From prison to politics

Twenty-eight years after she was arrested outside of the Israeli Embassy in Washington together with her ex-husband, Anne Pollard is running for the Ramat Gan City Council and promises to improve the lives of the city’s women.

Anne Pollard (photo credit: Aloni Mor)
Anne Pollard
(photo credit: Aloni Mor)
Anne Pollard, the first wife of imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, is embarking on a surprising political career.
It became public this week that Pollard – who did time herself in an American prison on charges of espionage connected with her husband’s case – has been picked for the No. 2 spot on the Achshav list, headed by Ramat Gan City Council chairman and mayoral candidate Arik Nudelman.
Pollard made aliya in 1991 after she was released from prison and divorced, but returned to New York in the late 1990s and lived there until 2010. Three years ago, she came back to Israel for good with the aid of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman due to serious health problems. Since then, she has been living in Ramat Gan.
“I always loved Israel and felt it was my home. My roots are here,” she says.
Now in her 50s, she is a tall, attractive woman. Joining her at our meeting are Nudelman, who recruited her for the upcoming local election, and Will Roth, the Achshav party campaign manager, who has run campaigns in Israel and the US.
Pollard speaks in a soft, slightly fragile voice with a heavy American accent.
It is apparent that she is excited about running for office, and the big change that she wants to make in her life. In past interviews, she has spoken bitterly about her frustration and sense of betrayal as a result of her and Jonathan’s imprisonment, and about health problems she had during her time in jail. The new-and-improved Pollard of 2013 seems much more relaxed and conciliatory.
Asked what changes she wants to implement in Ramat Gan, she says that “first and foremost, I would like to promote women’s issues. My door will always be open – I’m happy to talk with everyone, from children up to the age of 120-plus. I will support women, and of course all Ramat Gan residents.”In the past, you’ve seriously criticized the Israeli government. How is it that you are suddenly running for public office?
Until a few years ago, the Israeli government tried to minimize its role in the Pollard case and didn’t fight hard enough for Jonathan’s release, so I demanded that it do more. This wasn’t a state issue, but a political one. I’m not angry at Israel as a state.
What are you currently doing professionally?
I’m involved in business entrepreneurship, and I want to work for the benefit of Ramat Gan residents.
What is your connection with the city of Ramat Gan?
Three years ago, I made aliya with my father, and he really loved Ramat Gan. As a former New Yorker, he was very impressed by the city’s modern development and high standards.
Unfortunately he died suddenly.
By entering local politics, I’m actually going back to my roots. I was born in New York and went to school in Washington, DC. I was an excellent student and finished school early. I went to college there and then worked as a lobbyist in Congress and the Senate. That’s where I met Jonathan. Mutual friends of ours told us, “You two Zionists need to meet each other.”When did you get married?
‘Jonathan is very dear to me, and I’m always hoping that they’ll let him come to Israel,’ says Pollard. (Aloni Mor) We lived together at first, and then in 1985, when I was 24, we got married. We were arrested just three months later. In some respects, I spent my honeymoon in prison. Ever since then, I’ve been working for Israel, and now I can work for the benefit of Ramat Gan residents.
Aren’t you afraid of entering politics?
No, I’m not afraid of politics. I’ve worked for many years in a man’s world.
After the difficult years I spent in prison, I’m not afraid of anything. I stood up to neo-Nazis and Muslim Brotherhood members there. And the conditions were appalling. Nobody can discourage me.Have you had difficult experiences in Israel, too?
I witnessed the terrible terrorist attack on the No. 5 bus on Dizengoff Street in October 1994 and in Dizengoff Center in March 1996. I saw Scud missiles land in the Tel Aviv area. So no, I’m not afraid of anything.
And what are you unhappy about today in Ramat Gan?
There is nothing that really bothers me about the city, but now I’m planning to work to improve residents’ lives here and make things better for them. We will be a fresh and clean new force in the city.What do you like about Ramat Gan?
I love that people living in Ramat Gan are very warm, caring people.
The city is a wonderful blend of exciting cultures. When I was kept in isolation in prison, it was very important for me to think about preserving my warmth as a human being. I believe that I have the tools and ability to appreciate warmth in others.How does it make you feel knowing that Jonathan is still sitting in jail?
Jonathan is very dear to me, and I’m always hoping that they’ll let him come to Israel. I’m living for that day. I think about it all the time.If you’re elected to the Ramat Gan City Council, do you plan on initiating an effort calling for his release?
Of course.
NUDELMAN, WHO has been a Ramat Gan city councilman for the past 10 years, has been serving as a member of the Bar faction. He also serves as the global CEO of Yisrael Beytenu.
He is currently running for mayor on the independent Achshav list, which he believes will be the surprise of the election.
In the party’s No. 3 slot is Yair Garbuz, he says, adding, “Our attractive list will cause an earthquake in the city.” Regarding what the party plans to do, Nudelman says, “We are encouraging young people in Ramat Gan to achieve academic degrees, and to that end we are offering grants to help subsidize students who’ve completed their military service. We are also building three entertainment centers: one in the diamond exchange, one in the city center and one in the Ramat Gan National Park. And part of Bialik Street will be turned into a pedestrian mall.”
How did you first come into contact with Pollard?
I was a prisoner of Zion in Ukraine, and Pollard was a prisoner of Zion in the US. It’s natural that we would form a bond and work on projects together.
As an architect, it is important to me to reach out to everyone in Ramat Gan, and I believe that everyone on my list has experience in this.But in recent polls that were published, it doesn’t look like you have a very high chance of being elected mayor.
According to some polls, Shimon Peres was going to be elected prime minister.
Once he even went to sleep thinking he was going to be the next prime minister and woke up in the morning as head of the opposition. Let’s wait and see what happens in the election. It’s important that we get voted into the city council, too, so we need a big and strong list that can make a difference.Translated by Hannah Hochner.