Wednesday, January 02, 2008

'Saving a Life is No Longer Important?'

Hillel Fendel

Long-time IAF veteran Sgt. (ret.) Shmuel Rafael, who was awarded a medal for saving a fellow soldier in mid-air in 1950, feels not enough is being done to save Jonathan Pollard. Rafael has written a letter to MK Zevulun Orlev, who, as chairman of the Knesset Audit Committee, asked Israel's State Comptroller to investigate why the government has not brought Pollard home from US prison. Rafael's letter congratulated Orlev for his work, while criticizing other branches of the Israeli government for having done nothing for Pollard.

"The recognition and appreciation that I received back in 1950 for saving just one person," Rafael wrote, "was the impetus for my dozens of years of work for Israel's security in the paratroopers, on the battle field, in reprisal operations, and in other vital operations. Israel used to know how to show appreciation for its fighters - but now has changed its face, and not for the good."
"One gesture,one prisoner, Jonathan Pollard,home, now."

Bravery in the Sky
Rafael was awarded an IDF medal of valor for saving a fellow soldier whose parachute became entangled in the plane's back wheel just seconds after he jumped out. Rafael ordered the pilot to dim the motors and head for sea, and then pulled out a weighted rope and managed to direct it out the plane's door towards the dangling soldier. Utilizing the thrust of wind from the engine, he directed the rope between the chute's cords. Thus, the dangling paratrooper was raised towards the plane's door - though not before seven of his chute's cords were torn. Fighting against the wind thrust of the engine, Rafael - hanging mostly out of the plane - managed to connect the weight back to the parachute. After another ten minutes of pulling up, the parachutist was hauled, safe and sound, into the plane.

In his letter to MK Orlev, Rafael wrote, "With your actions, the many of us who have watched unbelievingly the silence and lack of action regarding an Israeli hero, Jonathan Pollard, can now stand tall. Not a thing has been done for his release - at least not to the best knowledge of the Israeli public. I wish to honor you for bringing about an investigation of what has been done to ensure that this precious man return home to us and receive the honor he so richly deserves for his actions on behalf of his beloved, but ungrateful, nation."

Instead of Investigating, Make Sure He Comes Home!
The Justice for Jonathan Pollard organization, on the other hand, says there will be plenty of time to investigate the government's malfunctioning after he returns - but that now is the time to do nothing but demand his immediate release.

In response to the news of the State Comptroller's upcoming investigation, Pollard's wife Esther told Army Radio, "There is a time to investigate, and there is a time to act expeditiously to save a life. After 23 years in prison in harsh conditions, Jonathan's life is literally hanging in the balance."

Mrs. Pollard says that with US President Bush arriving in Israel next week, "Now is the time for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to ask President Bush to make a gesture to Israel. One gesture, one prisoner, Jonathan Pollard, home, now."

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