JERUSALEM, Feb. 24 -- Yehuda Pearl, the father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, tried to conceal his Israeli origin in order to protect the life of his abducted son - but in vain.

Reports from Pakistan claim that in the videotape documenting Pearls cruel death, the American correspondent says he is Jewish and his mother is Jewish -- before his throat is barbarically slashed.

The account shocked people in Israel, where Daniel Pearl has relatives, including a grandmother in her 90s and an aunt who lives near Tel Aviv. Yehuda Pearl, a renowned authority on artificial intelligence, was born in Tel Aviv to parents who emigrated from Eastern Europe. He studied at the elite Technion institute in Haifa where he met another scientist, his future wife, Ruth.

They came to the United States in the late 1950s, became American citizens and had three children, Daniel, Tamara, now 41, and Michelle, 32.

If Israelis become American citizens they automatically keep their Israeli citizenship, and their children are considered Israelis even if they take no further steps.

Daniel, born in Princeton, registered himself with the Israeli government in 1976, officials here said early in the kidnapping crisis -- but that was kept secret at the time.

A friend of the family, one of the 150,000 Israelis in the Los Angeles area, told The Post: "Yehuda Pearl is a modest and giving person, who has an interest in, and took part, in Israeli events. For seven years he directed and conducted the Israeli ethnic chorus known as L.A. Shir.

"Daniel, as it happens with second-generation immigrants, identified himself as a Jew, but I dont remember him observing his familys Israeli origins - although he knows Hebrew."

Fears for his safety arose when his abductors claimed he was a CIA agent, and then a Mossad agent--charges which indicated they wanted a pretext to harm him. It was then that his agonized father tried to erase from Web sites his own Israeli connection.

A researcher for the largest Israeli newspaper, Yediot Achronoth, told me, "I learned about Daniel's father from the Internet.

"There was quite a lot of material" about him in regard to his science and musical background -- "although the name Daniel Pearl was not connected to him."

"So I called Yehuda Pearl at the beginning [of the abduction]. He denied any relations to Daniel," the researcher said.

"I felt he was under enormous pressure and that he was irritated and worried that someone would make the connection between him and Daniel in Pakistan. "When I asked about the Israeli origin of the family he told me the U.S. is a country of immigrants."

The researcher promised not to report on the family connection while Daniels fate hung in the balance.

"He responded that he was working to remove the pages from the Web sites. I warned Yehuda that it was a Sisyphus-like work," he said - that some pages remain on the Net for years.

Yediot Achronoths story about the family appeared only on Friday, after his death was disclosed.

The newspaper was not the only news outlet to respect the familys wishes. The Post learned that several media organizations called the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles about the family connection, and eventually promised not to publish it. Yehuda Pearl himself asked some of them to hold up the story. In the first days of February a cable arriving at the Israeli foreign office pointed out that Daniel Pearl had registered as an Israeli - but the matter was kept secret.

"Everyone who knew the Israeli origin respected it as a sacred secret -- because they knew we deal with crazy fanatics over there in Pakistan," an Israeli official told The Post.

A Pearl family spokesman, Gary Foster, said Friday that Daniel Pearl was "very proud of his heritage" -- but he said Daniel was registered with the Israeli government without his knowledge.

"He was a U.S. citizen and died a U.S. citizen," Foster said.

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