shomron. The loss of this special human being is devastating. The murder of Rav Chai is not the murder of a stranger – it is the death of our brother! Be it in Israel, Japan, Mumbai, Postville, or Butner, these are tough times for Klal Yisroel. We must daven and cry out for Rachamai Shomayim (God’s mercy).

And just as the Chai children began sitting shiva for their father, Islamic terror made a cowardly return to America’s skies. After thundering silence, President Obama urgently called for a sweeping review of airline security procedures and raised the national threat level, which tightened security at the nation’s airports and other transportation hubs. Yet, the same Obama Administration that responded so strongly to the potential terrorism here at home, incredibly and incessantly calls for Israel to make deep and compromising security concessions to the Palestinians. The double standard is terribly stark. The days of unmerited political correctness must end. Being in the good graces of the Washington establishment may be important, but at what cost? The lighting of a Chanukah menorah in the White House with the President of the United States in attendance is certainly notable. However, this token gesture rings hollow when the Obama State Department coerces the Israelis to remove security checkpoints, resulting in collateral damage in the form of Jewish widows and orphans. And when the Israelis are shockingly called upon for immediate “clarification” regarding their elimination of Rabbi Chai’s killers, the symbolism of the Menorah lighting ceremony is sadly extinguished. Regardless of the ever shifting political winds in Washington, our brothers in Israel need to know that they are not alone.

Jonathan has taken his dire circumstances and channeled them into feeling the pain and suffering of his brethren. We too must accept our responsibility to stand in solidarity with our people – kol yisroel areivim zeh l’zeh – in their hour of need. Contact your Representatives and Congressional leadership and let them know that the safety and security of Israel is a top political priority for their Jewish constituents. Make no mistake, the midterm elections loom large. We must recognize that the White House views our silence as acquiescence. The frightening reality is, perhaps our silence actually is acquiescence. Write, call, and email the White House to stop the pressure on Israel.  Pressure from the Obama Administration must be squarely placed on Iran and its proxy terrorist state of Syria – not on Israel.

As for Jonathan Pollard, it appears that there is wide support to alleviate his unfortunate situation. Following reports of last week’s visit, I personally received dozens of emails and calls expressing concern about his plight. It was really encouraging to see a broad spectrum of rabbis, activists, and laypersons united in cause. Jonathan relayed to us how in the waning days of the Bush Administration, he was inspired and humbled by the major efforts made on his behalf. Though unsuccessful, the silver lining of achdus (unity) must be noted and strengthened. Responsible leaders like Rabbi Lerner have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to free Jonathan. When the time is right, the public will be asked to help, and we should all be ready to mobilize and respond. For now, we must stand aligned with our Israeli brethren against the threats from Palestinian terrorists from Iran and Syria, and from the international pressure unfairly exerted on the State of Israel. The time is now. History will take note of our response.

EDITORS NOTE: Please – keep davening for the health and freedom of Yehonosson ben Malka Pollard!
-Please write him letters, letters of support, of chizuk, of divrei torah. Jonathan refers to these letters as his “oxygen”. The letters can be from adults and children, from families and school classes. Please be sure the letters are written in English only. Please just send him letters, no enclosures (tapes, gifts, etc).
– Please choose one day each week, make that your day, each week, to write another letter. ask your family members and friends to do the same. Jonathan reads every letter, although he may not respond.

Please send the letters to:
Jonathan Pollard
# 09185-016
Fci Butner
PO Box 1000/Clemson
Butner, North Carolina

-If you wish to contribute funds to assist Jonathan, while he is in prison, to buy kosher food items from the prison canteen, to pay for his phone calls, to purchase various items that he needs, etc., please use the following link or send your contributions to: Young Israel Charities, attention the Pollard Fund, c/o National Council of Young Israel, 111 John Street, Suite 450, New York, NY 10038.

Contact the White House
– Call the President at the White House at (202) 456-1111
(If busy call the switchboard at (202) 456-1414)
– Send a fax to the President at the White House at (202) 456-2461
– Send a letter to the President:
[email protected]
President Barak H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC, 20500

Find your Congressional leaders:
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid–
Senate Minority leader Mitch McConell–
Senate foreign Relations Comm. Chairman- Sen.John Kerry
Senate foreign Relations Ranking member- Sen. Richard Lugar
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi –
Majority leader Steny Hoyer-
Minority leader John Boehner-
House Subcommittee on Middle East -Chairman Hon. Gary Ackerman-
House Subcommittee on Middle East- Ranking member Hon. D

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