JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - Prof. Judea and Ruth Pearl, the parents of the late journalist Daniel Pearl, on Monday lit the memorial flame at the Israel's Yom HaZikaron - Memorial Day ceremony, held at The Jewish Agency and National Institutions compound in Jerusalem.
Pearl told reporters after the commemoration that he had prayed for the moment when he would have the honor to read Daniel’s last words uttered before his death, in Jerusalem.
Daniel, an American Jew who also held Israel citizenship, was researching a story in Karachi, Pakistan for the Wall Street Journal when he was abducted in January 2002 by militant Islamic fundamentalists. Nine days later his captors beheaded him.
“My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I'm Jewish," Pearl said in the later-released video of his brutal death.
Daniel was 38 when he was killed. Several months later his wife Mariane gave birth to their son, Adam, who, together with his mother, grandparents, aunts and cousins commemorated Daniel's memory at The Jewish Agency ceremony.
Judea Pearl was born in Tel Aviv in 1936 and grew up in the nearby city of Bnei Brak. After getting his degree as an engineer at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, the couple moved to the United States in 1960 in order to continue his studies. He holds a Ph.D in electrical engineering, and is currently a professor of computer science and statistics at UCLA.
Pearl says he, his wife, and the Daniel Pearl Foundation work round-the-clock "against the hatred that took our son's life." In his writings and speeches, he says he is merely giving voice to commonly-felt anti-hatred sentiments.
Pearl says he blames the ideology that creates the terrorists, whom he called "mutations."
"I fight the leaders that expound this ideology in every way that I can," says Pearl, adding that he is "just saying what everybody carries in his or her heart—it's nothing controversial."
However, when asked if he believes this statement to be true even of those who killed his son, he answers, "I am talking about people, not about mutations."
He said he feels that the United Nations is committing a grave, ongoing error by not defining "terrorism," asserting that the lack of a universally recognized definition means that "every terrorist - mistakenly - can be considered a 'freedom fighter.'"
Saying that "Not every evil has two sides and not every ideology is equal," Pearl contends that "moral relativism died with Daniel Pearl, in Karachi, on January 31, 2002.
"There can be no moral equivalence between those who seek — however clumsily — to build a more liberal, tolerant world and those who advocate the annihilation of other faiths, cultures, or states," he charges.
In a Wall Street Journal article entitled The Normalization of Evil, Pearl sharply criticizes the expectation that "terror must earn a dividend before it is stopped;" that it is a justifiable means to an end. He says it is not.
Pearl himself defines terrorism as: "The elevation of one's grievances above the norms of civilized society."
Danny was everything his murderers were not, says Pearl, who describes his son as a delicate, humble man, "a genuine listener and a champion of dialogue."
Pearl said that when Danny looked into his captives' camera, he showed the world that the fight for existence, and the right to a proud existence, is a daily battle for a Jewish man in the 21st century.
“I represent three generations of victims of hatred," Judea said is his Memorial Day speech. "My grandfather and grandmother were killed in Auschwitz, I was saved by a miracle from genocide in 1948, and the murder of our son Daniel marks the latest round of victims of xenophobia."
Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, said in his address at the Memorial Day ceremony, that organized groups hostile to Israel and Jews have made major inroads on college campuses.
Pearl says that there is a "concerted, highly-funded, strategically-designed" effort to detach Jewish youth from Israel, which he reiterated as central to the Jewish People's identity. The groups "intimidate [Jewish students] into silence and into shame." Pearl is adamant that Jewish leadership should be working hard against this movement and bring to light each of their activities as a "violation of human rights."
Danny's captors did not succeed in intimidating him entirely - among his last words, Danny proudly stated, "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 described how, on his last tour to Israel, he visited Bnei Brak and found the very staircase under which he and 20 other children hid during bombings on May 14, 1948. The Egyptian air forces targeted the town because of a factory situated there. "That is what I was doing 65 years ago today," he says with a smile.
Why the smile? "Because we won."
This is Prof. Judea Pearl's Yom HaZikaron message. That "the memorial flame is also the flame of Jewish pride and the strength of spirit; a collective pledge that terror and evil will be overcome, and that our grandchildren will enjoy a better world."