From The Jerusalem Post
September 25, 2002
From Private Grief to Public Good
By Tom Tugend
Prof. Judea Pearl, an internationally recognized authority
on artificial intelligence, has discovered a great
deal about human emotion - both private and public
- since his son, journalist Daniel Pearl, was murdered
by Islamic extremists in Pakistan eight months ago.
He, his wife, Ruth, and two daughters have tried to
draw a line, not always successfully, between their
insistence on a modicum of privacy and their desire
to perpetuate Daniel's legacy throughout the world.
They have been deeply touched by the thousands of
individuals, from the American president to ordinary
Pakistanis, who have expressed their sympathy, and
have been deeply offended by those in the media who,
they feel, have exploited the tragedy for a string
of kitschy interviews and stories.
Now, some four weeks after finally burying their son,
Judea and Ruth are full of plans and projects to transmute
their private grief into public good. To reach that
point, they have had to pass through three stages.
"At first, the mind can't cope with the finality
of death," says Judea. "Then the mind refuses
to accept the senselessness of the act and tries to
derive something positive from it. Finally, you realize
that there is an opportunity to fight, under Danny's
banner, against the very hatred that caused his death."
The primary vehicle for this purpose is the Daniel
Pearl Foundation (www.danielpearl.org),
whose broad aim is to address the root causes of his
promoting, through his example, "cross-cultural
understanding through journalism, music and innovative
An indicator of the foundation's international breadth
is the composition of its board of trustees, which
includes former president Bill Clinton, Elie Wiesel,
Pakistani social-welfare pioneer Abdul Sattar Edhi,
and Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University
in east Jerusalem.
The Pearl family appreciates the recognition bestowed
by journalistic colleagues and praises the media's
self-restraint in not revealing the family's Israeli
roots while there was still hope that Daniel's life
might be spared. At the same time, the Pearls, perhaps
naïve about press priorities and mechanisms,
have expressed some bitterness about many of their
In press interviews and appearances, the Pearls had
hoped that their own priorities - the work of the foundation
and publication of the book - would be featured, or
at least included.
Instead, the Pearls say, most of the media have opted
for a "sob sister" approach, embodied in
the constantly repeated question, "How did you
feel when you learned that your son had been murdered?" Judea
Pearl cites as major "offenders" Britain's
Daily Telegraph and the Los Angeles Times.
Among other new skills, Judea Pearl is learning to
be a fund-raiser on behalf of the foundation.
So far, considering the worldwide attention, efforts
to establish a substantial endowment have met with
only modest success. In the absence of major donors,
some $400,000 have been raised from around 2,000 contributors.
Appraising his own performance in dealing with the
new worlds of the media and philanthropy, Pearl says: "I'm
not as shy as I used to be, but I'm not very eloquent.
I also realize that I have been given a rare chance
to speak to the Jewish and global communities."
Beyond the public spotlight, there are the private
Ruth and Judea Pearl, both persons of distinctive accomplishments.
Ruth Pearl graduated and worked as an electrical engineer,
and Judea is a member of the elite National Academy
of Engineering and recently received a prestigious
prize from the London School of Economics for his contributions
to the philosophy of science.
As a 65-year-old professor emeritus in the UCLA computer
science department, he directs the Cognitive Systems
Laboratory, continues his research, teaches one graduate
course a year, and supervises five PhD students.
When Daniel was a youngster, he was frequently asked
whether he was the son of Prof. Pearl. Nowadays, the
senior Pearl acknowledges, the roles are reversed as
strangers wonder whether he is the father of Daniel
"I checked Google [a search engine] on the Internet
and found 4,000 entries for myself," says Judea
Pearl. "There were 78,000 entries for Daniel."
One of the Daniel Pearl Foundation's current top projects
is an international music day on October 10, which
would have marked the 39th birthday of the Wall Street
Journal reporter. Cities and musical groups throughout
the world will dedicate performances reflecting his
own eclectic love of music, ranging from classical
and jazz to folk music and bluegrass.
Preceding the global concert day will be the world
premiere of "A Mother's Lament" by Sharon
Farber, with words by the poet Nathan Alterman, composed
in response to Daniel's murder. The last lines are,
perhaps, the most relevant.
Perhaps he is only resting.
Perhaps in foreign places
he measures the path of Your world,
Like a wondering monk, with kisses.
The performance by the Los Angeles Master Chorale
will take place next Sunday at the Chandler Pavilion
in Los Angeles.
On October 6, a music festival sponsored by the Traditional
Music Society will be held in Encino, California, Daniel
A bluegrass concert for the foundation is set on November
16 in Boston.
Performers will include musicians from two of the
bands in which the young Pearl played the violin, mandolin
or guitar, such as The Clamp and The Ottoman Empire.
A major fund-raising concert will be held December
5 at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA),
with pianist Yefim Bronfman as soloist. As part of
the event, excerpts from Daniel's travel diaries and
writings will be read.
Judea Pearl will travel to East Brunswick, New Jersey,
on October 20 to help dedicate Congregation B'nai Shalom's
Educational Center, which will bear Daniel's name.
