The Long Road to Freedom

It is with a deep sense of gratitude to Hakadosh Baruch Hu that we finally merited to report last week that Jonathan Pollard is set to be released from prison in less than four months. Since its inception, the English language Hamodia has been a constant advocate for Jonathan. We have published numerous articles and editorials decrying the travesty of justice that has kept him behind bars for so many years and urging tefillos and hishtadlus.

On many occasions we pointed out that it is important to realize what the information that Jonathan gave the Israelis was all about. It was not about America; it was information about Israel’s sworn enemies that America was supposed to — but didn’t — share with Israel.

Though he acted out of a well-placed concern for the safety of his brethren, on numerous occasions Jonathan has expressed his sincere regret for breaking the law and not finding a legal way to help Israel.

But it has long been clear to every intelligent observer that the reason Jonathan is still in prison isn’t because of what he did three decades ago. The median sentence for passing classified information to an ally is between two and four years. Pollard is in jail for so many years because of who he is and whom he tried to help.

The story of Jonathan Pollard is of a Jew in exile; a Jew who has managed to fortify himself with emunah and bitachon under extraordinarily harsh circumstances. It is a devastating story of betrayal by the government he sought to help, of an American justice system that failed him miserably.

But as the exclusive interviews we present in this edition relate, it is also a tale of unsung heroes. It is about the incredible mesirus nefesh of his wife, Mrs. Esther Pollard, who has selflessly dedicated her life to try to obtain her husband’s freedom. As she led the international efforts on his behalf, she continually reminded us that while the obligatory hishtadlus was our sacred responsibility, it was the tefillos of Am Yisrael that were keeping Jonathan alive.

It is about a pair of top-notch attorneys, Jacques Semmelman and Eliott Lauer, who have given their all for fifteen long years — without taking a cent — to help Pollard. It is about a noted askan named Rabbi Pesach Lerner, who has given countless hours of his precious time and an enormous amount of heart and energy over an almost twenty-five year period on Jonathan’s behalf.

Though we are deeply thankful for the news of the upcoming parole, it is too early to celebrate. Until Jonathan actually walks out of jail, expressions of jubilation are premature.

The Shulchan Aruch states that “Every moment that one delays freeing captives in situations when it is possible to expedite their freedom, is considered tantamount to the shedding of blood!”

For an individual sitting in prison, every day in captivity is an eternity. Four months is more than a hundred eternities, especially for a Jew who has already suffered so much.

Furthermore, let us not delude ourselves: Parole means that Jonathan will be allowed to emerge from the physical confines of prison, but it isn’t real freedom. Parole means that the threat of rearrest and being sent back to prison for years to come continues to hang like a dangling sword over the head of the newly released prisoner.

While most law-abiding citizens manage to complete the years under parole without incident, in this case, there are valid grounds to be deeply worried.

While the details of the parole have not been made public, based on the way Jonathan has been treated in the past, there is reason to suspect that these conditions are so restrictive that they are almost impossible to fulfill, and the government may decide to haul him back to jail for any number of unsubstantiated reasons.

Jonathan’s ordeal will not be over until he obtains full freedom and will be allowed to put the horrific experiences of the past three decades behind him. This is something that will not happen until he, b’ezras Hashem, is allowed to leave for Eretz Yisrael and begin his life anew.

Until that moment, we must continue to daven for Yehonoson ben Malka, for his health and his full freedom.