Jonathan Pollard 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard had a unique request when asked recently what he wanted Israelis to do on his behalf: Plant fruit trees.
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Pollard made the request when he received a delegation of rabbis led by National Council of Young Israel executive vice president Rabbi Pesach Lerner earlier this month at his jail cell in Butner, North Carolina, where he is in the 26th year of a life sentence for passing information to an ally.
Beit El Chief Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, who was part of the delegation, told the story in an interview with the weekly Torah publication Olam Katan.
“He humbly said: ‘I have an extremely big request from you – when you return to Israel, can you plant a fruit tree.’” Aviner recalled. “I said that I will certainly make sure to plant a fruit tree for you, and I will ask other communities to do so as well.
This is therefore an opportunity to publicize that every community should plant a fruit tree. Every city, every Jew, just one tree.”
When asked about his request, Pollard’s wife, Esther, said her husband wanted Israelis to plant fruit trees “because they will bear fruit for years to come, long after we are gone. It means a lot to him because it solidifies our connection to the land.”
Pollard also had a more traditional request. He said the letters he receives are oxygen to him.
When Aviner was asked whether Pollard felt betrayed, he said: “He feels betrayed by the government of Israel but not by the Nation of Israel. He knows that the Nation of Israel loves him and is interested in him. And if we send him letters, he sees that the Nation of Israel remembers him.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised Esther Pollard last week to formally and publicly ask US President Barack Obama to release her husband. At first the request was expected before Saturday’s Christmas holiday, then at the beginning of this week, and now Netanyahu’s associates say it will happen by the end of this week.
“Many people, including legal authorities, are working on the request to ensure its accuracy and to make sure it will help bring about Pollard’s release and not cause him damage,” a Netanyahu associate said.
The leaders of the effort to bring about Pollard’s release said they were not bothered by the postponement.
“If the delay is tactical because they are aiming at success then it’s OK, because it’s easier to hang on when you know there is a chopper in the distance,” Esther Pollard said.
“We can hang on a little longer to enable Netanyahu’s mission to succeed.”