It is one of Jewish life’s little ironies.
I am, as they say in Israel, a ‘leftist,’ meaning that yes, I still even now, despite all, everything considered, understanding the circumstances, am very much in favor of a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. No, not the absurd joke right wing delusional fantasy of a peace process cooked up by boy not genius Jared Kushner, but a common sense, down to earth peace plan worthy of the holy land. And meaning that yes, I still continue to believe in and use the term two state solution even though Trump has ordered the State Department not to utter those words anymore and even though boy ungenius Prince Jared of Doofusville has declared, based on all the wisdom he does not possess, that the term is no longer ‘useful.’
The irony being that when I’m in Israel, despite holding those beliefs, everyone thinks I’m a settler. That’s because I wear a yarmulke, sport a beard and have a big stomach. And so fit your basic settler profile. Indeed, when I go to the Western Wall and get to the gate for the security check, I am inevitably asked, ‘yaish l’cha neshek?’ meaning ‘are you carrying a gun?’ They ask because they make assumptions based on how I look, not knowing I am an avid advocate of strict gun control.
Another of life’s little Jewish ironies involves Jonathan Pollard. I, for years and years, went into great detail explaining why what Pollard did was wrong, why he deserved to be in jail, why indeed he should spend the rest of his life in jail. And so how absolutely disgusted I was at how many Jews were advocating for his release, how over the years more and more Jews, more and more prominent Jews, more and more major Jewish organizations were strongly and loudly calling for him to be let go, made his freedom a major Jewish cause.
I found and find that nauseating. The guy was a traitor to his country, sold a lot of his country’s most valuable secrets for money. His crime was so bad that president after president, both Republican and Democrat, both those seen as great friends of Israel and those seen as not so great friends, refused to release him, for they knew better than anyone just how much significant damage he did to our country’s intelligence operations.
I know all the baloney baseless arguments way too many Jews made on his behalf. I won’t yet again waste my breath easily and thoroughly refuting them. That so many Jews did push for his release is an enduring stain on the moral standing of the American Jewish community and a shameful testament to our continuing paranoia and our clinging neurosis of seeing anti-Semitism where it simply does not exist. Pollard was put in jail not because he was a Jew but because he was a traitorous, despicable creep who did massive harm to this country.
So, as you may have picked up, I am no fan of Jonathan Pollard. Where the irony comes in is that when I’m in Israel, an alarming number of people think I am Jonathan Pollard. I can’t tell you how many people walk up to me, star struck, excitedly asking me, ‘Ata Jonatan Pollard?’ ‘Are you Jonathan Pollard?’ In looking at a recent photo of him, I guess I can understand why. There is a resemblance, he has a roundish face like I do, a graying beard like I do, wears a kippah like do. But I can tell you when I am asked if I am him, as I way too often am, I answer very firmly, ‘lo,’ ‘no.’ as in ‘hell no.’
So two ironies, Joe the leftist thought to be a settler, and Joe the Pollard hater thought to be Pollard.
I bring all this up because of I guess what you’d call an irony. Namely that the Jewish community, which spent so very much time for very many years putting freeing Pollard at the top of the Jewish agenda, devoting all kinds of meetings to Pollard, waging all kinds of campaigns on behalf of Pollard, lobbying officials to let Pollard out, seems, the very minute he did in fact finally get out, to have dropped him like a hot potato. And before I get to that, here’s an irony for all you rabid right wing loony Obama haters out there. Guess under which president Pollard did finally get released. His name rhymes with Barack.
But the irony I find so fascinating is that after so many big shot Jews and so many big time Jewish organizations spent so much time and money and effort to get Pollard out, they did nothing to celebrate him when he was out, no dinners in his honor, no invitations to come speak to Jewish groups, no awards given him, no parades held for him. After making such a big deal to get him out, the Jewish world has not made any deal at all for him and about him once he was actually out.
And yes, I know he’s on parole and there are certain restrictions on his activities as a result, but that still does not explain why the American Jewish community has done virtually nothing on behalf of someone who, when he was in jail, they proclaimed a hero, a martyr, a Jewish patriot, almost a saint. Someone they frequently visited and incessantly talked about then and yet nary a peep is said about, not a nod is given to him now. Indeed, compare that to the Orthodox community’s virtual non-stop embracing of convicted felon and human rights abuser Shlomo Rubashkin, who Trump pardoned.
