Pearls Israeli relatives express their grief at memorial

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JERUSALEM — Daniel Pearl's connection to Israel was kept under wraps while the slain Wall Street Journal reporter was alive, but at a memorial service here Tuesday, it was made clear.

At the Western Wall, Pearl's Israeli relatives chose to remember their grandson and cousin in a simple memorial ceremony.

"It is at this place, the Kotel, where it is important to remember Danny and how he died, to remember his last words," said Raz Pearl, a first cousin.

He read from a printed white sheet: "My name is Daniel Pearl. I am an American Jew from California, I come from a Zionist family. My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish."

"My family acts according to the ways of Judaism. We made many family visits in Israel. In the city of Bnei Brak, there is a street in the name of my grandfather's father, Chaim Pearl, who was a city founder."

It was widely reported that Pearl discussed his Jewishness in his final words before his captors slit his throat and beheaded him.

Pearl's mother and his father, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, came to the United States from Israel in the 1960s. They both have dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.

Their son was American, but had Israeli citizenship though his parents.

While the family isn't religiously observant, they were very connected to Israel and frequently visited family there.

Ronit Ben Shoshan, Daniel Pearl's first cousin, said she last saw him a year and a half ago in Israel. She speaks frequently with his mother.

"We were worried when we heard he was going to Pakistan, but we never imagined it would end like this," Ben Shoshan said. "It's very hard. His captors showed no mercy."

Ben Shoshan and her grandmother, Tova Pearl, sat overlooking the men's side of the Western Wall Plaza on the sunny Tuesday afternoon.

As a flock of birds flew overhead, their dark shadows flitting over the men in their suits and white shirts, the Kotel rabbi, Shmuel Rabinovich, read the memorial prayer for Pearl, whose body hasn't been released by his captors.

Rabinovich was followed by Raz Pearl, who said kaddish for his cousin.

In brief eulogies, Religion Minister Rabbi Asher Ohana and Deputy Foreign Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior referred to Pearl as a Jewish martyr. They compared him to Rabbi Akiva, the scholar who was burned alive by his Roman captors.

"He was a Jew who was killed because of his Judaism," Ohana said. "He joins the others who died for the sanctity of God's name."

One of the men arrested in connection with Pearl's kidnapping and murder said the reporter was targeted because he was Jewish.

Melchior, who arranged the ceremony for the Pearl family, said the victim's final words were felt by all Jews, in Israel and around the world.

"He was killed far away, but he's close to all of us," he said. "He will be remembered in the tomes of our nation. We will tell his story."

For Melchior, Pearl's death was an example of the anti-Jewish sentiment running rampant in the Arab and Muslim world, a trend that has become more apparent in the 17-month intifada and following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

For Tova Pearl, 92, the anguish is deeply personal as well.

"No one knows the sensitivity of this person," she said of her grandson, her voice quivering with emotion.