MIDEAST RELATIONS: After His Son's Death, A New Life's Work

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Philips

Judea pearl, father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and former Pakistani diplomat Akbar Ahmed are among the winners of the inaugural Purpose Prize, an award created by think tank Civic Ventures to honor seniors who take on "society's biggest challenges." For the last two years, Pearl, 70, and Ahmed, 63, have done just that, engaging in a traveling dialogue where, in front of interfaith audiences around the world, the two men sit on a bare stage and discuss conflict in the Middle East and ways to improve Jewish-Muslim relations.

For Pearl, the discussions carry a deeply personal undertone. While on assignment in Pakistan in 2002, his son was abducted by Islamic extremists, who later videotaped his brutal beheading. Transforming his grief into resolve, Pearl and his wife, Ruth--herself an Iraqi Jew--channeled their son's optimism and good will into the Daniel Pearl Foundation, which they run mostly from their son's childhood bedroom in their Encino, Calif., home, and which has become their life's work.

In addition to the Pearl-Ahmed road show, the Pearls' efforts to span the chasm between Islam and Judaism include bringing Muslim journalists on fellowships to work in U.S. newsrooms and at Jewish papers. "We have to defeat the hatred that took Danny's life. …