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Naomi Knobel, longtime secretary of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu OBM, has a close connection to Jonathan and Esther Pollard. When Jonathan Pollard was in prison, messages came through Esther to Rabbi Eliyahu.

“I was the go between. Not from the beginning. At the beginning there was someone else, and meanwhile I built my relationship with Esther and with Jonathan,” Knobel recalls. “We became really good friends and even sometimes she would come to the office when she knew that Jonathan was about to call and she would wait there and then I’d get on the phone with him and it was very exciting for me and he would would go on to speak to the rabbi.”

She describes the connection between Jonathan and Rabbi Eliyahu as that of a “father and a son.”

“We felt like he was his father, and we were his brothers and sisters and that was until today. That's how we feel about them. We are his family and the whole Jewish people are his family,” she says. “Back then in those dark days – and they never felt dark, they were always light – there was always hope.”

The phone calls from Pollard were never about what he needed but about the bigger picture of what he was doing there, the issue of the State of Israel, the Jewish people, and how to help Israel, she explains.

“Esther’s major issue was to come home with Jonathan and start a family and have a family here in the State of Israel,” she says. “And in fact when I left, I went to visit him in jail and at the end of the meeting I said to him I want a blessing, and he said to me, the blessing will be for your children. Because children was the utmost in his mind.”

She comments that was what very much hurt both of them, the fact that they could not have children. The prison would not allow it.

“Esther said to one of the rabbanim that any normal country in the world would let a political prisoner be with his wife and and have a family, and it doesn't make sense. They felt it was antisemitism that he wasn't allowed to have a family, and that was always the issue, that was a burning issue. I was shocked.”

That connects to today’s inauguration of a special program, the Children of Esther Pollard center for Jewish education.

“Esther Pollard never had her own children and therefore there's no one who could say kadish for her. There’s no one who can say, “This is from my mom, I'm doing this.’ There's no one like that. We have to be those children. We have to build this institution to create these children who will know that she is the person who they look to as their mother, as the person that they can give to even after her passing, that they are her continuation in this world.”

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