Moshe Feiglin is the founder and president of Manhigut Yehudit (the Jewish Leadership movement), dedicated to building authentic Jewish leadership for Israel. For more information or to order Feiglin’s newest book, “The War of Dreams,” visit http://www.jewishisrael.org/.
Esther Pollard doesn’t live in a luxury apartment. For years, Esther rented a tiny room in a cheap motel close to the prison to be near her husband. It was the best she could do. When she realized that the reason her husband continues to languish in prison is to be found in Israel and not in the U.S., Esther relocated. Not to a luxury apartment in Jerusalem – but to a small room in the apartment of a kindly Jerusalem widow who opened her home and heart to the Pollards.
“If you come anywhere close to winning the primaries,” Jonathan Pollard switches the subject to talk about me, “they will simply murder you. Two weeks before he was assassinated, Rehavam Ze’evi, z”l, [Israel’s then-tourism minister] came to visit me. I tried to warn him. I told him what I feared was going to happen, but he just brushed aside my warnings. They did it to one of their own; do you think that they would have any trouble doing it to you?” This is not the first time that people have cautioned me about this possibility, but when the warning is coming from the mouth of Jonathan Pollard, the words take on greater meaning.
“How is Israel able to succeed in having the Americans keep you in prison?” I ask Pollard. “Even the head of the CIA has been saying for some time that it is time to let you go.”
“They have never given the Americans the slightest reason to officially begin the process,” Pollard replies. In matters like this, there are no free gifts. As opposed to what Israel is telling its own citizens, it has been made clear to the Americans – through every channel – that Israel has no interest whatsoever in the man who saved the state by providing vital intelligence to ensure its survival.
All it would take is a sign from Israel to bring about Pollard’s speedy release. Israel has numerous ways to secure the immediate release of Jonathan Pollard, but prefers instead to seek his death in prison.
Only toward the end of the visit does Jonathan share what he keeps locked in his heart. He describes the hostile, violent and noisy atmosphere he lives in. He says that he spends most of his time alone in his cell with earplugs in his ears. He speaks of his deteriorating health and how he is no longer able to climb up into his top-level bunk bed; he is now forced to carry a medical permit allowing him a bottom bunk. He speaks of his legal situation. “Legally speaking, my life sentence condemns me to spend 45 years in prison. I am supposed to leave prison at age 75. They will never let that happen,” he says with disgust.
“At a certain moment in time,” I tell him, trying to encourage him, “suddenly these gates are just going to open, and you are going to walk out – a free man. That moment is closer than you think.”
Jonathan Pollard is a mirror that reminds us who we are; a mirror that Israel is trying to shatter.
When the Pollard case first broke, I was a young officer. Even back then it troubled me that Jonathan (the Jew) was thrown out of the Embassy, while his handler, IAF officer Aviam Sella (the Israeli), was given asylum and defended by Israel. Despite American pressure to hand him over, Israel stood firm for Sella. It looks like Israel is not a State of the Jews, I remember thinking at the time, but a State of Israelis.
Pollard is the Jew who saved the Israelis from American treachery. He did not save us because we are Israelis. He saved us because we are his Jewish brothers. The Pollard case imposes a Jewish identity upon Israel. Israel’s current leadership prefers to keep its Jewish identity safely stored under lock and key, in a jail cell in Butner, North Carolina.