(JNS.org) After spending 30 years in a U.S. federal prison, American-Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard was freed on parole Friday, one day ahead of schedule to allow him to observe Shabbat.
“The people of Israel welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “As someone who has raised the issue for many years with American presidents, I have dreamt of this day. After three long and hard decades, Jonathan is finally reunited with his family. I wish Jonathan a quiet and joyous Shabbat.”
Pollard was the only person in U.S. history sentenced to life in prison over spying for an American ally (Israel). Advocates in the Jewish community as well as experts in the U.S. intelligence community had long called for his release both due to the severity of his sentence and on the humanitarian grounds of his failing health.
The National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) said Friday that it is “extraordinarily grateful that Jonathan Pollard is now out of prison and reunited with his family.”
“We were grateful that in his statement several months ago when he was notified he was being released, Jonathan Pollard specifically thanked the National Council of Young Israel, Rabbi Pesach Lerner, and NCYI President Farley Weiss, for our work over many years to get to this day. The National Council of Young Israel wishes Jonathan Pollard much success, happiness, and good health as he re-enters society after a long and difficult 30 years in prison,” NCYI said. Lerner, Young Israel's former executive vice president, frequently visited Pollard in prison over the course of his decades of incarceration.
“Jonathan, to the detriment of his health, has served the longest sentence of any individual convicted of a similar offense in the United States. After witnessing firsthand the effects of his long incarceration during a visit to the Butner Federal Correction Complex in North Carolina two years ago, I am truly grateful for his release,” said Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly.
Israel Hayom reported Thursday that Netanyahu has asked President Barack Obama to let Pollard move to Israel after his release. Netanyahu made the personal request during his recent meeting with Obama at the White House last week in Washington, DC.
Yet under his parole terms, Pollard, 61, will not be allowed to leave the U.S. for the next five years. Seeking to have that restriction lifted, Netanyahu reportedly promised Obama that Israel would make “guarantees” regarding Pollard’s post-release behavior and that a special Israeli team would be established to enforce any terms set by the Americans.
As things stand, Pollard will need to report regularly to a parole officer. It has been reported that Pollard will live in New York City and that he has secured a job there. It remains unclear whether Pollard will receive any financial aid or other form of assistance from the Israeli government following his release.