October 15, 2019

The Lions’ Den: To Daniel Pearl on the Anniversary of His Death

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in February 2012, on the 10th anniversary of his death.

Daniel Pearl’s murder by terrorists was made public on Feb. 21, 2002 – he was killed on February 1.

Come walk the road to lions’ den
South of midnight, planet earth, Karachi, Pakistan.
Some called it “nursery,” some named it “shed,”
A “compound,” “shack,” the newspapers said.

I found it in my father’s holy book,
“The lions’ den,” the caption read.

Come touch the walls on which two eyes
with thousand dreams wrote songs
and fiercest battles, ancient wars,
for seven days, went on.

Never in the field of human conflict
Has there been a clash so total
so intense in charge and aim
Between two cosmic forces
so compressed in space

So opposed in vision
so rooted in conviction
Across so close a distance
Before so many eyes.

Never stood a son of Abel
so fiercely to the face of Cain
A giver — to the teeth of claim,
A curious — to the blinds of self.
A listener — to the deafening shrieks of zeal.


Never beamed a ray of light
so deeply to the core of darkness
Music, to estrangement,
Principles, to whims
Reason, to the impulse
Mankind, to Attila, the Hun

Never was this saga chanted
in so powerful a rhyme:
“My name is Daniel Pearl,”
Softly spoken from the den,
Softly, from Karachi, Pakistan

And when Daniel was lifted from the den,
So the Bible tells us,
No wound was found on him,
Because he stood his ground
Because he stood our ground
So the Bible tells us.

(Daniel 6:28)

Judea Pearl is a professor at UCLA, president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation (danielpearl.org) and a co-editor of “I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl” (Jewish Lights, 2004), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.