I was elated to hear that Jonathan Pollard is being paroled this coming November, 30 years after he was arrested for treason. I grew up seeing “Free Jonathan Pollard” placards in my synagogue on Shabbat mornings. I could not understand why someone who had aided a country friendly to the United States was being punished so severely for his actions. It felt unjust to me.
In rabbinical school I began to understand the other side. I had a roommate whose father served in the US Navy and who is currently a Navy Chaplain. On a number of occasions we argued about Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence. The argument got more and more heated as other classmates joined in. One of my classmates pointed out why there were different sides. He pointed to one of my classmates and said “Army family.” He pointed to my roommate and said “Navy family.” Then he pointed to me and said “ZOA family.” From that simple encounter I understood why we were on different sides. I grew up a staunch Zionist, with my love for Israel and importance of its security being primary. My classmates grew up with the emphasis on serving in the military and the staunch belief that you NEVER reveal any military secrets or classified information. Therefore, Pollard providing this information was a crime of the most severe order and he (according to them) should never be released. For them it didn’t matter that Pollard helped Israel-what mattered was a betrayal of the United States.
I still believe that Pollard served for far too long (much longer than anyone else convicted of the same degree of espionage against the United States). He acted wrongly but he was punished far too severely for his wrongdoings. I am glad that he will be reunited with his family and hope he will be able to make Aliyah to Israel.