Grapevine: A misconception about Pollard

A book The Jewish Emigrants from Britain 1700- 2000, will be launched on Tuesday, March 12, at Beit Avi Chai in J'lem.

By
March 7, 2013 21:20
DORON ALMOG (with pennant) and MK Elazar Stern with Aleh youngsters pose at the Jerusalem Marathon.

aleh370. (photo credit: courtesy ALEH )

One of the reasons for a certain degree of complacency about the eventual release from prison of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard is that many believe that his freedom will be automatic once he has served 30 years. (Pollard began his 28th year in jail on November 21, 2012.) But that is not the case, former US secretary of defense Dr. Lawrence J. Korb, who has been one of the leading activists on Pollard’s behalf, said when asked about this at the Jerusalem Press Club this week. Pollard has to apply for parole, but his lawyers are not being given access to all the government files pertaining to his case.

Korb became interested in the Pollard affair after receiving a letter from Pollard’s father. He subsequently visited Pollard in prison and all the things that Pollard told him were later corroborated by the CIA.

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Korb said that Pollard had been treated very harshly and had been placed in solitary confinement. If Pollard’s release could still be harmful to the US after 28 years in prison, said Korb, it would signify that America hasn’t progressed much in 28 years. “What information could he possibly have that’s still of use?” Korb also noted America’s double standards.

When Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden, received a 33-year sentence on a trumped up charge of being an Islamist militant, the White House was critical and raised the issue with the Pakistani government.

Korb doesn’t see that much difference between Pollard and Afridi.

There has been rumor to the effect that if Israel resumes negotiations with the Palestinians and gives in to some of their demands, this could lead to Pollard’s release. Korb said that making the release contingent on anything would be wrong.

The CIA debriefing is now in the public domain, and influential American figures who supported Pollard’s continued incarceration have now changed their minds with the realization that he did not do nearly as much damage as he was alleged to have done.

“He’s a human being. He’s a person.

Release him for the right reasons,” said Korb, suggesting that intelligence agencies had not done their job properly and that Pollard was the fall-guy for their incompetence.

THE LITHUANIAN Embassy in Israel thought that the launch of the book The Legacy, co-authored by Rabbi Berel Wein and South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, who each happen to write columns in The Jerusalem Post, was sufficiently important to send Counselor Violeta Popovaite to Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue for the event. When moderator Gila Fine, who is editor-in-chief of Maggid Books, asked what prompted them to write a book together, Wein quipped dryly, “It’s not the money, I’ll tell you.”

In a more serious vein, he and Goldstein, who are both each of Lithuanian descent, explained that they wanted to preserve and hand down the legacy of Torah wisdom that they had received from their own Lithuanian teachers and that had made life-long impressions on them. It was particularly important to them because the Jewish community of Lithuania had been decimated during the Holocaust and while its pre-war population was smaller in size than those of Poland and Russia, it produced giant scholars and teachers whose legacy Wein and Goldstein believed should be made accessible to a wider public. While it does contain some history and biographical details, the book is largely about values, said Goldstein.

“We think values have a role to play in society.” These values are eternal, he noted, which is why The Legacy is not just about the past but also about the future. The book is more or less a guideline for decency, kindness and integrity, which collectively are encompassed by the Hebrew expression, derech eretz. Without derech eretz, which both regard as the epitome of character traits, there is no Torah, they said.

“You shouldn’t confuse Jews with Judaism or rabbis with religion,” remarked Wein.

“External piety should reflect what we are on the inside,” Goldstein commented, adding that people think that some values are so basic that you don’t need to talk about them, “but everything has to be articulated and discussed.”

PANEL DISCUSSIONS produce the strangest bedfellows. At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem one evening this week, veteran broadcaster Haim Yavin, Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich, who is a former broadcaster, and satirist, stage and screen actor Guri Alfi were on a panel dealing with “Satire, News and Politics” that was moderated by Gadi Taub, a senior lecturer at the Hebrew University’s School of Public Policy and the department of communications.

The event, which was the focal point of an annual conference for public policy and communications students, attracted so much interest that it had to be moved from an auditorium in the Social Sciences Faculty to a much larger venue in the Truman Center and, even then, there were people lining the walls and sitting on the stairs. The subject was satire, news and politics, and the debate was over the usurping of prime time on television by satire and reality shows.