But before I tell you what I think the community’s treatment of Pollard tells us, let me tell you what Pollard himself thinks about how Israel, the country he stole and spied and betrayed for, has treated him.
In a recent interview with an Israeli TV network, he said Israeli leadership doesn’t care about him. “If you don’t care about someone like myself, who spent 30 years in prison on behalf of the land and people of Israel, then how much concern can you actually show or exhibit or feel towards anybody in the country, from our soldiers to our civilians?”
He added that Bibi, great friend of Trump, doesn’t seem to have made any effort to get Trump, the greatest friend of Israel the world has ever known, to let Pollard come live in Israel. “There have been numerous occasions where this could have been done. It’s a question of priorities. And there always seems to be something else. Whether it’s the Iran deal, the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem or recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights; there’s always something. To make me a priority, would mean that the [Israeli] government actually cared about me,” Pollard said.
So the traitor feels the country he was a traitor for has been a traitor to him. Ironic.
Okay, so that’s Pollard’s take on Israel’s curious lack of interest in him now that he’s free, after Bibi used to make so much noise, such a big tsimmes trying to set him free. But what about American Jewry’s totally turning its back on Pollard the minute he got out, after making him one of its top priorities for years.
My theory is that subconsciously the Jewish world knows how much it betrayed Jewish values on behalf of Pollard, how wrong its advocacy for him was, how shameful, what a horrible message it sent, how pathetic it made American Jewry look, how truly sad and sick it was for so many top Jews and Jewish organizations to buy into the insane notion that what Pollard did wasn’t that bad, that after all he did it for Israel so that excuses everything, and that his long jail sentence had nothing to do with the horrible crime he committed but was driven by dark anti-Semitic forces in the bowels of government, all conspiring to do wrong to a Jew.
I think the fact that no Jewish organization has honored Pollard, invited Pollard, awarded Pollard since he’s been out is because deep down they know they did way too much wrong in mischaracterizing the whole business, in promoting him instead of ignoring and shunning him, that by lionizing him, they sent the wrong message to the American people but most especially sent the wrong message to the American Jewish people. No, the government is not to get us, yes, sometimes Jews do bad things and them getting punished is not anti-Semitism, no, it’s not okay to steal American top secrets for Israel, no, it’s not okay to make a creepy crook a top item on the Jewish community’s to do list.
Of course, they will never admit their standing up, speaking up for Pollard was wrong, they might not even realize it, but their actions since he’s been out speak louder than words, show that deep down Jews know when they have dishonored themselves. Ironic that if Jews had recognized then that Pollard had disgraced us and deserved to be and stay in jail, they wouldn’t feel so disgraced themselves now that they did so much to get him out of jail.
Okay, if I may bring up a personal matter. My mom died almost two months ago. The reality of that unreal fact finally, really hit me on Mother’s Day when it slapped me in the face that I had no mother to go visit, to call up to say thank you and I love you. I don’t think I truly grasped that she is actually gone until Mother’s Day rolled around.
My mother’s Hebrew name was Tzivya, her English name was Sylvia. And I could not be more happy, more touched that shortly after Mother’s Day there came into being an adorable new baby girl whose Hebrew name is Michaella Tzivya, whose English name is Ella Sylvie.
My incredibly beautiful, inside and out, niece Ilana Teller, gave birth at 11:11 p.m. on May 22, which was the joyous Jewish holiday of Lag b’Omer, day 33 of the Omer which we count between Passover and Shavuot, to her first child, who she and her husband Chanani named Michaella Tzivya, Ella Sylvie, Tzivya and Sylvie after my mom.
Ilana is the daughter of my wonderful, loving, generous, incredibly kind brother Maury and his wife Ora. They are now the proud grandparents of four adorable little girls.
That so soon after my mom’s passing to the next world there is in this world a precious little baby girl who bears her name is of profound meaning and comfort to me.
Big mazel tov to Ilana and Chanani, to Maury and Ora. My most heartfelt prayer that little Michaella Tzivya, Ella Sylvie grow up, carry on in the footsteps of my mom, be as kind and caring and nurturing and giving and strong and courageous and spiritually Jewish as my mom was.
May little Michaella Tzivya, Ella Sylvie’s life be one filled with an abundance of joy and love and blessing. I could not be more thrilled to welcome you to the family.