A teen meets the man of her dreams.
They date for five years and then marry in romantic Venice, where they sip red wine and ride arm-in-arm in charming gondolas.
Three months later, back in Washington D.C., he calls from work to say he won’t be coming home for dinner. A U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, he is being interrogated by naval investigators and the FBI for passing classified documents to Israel.
And so begins the dramatic and peculiar odyssey of Anne Pollard, former wife of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. In the last 14 years, she has served more than two years in prison, been critically ill, gone through a divorce and moved from the United States to Israel and back.
Last week, Pollard told her story to a mesmerized audience of about 40 at Palo Alto’s Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center. Whenever possible, she said, she tries to find the silver lining in her travails.
“Don’t feel sorry for me,” said Pollard, now in her late thirties. “I’m not looking at any of this in a negative way at all.”
The local chapter of the volunteer movement Women’s International Zionist Organization sponsored the event. Pollard belongs to WIZO in Los Angeles, where she has lived for the last nine months.
In L.A., working as director of sales and promotions for a Jewish media organization, she is trying to put her life back together. “I want a new life and I want to be separated from this matter,” said the petite redhead, dressed in a black suit and black boots. “I’d still like to meet my prince.”
When she first met Jonathan Pollard, whom she calls “Jay” after his middle name, she thought he was that prince. “I really loved my husband then because I saw something in him I didn’t see in many people in Washington,” she said.
That something was a passionate love for Judaism and Israel. But his connection to the Jewish state would take a strange turn. Pollard, who is now serving a life sentence at a North Carolina federal prison, was charged with passing documents to an Israeli espionage team.
Anne Pollard, meanwhile, was charged with being an accessory to possessing classified documents, though she denies having played any part in her spouse’s operations.
On the advice of attorneys, she and her former husband both pled guilty. At last Thursday’s talk, she said she always felt the couple should have opted for a trial, but felt pressured to enter a plea. “It was against my gut instincts, but I succumbed.”
Anne Pollard said she had an inkling of her husband’s covert activities before Nov. 18, 1985, the night he called from work to say he wouldn’t be coming home. “It was making me very, very nervous,” she said. “But I was young. I believed in him.”
Throughout her talk, Pollard painted herself as a naive victim of circumstance and of a husband she didn’t fully know. “Please check your husbands and make sure everything is kosher,” she entreated the mostly female audience.
After sentencing, authorities separated the pair and sent them to different prisons. Anne Pollard described prison life as a nightmare.
She was moved from prison to prison, including to one in Rochester, Minn. where she said she was the only female. In one place, she was called a “dirty Jew Israeli spy bitch.” She was held in isolation, “where my closest friends were rats and cockroaches.” And she was put on 24-hour watch, where prison guards viewed her every move.
During her incarceration, she complained of stomach disorders and lost a significant amount of weight. Her lawyers attempted to reduce her sentence so she could receive specialized medical treatment. She was paroled in April 1990 after serving 40 months of a five-year jail term.
Her desire to aid her husband kept her going through her ordeal, she said.
“I was determined I was going to stay strong. I had a husband in prison and it was up to me to get him out. I felt as his wife I would be his greatest advocate.”
However, Jonathan Pollard had a different idea. He served his wife with divorce papers. She attributes the split to “bad influences” that convinced her husband he stood a greater chance of freedom without her. He has since married a woman who corresponded to him in prison.
Anne Pollard has not spoken to her ex-husband since receiving the divorce papers, but still wants to see his sentence commuted as a matter of principle.
Jonathan Pollard resurfaced in the news during the October Wye talks. There, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tied Israel’s acceptance of the accord to possible clemency for Pollard.
By bringing up the convicted spy at the 11th hour and threatening the already fragile talks, Netanyahu did more harm than good, Anne Pollard said. “I think he did incredibly grave damage to his case.”
As part of the Wye Memorandum, however, President Clinton pledged to review Pollard’s high-profile case and consider releasing him. A number of American Jewish organizations have taken up Pollard’s cause.
“It’s a good way to help him,” Anne Pollard said.
Recent articles, including a lengthy story in the New Yorker magazine, have examined the Pollard case in light of recent developments. The convicted spy’s ex contends some pieces have portrayed her unfairly.
“They accuse me of stuff I have never done,” she said. She is considering a libel lawsuit to clear her name.
Now that she is living in Southern California and attempting to rebuild her life, she is considering changing her name.
Asked by an audience member why she would make public appearances if she is trying to start anew, Pollard alluded to public speaking as a form of therapy. “I hope that speaking about it will finish it once and for all.”