How can I ever find the words to express the amazement, the wonder and the gratitude I feel! The massive demonstration for you last night in Gan HaVradim (the Rose Garden) was like a story book fantasy! It lasted for 5 hours and was well-attended from start to finish - even with people coming and going. The speeches and songs gave way at 8 PM to a full blown concert starring the popular music star Aaron Razel. He told me that it was a great honor to sing for you. Every song he sang, every tune they played was introduced by relating it to you and your deeds and devotion to and for Am Yisrael.
Again the youth - our beautiful sweet hope for the future - were there in full force. Singing, dancing , chanting, cheering, praying and very often crying for you. I get tears in my eyes just thinking of some of the young people who came up to speak with me. How many of them stood there with tears running down their cheeks, telling me to tell you to be strong, that they will not rest until you are home. The girls hugged and kissed me and squeezed my hand while blessing me and blessing you. The boys stood shyly around me, respectfully at a distance, but with all the same blessings and words of comfort, cheer and utter determination to see you home.
I can picture you now, laughing and smiling, and saying to me, “Esther, slow down! Start from the beginning! I want to hear everything that happened, from start to finish! As always, I have to protest, “But Jonathan, I am not like you! I can’t remember everything! And I can’t remember it all in chronological order! That is a male trait. I remember things like a female - emotionally - how it felt, more than anything else. I’ll try to tell you everything, but please, indulge me if I lead with my heart not my head.” And then you flash this cute Pollard-Bear smile which radiates love and amusement and very great patience. That is my signal to go ahead, and I shall:
When I first arrived at Gan HaVradim, there were already about 2000 people there. The Rose Garden is a huge expanse of territory, so the crowd - though substantial - seemed dwarfed by the vastness of the place. The sun was very hot and there was little or no shade where the stage and the chairs were set up. But that did not deter the crowd. All the chairs were filled and the large overflow of participants sat on the grass or under trees a little distance away, to escape the sun. People kept arriving as Harav Shlomo Aviner was speaking. He was followed by HaRav Ben-Tzion and then HaRav Eran Margalit. As HaRav Margalit was speaking the crowd suddenly rose to their feet almost in a wave, to show respect to HaRav Dov Lior of Kyriat Arba, who had just arrived. Like those who preceded him, HaRav Lior spoke eloquently and from the heart about you.
For the last few days, I have attended numerous speeches by respected Rabbonim, all speaking about you, as part of the week-long Pollard Event in Gan HaVradim which culminated in the massive demonstration. At the demonstration we were treated to more of the same by some very prominent Rabbonim. In my typically female fashion, I remember less what they said, than how their words affected me. Each time another rabbi gets up and begins to speak about you, I want to rub my eyes and ask myself if I am dreaming! Rabbi after rabbi speaks of you with the utmost love and respect and deep concern. They use different words and different drashas to make their points, but they all praise your dedication and devotion to Am Yisrael. They speak of your selflessness, your devotion, your overwhelming love and concern for Am Yisrael; and of your heroic battle to survive these 18 years of indifference and injustice at the hands of our own government and our so-called best ally. They deplore the government’s lack of action, and they worry aloud about the consequences of our failure as a nation to show you the love, and the HaKarat Tova (gratitude) you deserve. Worse still they worry about the on-going consequences of our failure to rescue you. None of the rabbonim have a real command of the legal case, but broad brush, they speak of the massive injustice done to you and of the urgency of rescuing you. And each relates parallels between you and our Biblical heroes. Most often, the theme of Yosef Ha'tzaddik is drawn upon. But others as well. I watch this. I listen. And I wish you could see it, because I know you would not believe your own eyes or ears as well. All these extraordinary Rabbonim -after all these years that we were so sure they just did not know or did not care - and now here they are speaking publicly about you with such love and admiration, praying for your release, exhorting the public to become involved.... it is deeply touching and quite miraculous!
There were so many amazing speakers! Among them: HaRav Shlomo Aviner, HaRav Dov Lior, Harav Eran Margalit, Harav Moshe Hagar, Harav Chanan Porat, Harav Bedichi (he was the right hand of HaRav Tzvi Yehuda Kook ztl.), Harav Taibak and more. Nadia Matar and Shifra Hoffman also spoke very beautifully. Did I tell you Ken Lasson was there? He and his wife Barbara attended. Ken spoke as well, and Eli translated for the crowd. I kept watching the speakers and watching the crowd, and I kept thinking to myself, “If only Jonathan could see this! He would be stunned to see all these people gathering here for him! He would shake his head in disbelief at the outpouring of love and concern!” The caring and deep commitment and longing to see you home was so all pervasive throughout the crowd that it was almost palpable.
