Friday, February 1, 2019

Remembering a Modern Day Jewish Martyr

“My name is Daniel Pearl. I’m a Jewish American from Encino, CA. My father’s side of the family is Zionist. My mother’s is Jewish. I’m Jewish. My family follows Judaism. We’ve made numerous family visits to Israel.”

Today marks a very sad anniversary. It was on February 1, 2002, that Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, who uttered the powerful final statement above, was murdered by terrorists, moments later. Three different episodes in Tractate Avodah Zarah (10b, 17a and 18a) record the stories of three individuals, two of whom were not even Jewish, who performed such extraordinary actions of courage prior to their deaths that a heavenly voice declared upon their deaths that they were all immediately welcomed into the eternal Paradise of Heaven. Rabbi Judah the Prince, editor of the Mishnah, upon reading these 3 episodes wept, and declared, “Some people attain the World to Come in one moment.” The statement uttered by Daniel Pearl, with a sword literally poised upon his neck, certainly qualifies as a similar incident, making him a heroic martyr among the large and tragic pantheon of those who have died for being Jews.

Daniel Pearl was born on October 10, 1963 to Ruth and Judea Pearl in Princeton, NJ. The family moved to Los Angeles when Daniel’s father began teaching at UCLA. “Danny” attended Stanford University and in 1985, graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor’s Degree in communications. After college, Danny worked as a journalist in western Massachusetts and in northern California. In 1990, Pearl began his tenure at the Wall Street Journal, working in the Journal’s Atlanta, DC and London bureaus. Eventually he became the Journal’s South Asia Bureau Chief, based in Mumbai, India. At the end of January, 2002, while investigating a story in Pakistan, he was abducted in Karachi by a group identifying itself as the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty. Claiming Pearl was a spy, the terrorists demanded freeing Pakistani detainees, and the resumption of a halted shipment of US fighter jets to the Pakistani government. They threatened to kill Pearl if their demands were not met.

Nine days later the terrorists beheaded Daniel. Three weeks after Pearl’s murder, a 3 ½ minute video emerged on the internet chronicling his gruesome killing. Over 3 months later, his mutilated remains were found in a shallow grave about 30 miles north of Karachi. A Pakistani philanthropist helped send Pearl’s remains back for burial in the United States. The Daniel Pearl Foundation was formed by Pearl’s parents, and several books were authored inspired by Pearl’s own work, and his last words, including “I am Jewish: Personal Reflections by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl.

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