Daily Israel Report

Op-Ed: Thinking About Jonathan Pollard

If we do not speak up, who will? Why should a non-Jewish congressman speak up when so many Jewish representatives of heavily Jewish districts are silent? If their constituents were more vocal, they would be as well. Some action on the matter would also no doubt awaken more Knesset members to act. It is time to get moving again, to speak up, to redeem a special captive.
Published: Sunday, December 08, 2002 11:52 PM


The third Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, also known by his pen name, the Tzemach Tzedek, sent a letter to one of his emissaries on behalf of another, named Reb Chaim Yehoshua, who was languishing in a Russian jail. Through tireless efforts and at great personal risk, Reb Chaim Yehoshua had managed to rescue hundreds of boys from the fate of being inducted for prolonged service in Czar Nicholas' army as Cantonists. The Czar's purpose in recruiting the boys (literally boys) was to force them to accept baptism - by any means. Reb Chaim landed in prison due to the workings of an informant, and he was charged with sedition.

The letter was sent to another Chabad activist named Rabbi Zev Wolf, calling upon him to act on Reb Chaim Yehoshua's behalf. Reb Chaim was being held in a military prison and faced severe punishment by a military court if convicted of the charges. Just one line from the very short letter contains very potent massages for us all. The Tzemach Tzedek wrote, "Watch over him closely," facing charges in military court, he was in great danger; "With all your heart and soul," Rabbi Zev Wolf usually conducted rescue efforts in a calculating manner with little emotion. In this instance, he was instructed to put emotion into the effort; "And bestow upon him kindness," as Reb Chaim had placed himself at risk and saved so many, there must be reciprocity for his deeds;(*) "Do this for me," As if he would be acting on behalf of the Rebbe - the Tzemach Tzedek - himself. This case was personal. Every case of releasing captives is special, but the case of Reb Chaim Yehoshua was of extra importance.

Such is the case with Jonathan Pollard.

I personally have acted on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, as have many of us. We have recited prayers, and have written letters, and attended synagogue functions on his behalf. Some of us have also protested at the steps of the Justice Department in Washington D.C., and on the streets of New York and other cities. But we must ask ourselves, as the years pass and Jonathan Pollard remains in jail, ?What have we done lately? And have we acted with sufficient fervency and dedication?? Clearly, not enough has been done.

A reminder: We all still owe Jonathan Pollard. He refused to remain silent. And when he discovered the dangers to Israel, he took risks for over a period of four years in order to inform Israel of the emerging threats from Iraq. The consequences he is paying are for actions on our behalf. As Jonathan himself wrote in a letter back in 1987, "I'd rather be rotting in prison then sitting shiva for the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who could have died." We all owe him, big time.

If we do not speak up, who will? Why should a non-Jewish congressman speak up when so many Jewish representatives of heavily Jewish districts are silent? If their constituents were more vocal, they would be as well. Some action on the matter would also no doubt awaken more Knesset members to act. It is time to get moving again, to speak up, to redeem a special captive.

Even during the horrendous and panic ridden days of Nicholas I, efforts to pressure the authorities, succeeded in having Reb Chaim Yehoshua's case moved from a military to a civilian court, where he received a far lighter sentence. We should be able to accomplish no less for Jonathan Pollard, our brother.

(*) The comments are from the compilation, Igrois Kodesh.
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Larry Domnitch is an author and educator who resides in Efrat.