Rabbi Lau
Rabbi LauIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Some 60,000 people have signed an online petition asking that U.S. President Barack H. Obama pardon and release Jonathan Pollard. Pollard, who has been in prison for some 28 years, and suffers from deteriorating health. Among those who have signed the petition are former President Yitzchak Navon, several Nobel Prize winners, artists, Knesset members, and public and corporate officials.

On Sunday, Purim Day, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, released a letter he planned to present to Obama, who is set to visit Israel next month. In the letter, Rabbi Lau tells Obama that he “stands at the head of a great country, whose power is measured not just in military and economic terms, but in its spiritual leadership as the staff-bearer of freedom and liberty.

“At the eastern gates of the United States stands a monument to freedom, which grants those entering the country the United States' 'national business card' – the desire for freedom for all people,” the letter said, referring to the Statue of Liberty.

“Mister President,” the letter continues. “It is now some 28 years – close to 10,000 days – that Jonathan Pollard is imprisoned in a jail in the U.S. He was convicted of the serious crime of transferring secure information to a foreign country, albeit a friendly one, the State of Israel. Those responsible have expressed a deep regret over their actions, even if it was done to protect Israel's security. Despite this, Jonathan continues to sit in prison, for a term unlike any other in the history of America,” Rabbi Lau wrote.

“Mr. President, following our President, Shimon Peres, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, along with tens of thousands of Israelis as well as American leaders such as Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, I, too, add my voice to the many asking you to consider pardoning Jonathan Pollard, and allow him to live the rest of his life with his wife Esther in Israel, which has granted him citizenship. This act, Mr. President, will inscribe upon the hearts of those who seek freedom around the world, as a humanitarian gesture that will make a major historical impact,” Rabbi Lau wrote.