12 April 2011

Heartbreaking Poignancy

8 Nisan 5771

(Excerpted from Territory of Lies by Wolf Blitzer)

...In the summer of 1970, while still in high school, Pollard went to Israel for the first time. After all these years, his dream was about to come true. On the bulletim board at his Hebrew School in South Bend, there had been an announcement about a science camp for gifted students from around the world at the renowned Weizman Institute of Science in Rehovot. "Do you think I could go?" he eagerly asked his parents.

Dr. Pollard, of course aware of Weizman's reputation, immediately said yes.

...It was the summer before his junior year in high school. "We were apprehensive," Mrs. Pollard recalled. That was one reason why they themselves later made their own first trip to Israel that same summer.

...When they arrived, Jay was having a wonderful time. "He was in heaven," his mother said, "just in heaven." And Jay agreed. That experience "was one of the most liberating experiences I have ever had in my life," he said, noting that he began to see a more "normal" Jewish experience.

...But even that summer, he found himself fighting with other kids. ...His parents confirmed that there had been an incident. They said that a non-Jewish student from England had been taunting one of the other Jewish kids in the group. "Jay tried to protect this guy," Mrs. Pollard said. "It was no fight. The other boy, who played soccer, just kicked Jay in the stomach and ruptured his spleen." Jay wound up in an Israeli hospital for several days.

...yet Jay had different recollections of that summer in Israel. He insisted that he had simply participated in a water-balloon war with some other kids. "It got a little too vigorous. I was the only casualty."

His most remarkable experience, he said, was seeing the walls of Jerusalem. "A lot of people say that when they see the [Western] Wall for the first time, they are overwhelmed. I won't diminish that. It was quite remarkable for me when I saw it."

But the walls surrounding the Old City had an even greater impact. "I guess that city has come to represent everything I hold dear so far as that country is concerned. You can see in those walls the course of our social history more than you can in the Western Wall. The Western Wall, I guess, represented the bond with God. The walls of that city represented our sociological ascendancy and decline at the same time."

Pollard returned from Israel more convinced than ever that he had no alternative but eventually to settle in that country. He wanted to join the Israeli Army and become a Jewish fighter. He was determined to become a "normal" Jew, living in a Jewish state. He was going to get rid of his Jewish ghetto hangups. Indeed, his parents recalled that he had simply wanted to stay in Israel after the Weizman camp experience. "We had trouble getting him home," Dr. Pollard said. "He wanted to stay there and we told him to come home and finish his education and go back as a contributor."

The boy obeyed his parents. He came home refreshed and excited. He now had a game plan in mind, and it involved preparing himself for the move to Israel. But those heady plans were quickly thwarted upon his return to the real world of South Bend.

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