Israel Prize laureate Yavin, 80, who for years has been known as “Mr. Television,” feigned some of the infirmities of old age, pretending not to be able to hear or to remember, thus proving that he could compete with Alfi in raising a laugh. When Alfi or Yacimovich tried to interject while Yavin was speaking, he pointed to his allegedly deaf ear and said, “Don’t joke when I’m talking. I can’t hear.”

To which Taub said, “People with impaired hearing hear only themselves.”

Yavin’s instant rejoinder was “And it’s also worth listening to.”

As the newsman who announced the political turnaround when Menachem Begin won the Knesset election in 1977, Yavin railed that satire is killing the public debate and quoted the late American media critic Neil Postman, who wrote the book Amusing Ourselves to Death.

“You kill public debate when Kitzis presents the headlines of the day,” fumed Yavin, referring to Eyal Kitzis, who hosts the popular satirical program Eretz Nehederet (A Wonderful Country), which is still going strong after a decade on the air and which frequently parodies Yacimovich – not always in a favorable light.

Yacimovich was personally appreciative of the show, saying that it had branded her. She also opined that a lot of the votes for Labor were attributable to Eretz Nehederet.

Yavin was critical of today’s politics and singled out Yair Lapid as someone who lacks ideology and who has succeeded on the basis of his celebrity status rather than on his political platform. For all that, Yavin was delighted by the huge turnout, which he said proved that Israel has a future – except that in Hebrew it came out like a commendation for Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid. Yavin quickly explained when goaded by Yacimovich, that this was not a political endorsement, and then repeated “yesh atid,” adding “yesh od harbe avoda” – a wordplay on the name of Yacimovich’s party. The full translation of what he said is “There is a future, but there’s still a lot of Labor.”

AS A resident of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, retired National Labor Court president Steve Adler joined other representatives of the Jewish Quarter in greeting the new Armenian Patriarch Archbishop Nurhan Manougian, 65, who in January was elected the 97th Armenian Apostolic Patriarch of Jerusalem, succeeding Torkom Manougian, who died last October at age 93 after suffering from a stroke. The Armenian patriarch, who was born in Aleppo, Syria, is one of a handful of spiritual leaders who are custodians of Christian holy sites in the Holy Land, including those in the disputed territories. He heads the Armenian communities living in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

NOT SO long ago, people with special needs were isolated from society and hidden away by their families lest their physical or mental conditions or both cast a blot on the marriage potential of their siblings.

Today, there is greater sensitivity for the feelings of people with special needs, resulting in a global effort to include such individuals – especially children – in mainstream activities. One of these activities was last Friday’s Jerusalem Marathon, when more than 100 volunteers, including Maj.-Gen. (Res) Doron Almog; MK Elazar Stern; soldiers; Beitar Jerusalem players; medical students; and relatives of 20 special needs youngsters joined forces to push wheelchairs in the marathon. There was no way that spectators could miss them, Nearly all of them were wearing brilliant green ALEH T-shirts.

This week, Almog, Stern and the soccer players all received special citations from ALEH in recognition of their compassion and commitment. Almog is deeply involved with ALEH and the founder of Aleh Negev, a village that provides residential and comprehensive medical and social services for people with special needs. He understands the problems of families with special needs members all too well. He had an autistic son named Eran, who died in 2007 at age 23 but continues to be an inspiration to his family, who work to improve the quality of life for other young people who have missed out on some of the essentials of nature’s bounty.

MANY JEWS who landed in Britain over the past three centuries mistakenly believed they were going somewhere else. This inspired the Israel Branch of The Jewish Historical Society of England to publish a book The Jewish Emigrants from Britain 1700- 2000, which will be launched on Tuesday, March 12, at Beit Avi Chai in Jerusalem.

The book was inspired by the contribution to the study of Jewish migration by the Society’s late president, Lloyd Gartner. It tells the story of Jewish migration from Britain to the “new worlds” of the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and southern Africa. It also details the aliya of Jews from Britain to Israel over the past century, besides recounting the tragic story of those Jews from Britain who returned to Russia. Guest speaker at the launch will be Elkan Levy, who will describe how and why Jews came from Eastern Europe to Great Britain. His lecture is aptly titled “They got off the boat too soon.”

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