Jonathan Pollard is FREE from Prison!

Ben Packer,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Ben Packer
Originally from Petersburg, Virginia, Ben Packer moved to Israel in 1999, where he served in the IDF's Givati Brigade in the Gaza Strip. Ben served as a Rabbi on campus at Univ. of North Carolina and at Duke Univ. Ben now serves as Director of the Jerusalem Heritage House ( and Co-Director of Young Jewish Conservatives ( He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem with his wife and 6 children....

Jonathan Pollard has been released from Federal Prison in North Carolina! However, we must all continue to daven for him - his health in particular, but also for his ability to finally move to his home in Israel, which Obama is currently not allowing (even though he did recently for a spy for Cuba, previously an enemy of the US).

Much thanks must go to his lawyers and to Rabbi Pesach Lerner who have stood by Mr. Pollard throughout his struggle for freedom! 

In a certain sense, I have personally been "involved" since the beginning. After his arrest, Jonathan Pollard was taken to the federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia - where I am from. The Rabbi of our Shul - Rabbi Oscar Fleishaker - was the chaplain at the prison. The reform and conservative leadership in Richmond, the nearby capital, demanded that Rabbi Fleishaker not minister to Pollard. The Rabbi publicly refused their "demands". After that, our community was no longer welcome in Richmond. This was my first lesson in the "mainstream" Jewish community's abandonment of Pollard and persecution of those attempting to help him. 

By the time I reached college, I found myself once again right next to Pollard. I attended the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, just a twenty minute drive from where Pollard was being held in Butner, North Carolina. I was fortunate to become close with Rabbi Cary Friedman in Durham, jump-starting my return to traditional Jewish practice. Rabbi Friedman used to regularly visit Jonathan in the prison. When he once asked if I could sponsor some books for him, I jumped at the opportunity. (The books were by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin). Later when Mr. Pollard was studying Talmud, he asked for a specific volume of the Gemara that was out of stock at Artscroll. I went all the way to New York and bought it there and Rabbi Friedman gave it to him! 

When Pollard entered the picture of the "peace process" during the Clinton Administration, I was still in college. I began a letter-writing campaign and contacted many Jewish members of Congress to seek their support. This caught the attention of CNN and I was interviewed about the situation on one of their programs - "World Report". I also caught the attention of the prison officials. I wanted to set up a minyan outside the prison facility for Mr. Pollard to show that the Jewish Community cared. This earned me a surprising early Sunday morning phone call from Jonathan himself telling me that it wouldn't be in his best interests, so I cancelled the plans. Pollard had always been adamant that AIPAC could potentially play a major role in gaining his release, so I wore a "Free Jonathan Pollard" t-shirt to the AIPAC Policy Conference in DC. 

Unfortunately, despite an initial promise from President Clinton, Pollard still did not go free. 

Years later, after studying in yeshiva in Israel and serving in the army, I returned to Chapel Hill with my wife and baby to work in outreach to the Jewish students on campus at UNC and Duke. At the same time, I became a volunteer chaplain at the nearby federal prisons (following in the footsteps of Rabbi Friedman) solely so that I could be available to Jonathan Pollard. Unfortunately, they insisted that I go to all the prisons in the area and that limited my time at Pollard's specific prison - the Medium-security prison. However, I did merit to give a short class to Mr. Pollard and other prisoners about the Fast of Esther and to chit-chat a bit (monitored of course). Around the same time, again through efforts of Rabbi Lerner, I was fortunate to be able to assist Mrs. Ruth Lichtenstein, editor of Hamodia newspaper, to visit Jonathan and do an extensive interview and article on his plight for their publication. 

After 4 years, we went back to Israel and Jonathan Pollard stayed in North Carolina.

Finally, he has been freed from Prison. It still hasn't sunk in yet for me, but I have had butterflies in my stomach all morning. I have complete hope and faith that the Jewish Community of New York, where Pollard is temporarily going to live, will take great care of him and provide him with anything and everything they can - until he can finally come join us in Jerusalem! 

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben Packer

Old City, Jerusalem