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Jonathan Pollard initiated a campaign for an educational project commemorating his late wife, Esther, called Esther’s Children Center. At the event, he told Israel National News that it is “a bit overwhelming meeting, for the first time, a lot of the activists who fought for so many years for my release. In a sense, it’s a homecoming, a big family event for me.”

Pollard was happy to have the opportunity to personally thank people who campaigned for his release. “Esther would always tell me about all the activities on my behalf, but I never knew very many people and now I’m meeting a lot of them,” he says. Their support was critical for his well-being in prison.

“Next to my wife’s love, it was the support of the Israeli people that kept me strong and hopeful of getting home. It was the people who brought me home; the government certainly didn’t.”

“To people who would apologize for not doing enough, Esther would ask them if they say tfilot [prayers]; ‘did you pray for my husband?’ And when they’d say yes, she would tell them that Hashem had a cup of prayers for me and when that cup will be filled, I would come home.”

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In recalling his decades in prison in the United States, Pollard said that the hardest thing was not being able to start a family with Esther.

“This was very painful for us because, given Esther’s cancer, we had a very small window of opportunity to have children. Esther refused to have chemotherapy in the hope that we would be home together soon enough to have a child. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.”

“We went all the way up to the Supreme Court in America, asking for reproductive rights. In the entire federal prison system, prisoners do not have reproductive rights. There are a few states that allow conjugal visits but they wouldn’t let me go there for the purpose of having a baby.”

“It was very tough. Finally, it was clear we would never have children because her cancer had advanced so far.”

Pollard discussed his late wife’s philosophy that a Jewish identity needs to be instilled in children from a young age. After she died, therefore, he felt the best way to commemorate her life would be to establish a school.

“Esther felt that, unless we understand who and what we are, what our mission is in this country, it wouldn’t matter what our military capabilities are. We wouldn’t win,” Pollard explained.

“We don’t know what children will do when they grow up. Some will be more observant; some will be less observant. The thing is that they must have the ability to make an informed decision and that’s based on education. We are trying to give them that education.”

This mission is related to what he found in Israel when he was finally released and made aliyah [immigrated to Israel] and it is what keeps him active in speaking with the public. “It’s my obligation,” he stated.

“I was shocked. I didn’t realize the country had been so polarized in my absence. I basically sacrificed 35 years of my life for a state that didn’t really exist. It existed in my mind. When I came home, I realized that what I thought was Israel didn’t exist. And now I am trying, very carefully and quietly, to galvanize people into fighting for what Israel should be.”

He had had many offers to go into politics but Esther was a gatekeeper, keeping politicians away from him. Before she died she helped him understand that politics was not an arena into which he should venture. Pollard explained, “Esther said that politics is the art of compromise. What are you willing to compromise on? Maarat Hamachpelah, Tekoa, Hebron, Har Habayit, Shabbat, kashrut? And she was holding me tightly when she asked me this.”

“I looked at her and I said, ‘Nothing. I’m not willing to compromise on anything.’ And she said that that is why I have to stay independent. ‘Do not join a party,’ she recommended. ‘Do not follow anybody who is going to lead you over a cliff and that you have to follow out of some misguided sense of loyalty. You have to stay true to Torah, you have to stay true to Am Yisrael. Eretz Yisrael al pi Torat Yisrael [The Land of Israel according to the Torah]. That’s what you live and die for. The only way to do that is to remain independent.’”

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Following the successful establishment of the education project, Pollard intends to become more active in issues concerning the Land of Israel.

“I don’t like the way things are going right now. I voted for a certain government and I don’t see it. Even now. Our right-wing policies are compromised.”

“I know Bibi. He’s a good man. He means very well. He loves this country. But he’s under enormous pressure from all sides to compromise. It will be my mission to strengthen him to the point at which when Itamar Ben Gvir and Betzalel Smotrich want to act on their policies in Judea and Samaria and other places, that Bibi will have the strength and the protection, if you will, to endorse what they’re doing. Right now, that’s not the case.”

The advantage of not being a politician, according to Pollard, is that people trust him.

“When I speak to people, they understand that I am speaking from my heart. I have no ulterior motive except to secure the safety and well-being of this country. I’m not asking for their vote. I’m asking for them to think and then act because the only way this government will be able to act on their convictions is if the prime minister understands that everybody who voted right wing is going to back him up by supporting right-wing policies.”

Pollard was asked if he has any regrets, given how the State of Israel treated him,

“I didn’t serve the state,” he responded. “I served the Land and People of Israel. And they never abandoned me. They never betrayed me. They never undermined me. They never sabotaged me. I came home to the people who believed in me and who brought me home. So, regret? No. I don’t have any regrets. I just maybe wish I was more effective. That’s all.”

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