Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Humanity for Pollard

Kudos to the San Francisco Chronicle for publishing a press release on the launching of Humanity for Pollard, a new organization dedicated to achieving clemency for former US Navy intelligence officer Jonathan Pollard, who is now serving his 26th year in prison. Pollard was convicted on one count of providing classified information (the threat of Iraqi biological and chemical weapons) to an ally (Israel) -- a charge which has never before led to a life sentence.

According to the press release, the new organization "seeks to reignite social awareness of the issue, and through public support, encourage President Obama to commute Pollard's sentence based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds."

The organization's launch features the ba'al teshuva (in the true sense of the word) rapper Shyne of Def Jam records:
In a video message to President Obama, Shyne, an artist with Def Jam Records, spoke out in support of Jonathan Pollard, saying, “As a human being, we've all made mistakes, and we've all done things that we regret... but I think we, as human beings, have to be given the opportunity to atone, and to redeem ourselves, and to be forgiven, be given a second chance... He has paid his debt to society.”
The press release maintains that public awareness of Pollard's plight is essential is bringing about a resolution under Obama's presidency. It also highlights the participation of delegated figures such as Henry Kissinger, John McCain and Barney Frank in public calls for his release.

Eager to join the new effort? From the group's website, you can call Obama, send a letter to the White House, email Humanity for Pollard and have them send a letter on your behalf, or agree to be filmed.

Last June, after the former chief rabbi of Israel, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu z"l passed away, Jonathan Pollard's wife Esther the following about the significance of Jonathan Pollard's release from captivity:
Over time, the Rav shared with us and with a few others who were very close to him that Jonathan’s release is the key to the redemption of all of Am Yisrael.
In 2006, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu z"l, who had a special relationship with Jonathan Pollard, compared his captivity to that of biblical Joseph. Below is a video in Hebrew, followed by an English transcript of his words.

This week, we read in the weekly Torah portion about the actions taken by Avraham Avinu to save a captive, to save Lot who had gone to Sodom. He went to Sodom and he was undeserving (of rescue); yet Avraham Avinu spared no effort to save him. 

There is a Jew - a very dear Jew - who did so much for the Nation of Israel all over the world and who did so much for the Land of Israel, to save us from some very harsh things --the worst that could happen!

This Jew is named Jonathan Pollard.

His wife, Esther, has worked endlessly to try to get him out from where he is held in prison. I myself have appealed to several Presidents of the United States: to Regan, to Bush, to Bush's father, to Cardinal Law and to a host of others. To whomever I could turn, I have appealed to them, asking that they act to take him out of there and bring him here to The Land.

And I told them - also told them here in The Land - if they what they are afraid of is that he will talk, then I will be his guarantor that he will not say a word. He won't say anything. On the contrary! He will praise everyone; he will praise the presidents.

In any case, what we want is this: He is our brother! He must come home to the Land of Israel - and at once!
Many have pointed to the Pollard case as a cause that unites Jews across "divisions" of denomination (Reform/Conservative/Orthodox), nationality (American/Israeli), political persuasion (Israeli left/Right). Only last week, Meretz Youth, a (far) left-wing Israeli political organization issued a statement on the eve of Shimon Peres' upcoming meeting with Obama.

In fact, as I write this sentence, Peres is meeting with Obama in Washington. Before his departure, Peres had what was reported as a very emotional meeting with Esther Pollard. Following their meeting, she made a special plea to all of Am Yisrael:
Please dedicate at least part of this time to prayer, hope and thinking about Yehonatan ben [son of] Malka
Prayers for Jonathan Pollard's release are available here. A prayer to insert at the end of the amidah is available here in Hebrew, and is reprinted below in English:
May it be Your will HaShem, our G-d and G-d of our forefathers, that with the might of the twenty-two letters of Your Holy Torah, which we received at Mount Sinai, that You open the Heavenly Gates for Yehonatan Ben Malka: the Gates of Healing and Cures; the Gates of Health; the Gates of Joy; the Gates of Redemption; the Gates of Freedom; the Gates of Splendor and Glory; the Gates of Merit; the Gates of Compassion; the Gates of Gladness; the Gates of Goodness; the Gates of Salvation; the Gates of Atonement; the Gates of Good Heartedness; the Gates of Forgiveness; the Gates of Pleasantness; the Gates of Reliance; The Gates of Assistance; the Gates of Liberty; the Gates of Righteousness; the Gates of Holiness; the Gates of Mercy; the Gates of Happiness; and the Gates of Return. May all of the righteous deeds he has done for the Nation of Israel be remembered before You and may they rise before Your Throne of Mercy to plead for good for him; and may he be granted the merit, along with his wife, Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha, to build a Faithful Home in Israel; and may they be blessed with whole and healthy sons and daughters, and Your Name will be Sanctified publicly! May the verse "Take me out of confinement to praise Your Name" (Psalms 142) be fulfilled for him! Do so for the sake of Your Right Hand; do so for the sake of Your Righteousness; do so for the sake of Your Holiness; do so for the sake of Your Divine Presence; do so for Your own Name's Sake; do so for the sake of Your Torah. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your Presence, Eternal! my Rock and my Redeemer!
May Hashem hear your prayer and bring about the speedy release of Yonatan ben Malka, Gilad ben Aviva, Sholom Mordechai ben Rivka and all captives, and may their release herald the redemption of all of Am Yisrael.

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