Jonathan, Larry always reminds me that a famous rabbi told him years ago, “He who controls the buses, controls the public’s presence at demonstrations.” And it is true. In Israel, all the large demonstrations get their numbers by providing free transportation from all parts of the country and from various points within Jerusalem. That way the crowd comes together, is forced to stay until the end, and then leaves together. In our case, we did not provide buses from anywhere. We simply have no funds to do that. So, it is all the more amazing then to consider of the substantial crowd which participated yesterday - that every single person was committed enough to get there on their own! Many came from other cities. They came and they stayed. Not because they were forced to wait for return buses, but because they wanted to. Most people stayed for hours. And then left on their own. As they left in trickles, new faces kept arriving throughout! There was never a moment that the grounds were not full of Pollard participants from the time the rally began at 5:00 PM until the time it ended at 10:00 PM!
I wish I could describe every exciting thing that happened; every speaker; every private conversation; all the wonderful people who came, and how they would come up to me and hug me and clasp my hand and bless you and bless us, and express such wonderful thoughts. But there are simply too many moments to describe so let me focus on a few, and G-d willing very soon when you are home I will have all the years until 120 with you to fill in all the details! Amain!
Let me tell you about my on-location interview with Channel One News (The Govt. TV station) who were covering the event. I talked about how your release has already been promised by the former president of the United States as an integral part of the Wye accords. How Israel lived up to its end of the deal but when the US failed to deliver on your release, Israel did nothing. I noted that the commitment still stands, and especially in light of all the US pressure for Israel to make gestures, it is high time that Israel collected on the American promise to release you. I pointed out that after 18 years, in light of Israel’s numerous and egregious prisoner releases made at the behest of the United States, there simply are no more excuses for Israel’s failure to collect your release.
In response to the interviewer’s questions I also covered a number of other issues, including the deeply hostile attitude of the current Prime Minister to the plight of an Israeli agent in peril; and of the repeated failures of a series of Governments of Israel to behave with honor or integrity towards you. It was made quite clear that the Government of Israel has not only failed to seek your release all these years, but it has also sabotaged and undermined our efforts and callously and calculatedly ignored opportunity after opportunity to bring you home.
This was approximately the point at which the assimilated reporter from the Government TV station leaned towards me, smiled, and tried to knock me for a loop. “Esther,” he said, “Look at the crowd here today. There are a couple of thousand people, not tens of thousands. And most of the people here today are wearing kipas. Where is everyone else? Do you think that the nation is trying to tell you something? That perhaps Jonathan is not one of us?”
I smiled at him and looked straight into the camera as I replied, “You look at the crowd of people gathered here today and all you see are external appearances. I look at the same scene and I see a MIRACLE! It a miracle that there are SO MANY people here today! After 18 years of the best efforts that both governments have invested in slandering Jonathan, sabotaging his case, and stifling all attempts to publicize his plight, it is nothing but a miracle that there is such a large crowd today! Not only that, look who is here today! Look at the overwhelming number of young faces that are here with us today! These children were not even born when Jonathan was arrested! The Ministry of Education refuses to allow Jonathan to be part of the education curriculum, the Government never wanted our youth to know about him. But in spite of all efforts to prevent it, 18 years later our youth DO know, and they DO care, and they ARE here today! If that is not a miracle, I do not know what is! And while we are on the subject, if you are so concerned as to why the non-religious public is so scarce today, you had better look to yourselves. We have had 3 highly successful demonstrations this month and your station never covered any of these events, so whose fault is it if the people do not know? If you cover this current rally and you broadcast honestly, I am certain that there will be as many secular people with us next time as there were when we held our major event at the Kotel.”
The interviewer assured me that of course they would do an honest broadcast and cover this event fairly on the evening news . I am told by those who monitored the news that the clip of my interview did not appear. Nor did the interview with Larry Dub. In fact the demonstration was not covered at all! Par for the course. A woman in Tel-Aviv who lives with 15 cats is evicted from her home because the neighbors complain of the stench and the filth. Half a dozen do-gooders show up and stage a protest on her doorstep. They receive night and day extensive coverage from the bleeding-heart government-run TV station. But the miraculous major demonstration for an Israeli agent in peril after 18 years of abandonment and betrayal, doesn’t even merit a mention on the nightly news! Welcome to Israel.
Another journalist I met at the demonstration also lamented the fact that there were so many religious people at the event, and insisted that we will get nowhere unless there is greater involvement by the non-religious community. I pointed out that we had a much heavier mixed participation at our last two events which were more readily accessible and which received greater publicity. I also explained that Heaven looks at numbers differently than we do. I reminded her of my earlier presentation to the crowd. She said she had missed it. So I repeated for her something I had said earlier: That the very fact that there are a couple of thousand people present is nothing but a miracle which two governments and an elitist, indifferent media did their best to prevent. And contrary to what Channel One News may think, these few thousand are sufficient numbers to be the vehicle for the miracle of Jonathan’s release. I said that there are times in the life of our nation, like that of the story of Purim when the entire nation unites as one, and does whatever is necessary to invoke the blessing of Heaven. Heaven responds to the unified prayers and deeds of the nation with the miracle necessary for our salvation. But, I said, there are also other times, such as the story of Chanukah, when it is only a handful of very dedicated and brave individuals who are able to come together with single-minded devotion to do Kiddush HaShem and to protect and defend the nation. In those circumstances where the best we as a nation can do - under repressive, fascistic regimes, or deceitful regimes - is to produce a small group of fearless heroes to be representatives of the entire nation, Heaven responds and the miracle needed is granted as well.
