Tonight (October 10), take a moment to think of Daniel Pearl. You may remember the name. Perhaps you will remember because of the brutality and horror of his death. Tonight, take a moment to consider in a new light, his life.
You will be taking part in an exercise of power. It is the power of co-existence over cruelty, of faith in humankind over fanaticism, of appreciation for differences over xenophobia, of the heart over the heel, of music over killing. It is an exercise in the power of life over death.
This month, the world over, in hundreds and hundreds of concert halls, schools, places of worship, parks and private homes, people who never met Danny Pearl will celebrate his birthday, and keep a part of him alive.
You may remember him as the journalist who was kidnapped by extremists in Pakistan while pursuing an investigation of terrorism. Danny Pearl was 38, and about to become a father for the first time. He was also a passionate musician, a true believer in bridging diverse cultures with music, and a fervent and far-reaching practitioner of that belief.
After nine days in captivity, Danny Pearl died a hideous death in early 2002. The next day, his friend George Pehlivanian, who was guest conductor that night of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, dedicated the performance to Daniel Pearl and "to the triumph of hope over despair." By his birthday, October 10, musicians around the world had begun to take part in World Music Days, dedicating them to Daniel Pearl's faith in shared humanity and the universal power of music.
According to the Jewish calendar, Danny Pearl's birthday coincides this week with the festival of Simhat Torah, which is marked by alternating cycles of biblical readings and hakafot, unbridled rejoicing in circles, dancing and singing while carrying the Torah. In some congregations this week, hakafot will be dedicated to Danny Pearl's ideals.
There will be those, as well, like the Birkat Shalom congregation at Kibbutz Gezer, who will include not only Danny Pearl but also Gilad Shalit, captive now nearly 850 days, in dedicating the hakafot.
This is a holiday which forces people to rejoice. It is a holiday which jars people into rethinking despair. It is a holiday which obliges us to consider that the essence of immortality is the juncture of memory and community and acts of hope against hope, of joy against all better judgment.
The Torah is taken out at night, unusual in itself. The very last verse of the last book is read and then, the very first verse of the first book. The official last celebration of a New Year. A new beginning, which incorporates an end, the circles of celebrants suggesting that it is neither end nor beginning, but continuity. A profound signal that life, memory, and good works are more powerful than killing, and, in the end, more permanent.
It is tragic, but also inspiring, that it has only been since his death that Danny Pearl's message reached a wide audience. His family and friends, and thousands around the world who learned of him too late to have known him, have seen to it that World Music Days have grown year by year in number and scope.
This week, Danny Pearl would have turned 45. This month, there will be as many as one thousand World Music Days events dedicated to bridging cultures and creeds in scores of countries.
By sheer coincidence, here in Tel Aviv, sprayed in paint on one of the seediest walls of a decrepit building, the words "Know Hope" appeared today.
It is an exercise of power to celebrate life in a world like this. It is an exercise of bravery to come to know and admire the differences between people, the diversity that only in concert, together, can truly deserve the name humanity.
Take a moment to think of Danny Pearl tonight. And of Gilad Shalit.