Thirty-seven years after spying for Israel, Jonathan Pollard told his story for the first time as a free man and an Israeli citizen in an exclusive interview with Yisrael Hayom, which will be published in full on Friday.
In a number of interviews at his new home in Jerusalem, Pollard spoke in detail about his decision to transmit vital security information to Israel, the conversations he had with Rafi Eitan, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Lekem, the Bureau for Scientific Relations [then an intelligence agency similar to the Mossad], the moments during which he was ousted from the grounds of the Israeli embassy in Washington, his long years in prison, and his new life in Israel.
“I called Anne, my wife at the time, apologized for not making it to dinner and told her the code words we came up with only days beforehand: ‘The cactus needs to be watered,'” Pollard told Yisrael Hayom. “The meaning was, ‘Leave the city, I was caught.’ She evaded the FBI surveillance and reached [Aviem] Sella [Pollard’s handler]. He left her behind but that’s a different story. She was supposed to be transferred outside the country.”
“The people in my neighborhood [in Jerusalem] are wonderful,” Pollard said. “When I need something I go to the makolet on the corner and sometimes we go together to the supermarket. It’s a little hard for me to walk due to back pain and leg pain. It’s difficult for me to describe to you the wonder of a walk with Esther on the street. Everything is so wonderful. The sky is blue and beautiful. People talk with us and I get the feeling from the conversations that they know that someone was willing to sacrifice his life for them.”
“But one thing I don’t understand – why do they ask for a selfie?” Pollard asked laughingly. “What is this foolishness? When I entered prison, there were no smartphones and no selfies. Esther and I are both very private people and our privacy is important to us.”
Pollard described the exchange of words he had with the security guard at the Israeli embassy. “He told me: ‘I’m sorry, they told me from Jerusalem that you need to leave and enter from the front gate.” I told him: ‘I won’t make it to the front gate. Twenty FBI agents are waiting outside. Do you know what they’ll do to me?’ He responded: ‘I’m sorry, you have to leave.'”
Pollard emphasized that the only motivation for what he did was his desire to help Israel. “There was an intelligence embargo on Israel. The Americans stabbed Israel in the back and didn’t transmit the information that was required by their agreements. This wasn’t only the hiding of information but also the lies they told Israel. I was present at the meetings when these things happened.”
“I know I crossed a line but I didn’t have a choice. The threat to Israel was serious. When an Arab country develops chemical weapons for mass destruction and the US hides this from Israel, every Jew needs to ask himself the meaning of the words ‘Never again.'”
Jonathan and Esther spoke openly about the heavy price they paid for not being able to have children due to his long prison sentence. “It’s one of our greatest sorrows,” Esther said. “One of the things that has caused us the most pain.”
Pollard added: “If someone tells you that men don’t need children like women do, they’re lying. Because children are everything.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)