Ruth Pearl, Mother of Murdered Reporter Daniel Pearl, Dies at 85
Ruth Pearl, mother of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was brutally murdered by Muslim extremists in Pakistan in 2002, propelling her and her husband, Judea, into the world spotlight, died on July 20 at his home in Los Angèle. She was 85 years old.
Judea Pearl confirmed her death but did not specify the cause.
Ms Pearl, who was born in Iraq, was a retired software developer living in Los Angeles when Daniel, 38, the Journal’s bureau chief for South Asia, was kidnapped while reporting at Karachi. Despite his parents’ appeals and desperate efforts to secure his release by the US government, his captors beheaded him on February 1, 2002.
Daniel’s murder came just months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan by the United States and its allies. His murderers pointed out to him for being American and Jewish, a fact that many observers said underscored the particularly virulent threat posed by radical Islamists.
At first, the Pearls tried to avoid the media, issuing statements and addressing a small number of journalists.
They opened later in the year to promote a book on Daniel’s journalism that they had edited and to announce a foundation they had created in his name. They appeared on talk shows like “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Larry King Live,” but the experience was tough – while they wanted to talk about his legacy, many reporters and talk show hosts wanted. dwell on his murder.
“We want to preserve our privacy,” Ms. Pearl told the Los Angeles Times in 2002. “We don’t want our photos to appear in the newspapers. We want to face our grief in private. We don’t want to talk about it. “
In 2003, the Pearls published “I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl,” which included essays by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Kirk Douglas, and Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. Mr Pearl said his wife, who did most of the editing and testing, considered it to be her greatest achievement.
“Like many generations before us, we are now embarking on a new war against anti-Semitism and fanaticism,” she wrote. “Driven by the vision of Danny – a proud Jew who continues to inspire people with his values and dignity – we will win this war, as our ancestors did for many generations. “
In 2007, they were back in the news with the release of the film “A Mighty Heart”, based on a memoir by Daniel Pearl’s widow, Mariane Pearl, and starring Angelina Jolie and Dan Futterman. That winter, they attended the Hanukkah reception at the White House, where they lit their family’s menorah.
Eventually, attention waned and the Pearls were able to focus on their foundation’s charitable efforts, which included scholarships for Muslim journalists, academic lecture series, and an annual music festival; their son, in addition to being an acclaimed journalist, was a classically trained violinist.
But Daniel’s murder continued to haunt them, and not just as a memory. Although his killers were quickly arrested and sentenced – one to death, three to life in prison – they have become notorious causes in Pakistan. High-profile efforts to secure their release quickly gained traction, and the Pearls have remained engaged in the debates from Los Angeles.
In 2020, a Pakistani court overturned murder convictions and reduced kidnapping sentences to time served. The Pearls, through a lawyer, appealed, as did the Pakistani government; the Pakistani Supreme Court is due to consider the two appeals later this summer.
In a video the couple posted in June 2020, Ms Pearl, who was struggling with respiratory issues at the time, called on the Pakistani people to support their efforts.
“There isn’t a single day we don’t miss our son,” she said.
She was born Eveline Rejwan on November 11, 1935, in Baghdad. Her father, Joseph, was a tailor and ran an import business, and her mother, Victoria (Abada) Rejwan, was a housewife.
With her husband, Mrs. Pearl is survived by her sister, Carmella; his daughters Michelle and Tamara; and five grandchildren.
Eveline was 5 years old when a failed coup sparked a surge in anti-Jewish violence across Iraq. In what would come to be known as Farhud, Jewish-owned stores were ransacked and at least 179 Jews were killed. His family hid in their home for days, protected by Arab neighbors, who told would-be looters, “There are no Jews here.
Soon after, the family moved to a suburb, but the violence continued. Joseph was beaten while riding a bicycle, resulting in loss of vision in one eye; he then had to bribe a police officer to release his two sons after their arrest on false charges. Others were less fortunate. Ms. Pearl recalled seeing the bodies of Iraqi Jews hanging from a gallows in a square.
“Growing up as a Jewish child in Baghdad,” she wrote in “I’m Jewish,” “left me with recurring nightmares of being chased by a knife-wielding Arab on the school stairs while that 2,000 classmates were screaming hysterically ”.
In the late 1940s, she worked with an underground Zionist movement that helped Jews sneak into British-controlled Palestine. As part of her preparation to do the same, she began to use the Hebrew name Ruth.
In 1948 her brothers were smuggled into then newly independent Israel, and in 1951 she and the rest of her family – her parents and two sisters – followed them as part of a mass exodus of Iraqi Jews.
Ms. Pearl served in the Israeli Navy before attending Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, where she studied electrical engineering. It was there that she met Mr. Pearl.
The couple married in 1960 and moved to New Jersey to pursue graduate studies, he to New York Polytechnic (now the Tandon School of Engineering in NYU) and she to the Newark Institute of Technology ( now the New Jersey Institute of Technology).
In 1966, they moved with their three young children to Los Angeles, where Mr. Pearl taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Ms. Pearl worked as a software developer.
Ms. Pearl had retired at the time of her son’s murder and then moved into the management of the Daniel Pearl Foundation. Her grief drove her, she said, but also her memories of her childhood in Iraq and her desire to counter the hatred she and her son had encountered.
“Dehumanizing people is the first step in inviting violence like Nazism and fascism,” she said in an interview in 2014. “We have to do our part, and that’s the hardest part. make people understand. It’s very easy to dehumanize. I’m sure Danny’s killers made no sense to identify with the humanity that connects us. To them, Danny was an object.
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