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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 murder by promoting, through his example, "cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music and innovative communication."

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 media encounters.

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 Pearl.

"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,
O God,
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 Pearl's hometown.

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 careers.

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 and prejudice.

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 and e-mails.

Hi Mom! Hi Dad! I have arrived in Yemen after a quite exotic week in Eritrea/Ethiopia. I felt like I was 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 killed him?

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 his father.

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."

 
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