Pearl an American Icon That’s Worth Fighting For

By Amy Hirshberg Lederman
The Arizona Daily Star, March 8, 2002

Daniel Pearl was both an Israeli and an American citizen. His parents were Israeli born but moved to Princeton, NJ where Daniel was born in 1963.

Daniel Pearl was also a Jew. That was clear from his name, from his face and from the incontrovertible fact that in his dying moments, he looked into the camera and stated, “Yes, I am a Jew, and my father is a Jew, and my mother (is a Jew).”

I couldn’t help but feel a chill run through me as I read the story of his death reported in the Star on February 23, 2002. The words “I am a Jew” spoken in the face of death are all too reminiscent of Jewish history throughout the ages.

Many have made the ultimate sacrifice of giving their lives in defense of their Jewish faith, their Jewish families and their Jewish homeland. History is replete with examples dating from the suicide pact against the Romans at Massada in 70 CE to the endless list of martyrs during the Spanish Inquisition to the more than 6 million who died as a result of the Holocaust, less than 70 years ago.

But Daniel Pearl did not die just because he was a Jew. He died because he was a truth seeker; an American journalist traveling in Pakistan to interview an Islamic terrorist leader. He died because he had guts and true to his Biblical counterpart, he walked into the lion’s den armed with integrity and courage. But there would be no miracle for this Daniel. He would not be saved.

The truth is, there are millions of people worldwide who celebrate the death of Daniel Pearl and all that he represents. As an American, a Jew and a truth seeker, he is an anathema – the ultimate infidel. But to me, he is an icon of what this country stands for and the values I cherish and am willing to fight for.

When Daniel Pearl died reciting the lineage of his faith, he was referencing more than just his religion. He was asserting his connection to his family, his heritage, his historical and spiritual identity. Underlying his words are the fact that his parents succeeded in fully integrating into American society and culture and raised a son whom the Wall Street Journal described as “an outstanding colleague, a great reporter and a dear friend.”

Daniel Pearl was a man who, up until the moment of his death, lived to perform great work and good deeds. He is a symbol of the strength of America. May his memory be a blessing.