From Philadelphia Inquirer
Jan. 18, 2004
Continuing a son's legacy
By Judea Pearl, father of slain journalist Daniel
My son, Daniel, was a dialogue-maker. Talking to
strangers was his hobby, vocation, mission and ideology.
As a journalist, he talked to peasants and rulers,
rabbis and mullahs, carpet weavers and pearl divers
- he talked to strangers the world over and turned
them into friends.
The last strangers he met knew no talking. Next month
will cross the second anniversary of his murder at
the hands of people who loathed all he represented:
truth, humanity, humor, dialogue, respect for others
and, of course, Jewishness.
Daniel's magic as a dialogue-maker continues to connect
people today. The current series of public dialogues
between my friend Akbar Ahmed and me is one manifestation
of that magic.
In Philadelphia and other cities, I would like to
address some hard questions Muslims ask about Jews.
One such question is this: Why do American Jews, the
foremost champions of the separation of religion and
state, identify so strongly with one political entity,
the state of Israel?
The obvious answer is that Jews are concerned about
the safety of their relatives, Jewish refugees currently
living in Israel. The deepest answer to that question,
however, is essential for resolving many misunderstandings
between Jews and Muslims.
Jewishness, because of its singular and turbulent
history, is more than just a religion. For a Jew,
ancestry, religion, history, country, culture, nationhood,
and ethnicity are inseparably interrelated. Historical
narratives and the ancient landscape in which they
unfolded are as much part of the Jewish experience
as are beliefs in a supervisory deity or speculations
about the hereafter. A revealing account of the complex
ways modern Jews define themselves is presented in
the anthology I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections
Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl,
published this month.
Judaism entails an unparalleled connection to the
Holy Land, the birthplace of Jewish history. The connection
bears some resemblance to that which Muslims feel
toward Mecca, but it is further intensified by national
ties because, unlike Islam, the Jewish religion was
not written with the intention of being transported
to other nations or other lands. (Proselytizing is
discouraged in Judaism). It was written specifically
for the Jewish nation, and meant to be practiced specifically
in the land where this nation was born and shaped.
As a result, the collective memories and aspirations
of the Jewish people today are expressed in language
and imagery that utterly depend on this one land.
To take away that land from the consciousness of a
Jew would be like taking away hadith , or
the traditions of the prophet Muhammad, from the teachings
Muslims who study the history of the Jewish love
affair with the land of Abraham may well find it reassuring.
It would refute, for example, the theory that Jews'
affinity to Israel, as well as the reestablishment
of Israel itself, are motivated by anti-Islamic sentiments.
Quite the contrary. Early Zionists, as well as most
Israelis today, were and are secular, and thus totally
neutral regarding the religions practiced by their
neighbors. That is why many Jews today look with bewilderment
at how differences in religion are exploited to poison
the vast common ground we share with our Abrahamic
An honest dialogue breeds courage to communicate
sensitivities. The besiegement and estrangement Muslims
feel in a post-9/11 world is one such sensitivity.
The attachment Jews feel toward Israel is another.
May our meeting in Philadelphia be an example of
how such sensitivities can be accommodated within
the mindsets of our respective communities.
Judea Pearl is president of the Daniel Pearl
) and editor of "I Am Jewish."