Jewish-American spy Jonathan Pollard landed early Wednesday morning at Ben Gurion Airport, 35 years after he was first arrested on suspicion of spying for Israel. Pollard was released from prison on November 20, 2015, but until a month ago he has been under severe restrictions that prevented him from leaving the United States.
“Today Esther cut the electronic handcuff from my arm,” Pollard said at the time. “In doing so, she restored my almost complete freedom. The last step to freedom remains our return home, to the country and the people we love.”
The Pollards arrived in Israel on a direct private flight from Liberty Airport to Ben Gurion Airport. The flight was funded by Billionaire Sheldon Adelson. They will quarantine for two weeks in their apartment in Jerusalem.
The Pollards were personally welcomed to Israel by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the airport.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה.
התרגשתי לקבל היום את פניהם של יונתן ואסתר פולארד עם הגעתם לישראל ולהעניק ליונתן תעודת זהות ישראלית.
עכשיו הם בבית. pic.twitter.com/qGApNuZq8a
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) December 30, 2020
Jonathan Pollard said: “We are ecstatic to be home at last after 35 years and we thank the people and the Prime Minister of Israel for bringing us home. No one could be prouder of this country or this leader than we are and we hope to become productive citizens as soon and as quickly as possible and to get on with our lives here. This is a wonderful country. It has a tremendous future. It is the future of the Jewish people and we’re not going anywhere.”
Diaspora Minister Omer Yankelevich tweeted a greeting to Pollard Tuesday night: “Jonathan, how good it is that you’ve come home,” paraphrasing the old Arik Einstein song.
יונתן, כמה טוב שבאת הביתה ❤️
(התמונה מהטוויטר של בועז ביסמוט) pic.twitter.com/mSrbThgYML
— עומר ינקלביץ׳ omer yankelevitch (@omeryankelevitc) December 30, 2020
Pollard’s wife, Esther, suffers from cancer. The couple went into isolation upon their arrival in Israel, but due to Esther’s medical condition, they will not be required to report to a quarantine hotel.
Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to Esther Pollard’s illness and said: “We can treat her with the best medical care in the world.”
Pollard applied for Israeli citizenship in 1995, but the Labor Interior Ministry refused him on grounds that Israel did not grant citizenship to persons who had not yet immigrated, but reversed its decision and granted him citizenship on November 22, 1995. According to a film about the Pollard affair, he then renounced his United States citizenship and is now only an Israeli citizen. According to US law, however, he could only have renounced his citizenship in a petition to the Attorney General, a move which has not been reported.
With the removal of traffic restrictions on him, Pollard wrote (the text is translated from Hebrew): “Thirty years ago my beloved wife Esther first found her way to me, in Marion Prison, the most guarded prison in the United States. I was imprisoned in a three-story underground dungeon, behind 13 locks and keys. Against all odds, Esther came to me, cut the handcuffs over my heart, and brought my soul back to life. That was the beginning of the struggle for my freedom.”
Jonathan Jay Pollard was born in Galveston, Texas, in 1954, to Zionist parents, the youngest of three siblings. In 1961, his family moved to South Bend, Indiana, where his father, Morris, an award-winning microbiologist, taught at Notre Dame University. At an early age, Pollard became aware of the Holocaust and his relatives who perished in it. Before his bar mitzvah, he asked his parents to visit the Nazi death camps. He grew up with, as he put it, a “racial obligation” to Israel, which he visited for the first time in 1970, as part of a science program at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, where one scientist remembered him as “a troublemaker.”
Pollard attended Stanford University, where he completed a degree in political science in 1976. In 1979 he was hired by the Navy Field Operational Intelligence Office (NFOIO) as an intelligence specialist. In October 1984, after some re-organization of the Navy’s intelligence departments, Pollard applied for and was accepted into a position as an analyst for the Naval Intelligence Command. A few months later, he met Aviem Sella, a combat veteran of the Israeli Air Force, who eventually recruited him to pass classified information to Israel.
According to the US government, Pollard “disclosed classified information in anticipation of financial gain.”
The government’s investigation has revealed that defendant provided to certain of his acquaintances US classified documents which defendant obtained through US Navy sources. The classified documents which defendant disclosed to two such acquaintances, both of whom are professional investment advisers, contained classified economic and political analyses which defendant believed would help his acquaintances render investment advice to their clients… Defendant acknowledged that, although he was not paid for his unauthorized disclosures of classified information to the above-mentioned acquaintances, he hoped to be rewarded ultimately through business opportunities that these individuals could arrange for defendant when he eventually left his position with the US Navy. In fact, defendant was involved in an ongoing business venture with two of these acquaintances at the time he provided the classified information to them.
Israel Hayom’s chief editor Boaz Bismuth, whose newspaper was the major source of information on the Pollard’s arrival in Israel, tweeted: “Welcome home Jonathan Pollard! I’ve been in this profession since 1983 and I think this is my most exciting professional night !!!”