I Am a Jew

Israel's president reflects on the meaning behind journalist Daniel Pearl's last words.

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Excerpted from I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl, ed. Judea and Ruth Pearl. Order online from Jewish Lights Publishing.

The late Daniel Pearl, of blessed memory, by stating "I am a Jew" to his terrorist captors before being murdered, proclaimed his affiliation to a religious and national entity and his being part of Jewish history. This declaration encompasses a way of life, beliefs, and views. To be a Jew means an outlook on worldwide issues, founded on Jewish principles based on the Bible.

To be a Jew means to belong to a faith, which gave humanity the belief in one God and universal values, that has accompanied humankind since the founding of the nation 3,313 years ago at Mount Sinai, when we sanctified our faith and received the Ten Commandments.

To be a Jew means to belong to a people who showed determination and steadfastness and who withstood many afflictions and tribulations for thousands of years.

The Jew belongs to a nation, which lost its independence when the First Temple was destroyed 2,690 years ago and the people of Israel were expelled and exiled to Babylon.

He belongs to a nation, which the Persian empire tried to annihilate 2,480 years ago. The Purim miracle occurred and the Jews were saved.

He belongs to a nation, which the Hellenist empire, 2,166 years ago, tried to convert and did not succeed. The Jewish People then revolted under the Maccabeans against the Greeks and in so doing prevented the loss of independence.

He belongs to a nation, which lost its independence a second time, 1,933 years ago, to the Roman empire, resulting in the exile of the Jewish People from its country.

He belongs to a nation, which for 2,000 years experienced continuous suffering, expulsion, forced conversions, exiles, inquisition, and, worst of all, the terrible Holocaust by the Nazis and their collaborators. The Jewish People rose up from the ashes and succeeded in reviving and obtaining sovereignty and independence in its homeland.

No event in the history of mankind is similar to that of the Jewish People.

Fifty-six years ago, the Jewish people succeeded in reestablishing its State, a democratic, modern, and liberal country with advanced scientific and technological achievements, a country that bases its national life on the vision of the prophets of Israel and on the moral values that Judaism has given humanity.

Judaism emphasizes the value of communal life and mutual solidarity. "All Israel is responsible for one another" is the key phrase outlining a way of life. To be a Jew means to care for the weak and the needy.

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President Moshe Katsav

Moshe Katsav was the president of Israel from 2000-2007.