Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Jonathan, Welcome Home

Jonathan, Welcome Home
May 17, 2005
Independence Day ceremonies in Hebron are special. Standing in front of Ma'arat HaMachpela, site of the first real estate transaction in Eretz Yisrael; in Hebron, the first Jewish city in Eretz Yisrael; site of the tombs of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Lea, the first Jews in Eretz Yisrael; celebrating the rebirth of our people in our land following a two thousand year exile, well, it's special.

For as long as I can remember, since initiation of this event in Hebron, the ceremony remains, more or less, the same. Speakers from Hebron and Kiryat Arba, plus a guest speaker, a short movie, fireworks, it doesn't change much. Yet it's never boring, there's always a kind of electricity in the air.

But this year was different. For two reasons.

First, due to the guillotine blade hanging over our collective head, held by a single strand of thin thread which seems to be quickly wearing away. There were those who opposed any celebrations this year, asking how such a festivity can be held when the very framework we live in is rejecting us, expelling us. Yet others, myself included, see it otherwise. As Rabbi Dov Begun told me a couple of weeks ago, 'what, because of one man who has to repent, because of him, we won't give thanks to G-d for giving us back our State, our Land, after two thousand years?" In other words, it's not the State, rather it's those running it. We have to change them, that goes without saying. But the very fact that we have a state which can be changed, that itself is a miracle we must praise G-d for.

So, celebrate we did, despite the emotional difficulties involved.

But this year was unique in another way, which, in my book, if for no other reason, made the whole thing worthwhile.

After the traditional ceremonies were concluded, the Master of Ceremonies, Yigal Kutai, rather than thank everyone for attending, said, "now I will ask everyone to welcome the Rishon l'Tzion, the former Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu." And with that, the revered Rabbi appeared.

Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu is, within our circles, one of the two or three most highly respected religious leaders of this generation. Together with Rabbi Avraham Shapiro, Dean (Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Mercaz Harav in Jerusalem), Rabbi Eliyahu is THE authoritative figure for most all complex questions of Jewish law, concerning not only the private individual, but also 'Klal Yisrael' – issues pertaining to the public, the entirety of the Jewish people. A very close friend of Hebron and all other communities in Yesha, Rabbi Eliyahu has publicly called for Ariel Sharon 'to disengage from the disengagement.'

Rabbi Eliyahu's horizons spread out to the entire Jewish world. He has been an active source of strength and encouragement to Jonathan Pollard and his wife Esther for years. He makes it a point to visit Pollard during all his visits to the United States, and recently made a special trip in order to be present in the courtroom when the latest appeal was heard. 

This Independence Day eve, Rabbi Eliyahu arrived in Hebron to accept an award for Jonathan Pollard, promising to present it to him personally on his next trip to the United States. Kiryat Arba mayor Tzvi Katzover granted Jonathan Pollard a certificate of honorary citizenship to Hebron-Kiryat Arba.

The certificate reads:
The city of the Forefathers, Kiryat Arba-Hebron hereby grants honorary citizenship to our brother Jonathan Pollard for his heroism and dedication towards the security of the citizens of the State of Israel, today, Independence Day, 5765, the 57th year of the State of Israel, the 37th year since the renewal of the Jewish Community of Hebron, Signed: Rabbi Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi, Hebron-Kiryat Arba and Mayor Tzvi Katzover, Kiryat Arba-Hebron. "For Zion's sake will I not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her triumph go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a torch that burneth." Isaiah 62:1

I must add that it is, for me, an honor and a privilege to be a resident in the same city with Jonathan Pollard, despite the fact that he doesn’t yet live here, but is still dwelling in a tiny cell in a Federal penitentiary in North Carolina. However, I hope and pray that the time is very near when we will be able to greet Jonathan here, at Ma'arat HaMachpela, the tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, as a free man in his Land, joyfully saluting him and welcoming him:

Welcome Citizen Jonathan,
Welcome, Brother Jonathan,
Jonathan, Welcome Home.

With blessings from Hebron.

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