G-d willing, Heaven will smile upon the thousands of people who have showed up at demonstrations for you in recent weeks, and regard their prayers and actions as representative of the entire nation. Just as the few overcame the many, and the weak overcame the mighty at Chanukah, may it indeed be so for us as well! Amain!
Another highlight of the event, was the unexpected arrival of a delegation of Azzam Azzam’s family. They have pitched a tent outside the Prime Minister’s office and have vowed not to leave it until the Government acts to free Azzam Azzam from prison in Egypt. They say they are tired of the Government’s empty gestures and broken promises. Sami Azzam, Azzam Azzam’s brother and his cousin sought me out. The came over to introduce themselves and asked if they might show their solidarity with Jonathan by participating. I assured them that they were most welcome. Eli Joseph, the director of events, privately asked me if it would be all right to have Sami address the crowd, and I responded that both you and I would be very happy if he would, by all means!
Sami spoke passionately and well for both your release and that of his brother Azzam Azzam. He said his family understands too well the Government’s penchant for words, not deeds. They are deeply distressed by how much is being said in the Israeli press for Azzam Azzam and how little is being done. He said that in light of recent events and of all the prisoner releases Israel has bowed to, there is no excuse why you or Azzam Azzam should continue to be political pawns. Sami’s voice shook with emotion as he said, “They are freeing the terrorists that murder our children! But they cannot find it in their hearts to free our sons, Jonathan and Azzam Azzam?!!” Sami Azzam was well-received by the crowd and received much applause and support.
In between speakers there were musicians and songs written especially for you. One of my favorites, Reuven David, sang Acheinu Kol Beit Yisrael. The whole crowd joined in. He was accompanied on the keyboard by Mordecai Fischer. Fischer and his wife Techiya schlep his musical equipment, amplifiers and paraphernalia to every Pollard event to sing his special song, Achinu Yehonatan (Our Brother Jonathan). That is the song that Rabbi Yoav Malka composed out of an article written by HaRav Shlomo Aviner. The music is deeply moving, and no matter how many times Mordecai sings it, he does so with great feeling.
Only one MK, Gilad Erdan showed up. He addressed the crowd and spoke of a new law that he is introducing into the Knesset to assure that no agreement can be signed unless your release is a part of it. I explained to Erdan that our Government does not respect written agreements. That the agreement at Wye guaranteed your release but the Government has never acted upon it. I reminded him that our Prime Minister does not bother to sign agreements when he unilaterally frees murderers or hands over territories. Sharon even stated flatly that he has no obligation to consult the Knesset over the Road Map since it is not a signed agreement. That for all these reasons and more, the law Erdan is proposing is a waste of time. Time that should be much better spent rallying his colleagues to bring pressure on Sharon that NOTHING further be negotiated, agreed, or handed over, and NO MORE PRISONER RELEASES, until Jonathan Pollard is released. Nevertheless I did thank Erdan for coming and for his interest in the case.
After Erdan spoke and I gave my closing remarks, there was a break for Mincha prayers. When we resumed, Eli announced the arrival of a special guest, popular singing star, Aaron Razel! Aaron is a phenomenal songwriter, singer and entertainer. He is well-known in Israel and very popular with the younger generation.. Aaron spoke beautifully about you and gave you many many blessings and then started the concert. The next two hours were nothing but song and dance - all of it focused on you - in a huge Pollard Bash. Razel’s music is lively without being an assault on the ears. It just makes you want to get up and dance, so that is what every one did. The girls quickly fashioned a makeshift mechitzah (partition) and invited me to come dance with them. The boys and men danced on the other side.
It will probably surprise you that I did dance. You know that I usually refuse to participate in any “joyful” activities or entertainment as long as you are in prison. But this was not entertainment, and it was not wanton joy. The dances we participated in were very focused. Very pure. Every song was dedicated to you. All the words were about you. All the music was for you. All around us were huge signs, posters and portraits of you. There was an overwhelming sense of unity in our dancing. It was not just dancing. It was dancing for Jonathan. Dancing for Kiddush HaShem. Dancing for Achdut Yisrael (Jewish Unity.) For as long as I live, I will never forget the sense of connectedness and unity of purpose I experienced last night while dancing with my sisters. I felt the same way watching as our brothers danced with single-minded devotion to Jonathan and to HaShem! It was the first time in my life, that I so keenly experienced music and dance as a form of prayer and a supplication to Heaven. May the Almighty receive our all of prayers; may He hear and answer them to the good and soon! Amain! May we be privileged as a nation, very very soon, to welcome you at Ben Gurion Airport and to go out on the tarmac and dance again, with you this time, in thanks and praise to HaKadosh Baruch Hu - the living G-d of Israel! Amain! Ken Yihi Ratzon!
love your own,