JERUSALEM — Protesters demanding freedom for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard staged a mass rally outside the hotel where leaders of American Jewish organizations were gathered this week for the quarterly meeting of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
A crowd, estimated by organizers at more than 3,000, assembled at the David’s Citadel Hotel to protest what they described as the failure of American Jewish leaders to work for the release of Pollard, an American Jew and former civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy who has served 18 years of a life sentence for passing classified information to Israel.
Police kept the protesters within a confined area on the side of the hotel, and thus many of those attending the Jewish Agency meeting were unaware of the demonstrators outside. The rally was organized by the organizations “Justice for Jonathan Pollard” and the “Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home.”
“They cordoned us off to the side here, placing us in an enclosed prison like my husband Jonathan,” Pollard’s wife Esther declared. “What are they so afraid of, that they won’t even listen to our simple cries, calling upon them to use their influence to reopen Jonathan’s case and ensure that justice is served this time?”
The demonstration was one of a series of pro-Pollard protests organized in recent days. Yosef Mendelevitch, who spent 11 years in a Soviet prison on charges of Jewish activism, staged a three-day hunger strike outside the hotel this week. Another rally on behalf of Pollard was held three weeks ago at the Western Wall. The two-hour prayer rally, which organizers estimated attracted some 4,000 people, was led by the former Sephardic chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu. A rally was also held in May outside the American Consulate in Jerusalem, and a weeklong hunger strike outside the Knesset is scheduled for the beginning of July.
At the rally in May, Knesset member Aryeh Eldad called for a three-way prisoner swap between the U.S., Israel and the Palestinians. Under Eldad’s proposal, the United States would release Pollard to Israel and Israel would deport the Palestinian Tanzim leader, Marwan Barghouti, currently on trial for organizing terrorism, to an overseas location. The Palestinian Authority, for its part, would extradite to Israel the killers of tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi, who are jailed in Jericho.