Among many other tributes, the Los Angeles Press Club
and the South Asia Journalists Association have established
annual awards to honor Pearl's example of professional
courage and integrity.
New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman
was slated to give the first Daniel Pearl Memorial
Lecture last night at the UCLA Faculty Center.
An innovative project in "hate reduction," conceived
by Daniel's sisters Michelle and Tamara, would allow
a foreign student - perhaps a Pakistani or Palestinian
- to retrace the steps in Daniel's college and journalistic
In chronological order, the selected candidate would
study at Stanford University's communications department,
and then work in Massachusetts at the North Adams Transcript
and Berkshire Eagle, followed by the San Francisco
Business Times, and finally the Wall Street Journal.
Also under consideration is a partnership with YouthNoise,
visualized as an Internet dialogue among teenagers
focusing on the world's flashpoints, such as the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. The Anti-Defamation League has offered to
assist in these and other programs to reduce hatred
Some of the best of Pearl's own writings have been
collected in the book, At Home in the World, published
by the Wall Street Journal and Simon & Schuster.
The writings also include conversations with friends
Hi Mom! Hi Dad! I have arrived in Yemen after
a quite exotic week in Eritrea/Ethiopia. I felt like
discovering my African roots - so many people named
Daniel, so many people with Jewish noses, so many people
who are completely absent minded. - (In an e-mail,
February 27, 1997)
Life after death? I don't have answers, mainly
questions. But I sure hope Gabriel likes my music. - (From a 1994
conversation with a friend)
'My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am
Jewish.' - Did Daniel Pearl die as a martyr, proudly proclaiming
his Jewishness, or did his abductors force a reluctant
admission from him at gunpoint shortly before they
Neither scenario fits the personality of the Wall
Street Journal reporter murdered and decapitated by
Islamic extremists in Pakistan, and the truth is more
complex, says his father, Prof. Judea Pearl." Danny never lied about being Jewish," says the elder Pearl. "All
the kidnappers had to do was ask him and he would tell him that he was a Jew."
The parents have never seen the videotape of his final
statements, but according to detailed transcripts and
description by the US consul in Karachi, Daniel's statements
fell into two categories.
The first consisted of the affirmation of his Jewishness,
and though they appear to be of one piece, were actually
given in three different takes.
In the first statement, Pearl said, "I am American,
I am Jewish [some unintelligible words], my family
on my father's side is Zionist."
In the next segment, Pearl said, "My father is
Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish."
In the third statement, he said, "My family follows
Judaism. We made numerous family visits to Israel.
Back in the town of Bnei Brak there is a street named
after my great-grandfather, Chaim Pearl, who was one
of the founders of the town."
Judea Pearl believes that the three statements were
made freely by his son, and delivered willingly and
with relative ease.
According to many reports, Daniel Pearl conveyed a
certain sense of pride while affirming his Jewishness,
and his father believes that the reference to the street
in Bnei Brak, which the captors could not possibly
have known about, was meant as a signal to Daniel's
parents that he was in good condition.
On the other hand, a subsequent monologue in which
Daniel denounced US policies and the killing of Palestinians
by Israelis (against background TV footage of the intifada),
was clearly made under duress.
"He was purposely mispronouncing words, such
as "Amrica" instead of "America," and
inserted long "uuhhs" between words," observes
Judea, or Yehuda, his given Israeli name, was raised
in an Orthodox family, but he and his son rarely practiced
their religion, except for holiday observances.
Nevertheless, "Danny loved Judaism," says
his father, "he was curious about it," and
the two engaged in a self-invented game in which they
challenged each other's knowledge of Pirkei Avot (Sayings
of the Fathers).
Videoclips of Daniel's life, screened at a memorial
service in March, showed him celebrating his bar mitzva
at the Western Wall, and a trip to Moscow in 1986,
where he met with Russian-Jewish refuseniks and was
instrumental in bringing one family to the U.S.
Also chronicled was a journey on the Trans-Siberian
Railway to China, where Daniel conducted an impromptu
Pessah Seder, using rice cakes for lack of matza. He
remembered the ritual from his own boyhood, when he
recited the traditional Four Questions at family seders.
The great-grandfather mentioned on the abductors'
tape was Chaim Pearl, who grew up in Ostrowitz, Poland.
According to family history, Chaim was attacked one
day by a peasant with an iron bar, went straight home
and told his wife, "Start packing, we're leaving."
The couple was one of 26 families, all Gur Hassidim,
who in 1924 founded the fervently Orthodox enclave
of Bnei Brak, where Chaim changed his occupation from
merchant to farmer.
Daniel met and married his wife, Mariane, the daughter
of a Dutch Jewish father and Cuban Catholic mother,
in Paris. At the age of 16, she converted to Buddhism.
Mariane Pearl spoke movingly of her life with Daniel
at a Los Angeles memorial service in March and is slated
for a visit to her in-laws, including an introduction
of her three-month-old son Adam, this week.
Mariane and Daniel Pearl had agreed to circumcise
Adam, and back in 1998 Daniel wrote to his mother about
how he intended to raise his children. "I intend
to give my children all the Jewish tradition I know,
maybe more with your help."