20 November 2015

Eli Yishai on J Pollard's Impending Release from Prison

8 Kislev 5776
Erev Shabbat Kodesh

Were it not for the security situation and the terrible tragedy that befell us today the murders of four holy and pure Jews, Hy"d, I would call to every Eretz Yisrael Jew to celebrate tomorrow the release day of Prisoner of Zion, our brother Yehonatan Pollard in the city street. This is not a personal redemption holiday, it's a public one.

Yehonatan, is a symbol of heroism and self-sacrifice. He lost his freedom for the sake of Am Yisrael's security. His suffering, sorrow, disappointment and abandonment cannot be described in words. There's no doubt that we did him an injustice during the decades within which he was not recognized as an Israeli agent.

In 1998, I visited Pollard when I was serving at that time as Minister of Labor and Social Affairs (first Netanyahu government) in "Butner" prison, in North Carolina. I flew for 30 hours back and forth, around the time of Passover, to meet with him for one hour and get to provide him with a Passover Haggadah, the holiday that symbolizes more than anything the optimism and freedom from slavery, combined with a dedication and a personal greeting from Maran HaRav Ovadia Yosef, ztzvk"l.

Also when I was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior I utilized my position and applied pressure at every opportunity that came my way for the sake of Pollard's release. I passed along in a personal way to former US President Bill Clinton and continuing to former US President George Bush a letter of Maran HaRav Ovadia Yosef, ztzvk"l, that called for his release and also a heart-rending letter of his wife, Mrs. Esther Pollard, it should be noted that this was contrary to the demands of Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who forbade it. I acted as I did because there is no greater mitzvah than redeeming a captive.

Additional prominent personalities requested at every oppportunity to assist in his release, for instance former President Jimmy Carter, diplomats and persons of influence.

Also in the period of President Obama, I didn't cease from my efforts to advance his release. During a meeting that I held with US Ambassador James Cunningham I passed along a letter from Maran, ztzvk"l, addressed to US President Obama, the letter pointed out that Pollard was in bad health and because of "pikuach nefesh" and the exceptional punishment he should have mercy on him and release him. To my sorrow, all my pleas fell on deaf ears and I feel an obligation to ask Yehonatan for forgiveness because we weren't able to get him released earlier, but even so my heart is excited and overflows leading up to tomorrow.

Good night, Yehonatan. Tomorrow is a new day.

"And the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and they shall come to Zion with song, and with everlasting joy on their heads; gladness and joy shall overtake them; sorrow and sighing shall flee."