Jonathan Pollard: Former Jewish spy lands in Israel 35 years after arrest

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Jonathan Pollard made aliyah early Tuesday morning, landing in Israel 35 years after he was arrested for passing classified information to an ally.

He and his wife Esther arrived on the private plane of American billionaire Sheldon Adelson and they immediately kissed the ground upon arrival.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted the Pollards at Ben-Gurion Airport and said the shehecheyanu (You kept us alive) and matir asurim (freeing of prisoners) prayers with them. Netanyahu said he is glad that they are home.

“Now you can begin your lives anew in freedom and happiness,” Netanyahu said. “Now you are home.”

Pollard, 66, responded that he is “ecstatic” about living in Israel, and he is thankful to the people of Israel and to Netanyahu for helping him get home.

“No one could be prouder of this country or its leader than we are,” he said. “We hope to become productive citizens as soon as possible and to get on with our lives here. It is a wonderful country with a tremendous future. It is the future of the Jewish people, and we are not going anywhere.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets Johnathan Pollard at Ben-Gurion Airport after making aliyah. (PMO)

National Council of Young Israel executive director emeritus Rabbi Pesach Lerner, who has been close to the Pollards for many years, said they timed their arrival between medical treatments for Esther’s cancer, so she can get her next one following their quarantine.

“Their goal was always to come to Israel as soon as possible, once they were cleared to come,” he said.

The Pollards have a furnished apartment in Jerusalem, though Lerner would not reveal the neighborhood. Esther lived in the Holy City before she joined her husband in New York following his release from prison five years ago.

“He will not live a boring life,” Lerner said. “There are things he wants to do. There will be a time after the coronavirus that he will walk the streets, go to the Kotel, go shopping. He has plans.”

Asked what would happen if a political party tried to draft Pollard ahead of the March 23 election, Lerner said the answer would be no.

“He is not going into politics,” he said. “He has been there, done that. He wants to contribute to society in a different way and I am sure he will do that.”

Politicians released statements welcoming Pollard, including President Reuven Rivlin, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and prime ministerial candidate Gideon Sa’ar.

National Council of Young Israel President Farley Weiss, who was involved in the effort to bring about Pollard’s release from prison, recalled the long struggle that has finally ended.

“I am very grateful that Jonathan Pollard can finally live as a free person in the State of Israel with his wife Esther,” Weiss said. “Former US national security adviser Bud McFarlane called Pollard’s life sentence a great injustice, so the end of this injustice has finally taken place with Pollard’s arrival in Israel.”

In late November, when the US Parole Commission formally lifted his parole restrictions, the Pollards said through their spokespeople that they wanted to move to Israel “as soon as possible and fulfill their dream of living together in Israel.”

Pollard, a former intelligence analyst for the US, was detained in 1985 for spying for and providing top-secret intelligence to Israel, serving 30 years of a life sentence before he was paroled in 2015. He is the only American in US history to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally, as well as being the only one to serve more than 10 years in prison for the crime.

Under his parole restrictions, Pollard was subjected to wearing a GPS wrist monitoring device that constantly tracked his location, keeping a curfew that prevented him from leaving his home between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., and having his computers monitored. He was not permitted to leave New York, let alone the country.

Parole conditions lasting five years are considered standard, but the restrictions were especially strict.

Upon learning of Pollard’s release last month, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, who was the first cabinet minister to visit Pollard in prison 23 years ago, said he was overjoyed by the news.

“Israel is waiting for Pollard,” he said. “This is happy news after the state abandoned him for too many long years. Soon we will be able to see Jonathan in Israel.”

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