There is, to the outside world, something a bit incomprehensible about Jews. Most of the world cannot grasp what idiocy would bring Israel to exchange 1,000 prisoners (and yes, among them hundreds of terrorists and murderers) for the life of one person, a young soldier of no worth in terms of security or military knowledge. The sum value of Gilad Shalit’s life was simply that he was one of ours.
By contrast, here in Israel, though we knew it was a stupid and dangerous exchange, it was never something incomprehensible. Rather, it was completely understood, if not something logical. This is what we were commanded to do, above sanity at time, certainly coming within inches of danger to ourselves. We are not supposed to cross the line of endangering ourselves, but even that line blurs as the desperation to bring out own home grows.
We brought Gilad home – others may well die as a result. Perhaps even this past week, as a young child is in very critical condition because the car in which she was riding was stoned. No one regrets for a moment that Gilad is finally home, finally free. We celebrate each victory he claims on his journey to live his life and take back what was stolen from him. I don’t know if what we did was right, but it was good, and it was needed.
And we as a people continue, as we did with Gilad, always aware that there are others out there still held in captivity. Once it was millions – Russian Jews not allowed to emigrate. We protested, we demonstrated, we demanded, we bargained…until the doors of the former Soviet Union opened and more than a million came out. They are part of Israel now and everywhere mixed in with Hebrew, you hear Russian…or at least Russian accented Hebrew and we know that what we did was good, right, needed.
And there were Jews in Ethiopia and Yemen – and we flew planes to bring them home. Jews in Iran that still need to be brought home, though very few. Jews in Syria who have been smuggled in and even Jews from France, who are coming home. And we know that all our efforts are good and right and needed.
And there is a Jew in the United States. Yes, there is. He is a captive and unfairly so. The price he is paying is not for the crime he committed. There was a price to be paid – and he paid it, but he was betrayed by those with whom he made an agreement. It is to their shame that Jonathan Pollard is still in jail, not his. He has done his time and amazingly enough, the vast majority who condemn him – don’t actually know what he was convicted of doing.
You can’t imprison someone for what you think they did, not even for what you know he did. If you respect American law, than you must accept that Jonathan Pollard was sentenced for committing a crime that, on average, results in a sentence of 3-5 years. He has served more than 28 years.
President Obama wants to come to Israel this week and as recent poll showed 79% of Israelis want to see Obama get off the plane with Pollard. There are few things on which you can get 79% of Israelis to agree and given that approximately 20% of the population is Arab and would presumably not be in favor of Pollard being released, that amounts to an almost complete agreement.
The overwhelming feeling among those I know is very simple. There is really nothing to be gained by Obama’s visit. It will be a nightmare of traffic and delays for Israelis a critical week before the Passover holidays. Many of our relatives are flying in or out of the country – honestly, who needs this?
If…IF he were bringing Pollard home, we would greet him with the respect due the President of the United States, even though personally we know he is far from a friend of Israel. We will listen to the nonsense and unfair position he will spout, how WE should do this and WE should do that. We would ignore his pressuring us and ignoring endless violence by the Palestinians.
But worse, this week is likely to see an increase in violence – the Palestinians are often most dangerous when they want to get their message across. Last week, they stoned a car traveling on a highway – a mother was critically injured, her three daughters hurts as well. The baby was labeled as “matsav anush” – a term that usually means mortally wounded, not expected to live. Some return from matsav anush, most do not.
What will this week see? Certainly a nightmare of traffic throughout parts of Israel; perhaps rockets, almost certainly more stoning attacks. Yesterday a soldier was injured by rocks…how many more?
So Obama – again, I ask you – please, please don’t come to Israel if all you come for is to pressure us to do your will and ignore our nation’s needs, our safety. Enough. Seriously – send us an email if you feel you have to but unless you are bringing Jonathan Pollard on your plane – don’t come.
And know that the commandment to redeem captives is one of the most important. We will do all we can to bring Jonathan Pollard home. No, he is not innocent of wrong-doing. No one ever said that. But he has served his time – and another 4 times as much as he should have served. Longer than those who commit murder in your country, longer than those who transfer military secrets to your enemies. Longer than rapists. Enough. Justice prolonged to long fast becomes injustice.
Bring Jonathan Pollard home…or else, honestly, we have better things to do the week before Pesach than listen to you.
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About the Author: Visit Paula Stern's blog, A Soldier's Mother.
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