Recently in a meeting of my women’s group we discussed the question: who do we choose not to forgive, and why? Somehow it feels like an appropriate topic for a post as today is the Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel.
The radio and television broadcast only Holocaust related stories of war, death and courage and soon at the sound of the siren we will stop everything and stand up for 2 minutes respecting those who perished.
During our discussion one of the women tried to bring up the Holocaust as an example. However, at that moment we all subscribed to the view of the historian Saul Friedlander, who regards the Holocaust as a momentous event outside history, and flatly refused to talk about it. We limited the scope to our ability to forgive those who have wronged us in a (relatively) small way. Ruining the evening with the Holocaust was out of the question.
Not surprisingly I noticed that it was harder for me to forgive those who have wronged members of my immediate family. It was especially true at times when they were vulnerable: a mother who yelled at my young daughter, a cousin who was rude to my aging father. And of course, the period when my husband Tzvi was terminally ill. I still remember a close friend who failed to come and see him even though he had been told about the severity of Tzvi's condition.
I used to believe that I was the kind of person who was quick to forgive, but sadly it is not always the case. In the first year after Tzvi died I too felt vulnerable, and to this day I remember, and find it difficult to forgive, those family members or (former) friends who did not stand by me at that difficult time. A good memory is often a curse, but it is also a blessing as it enables me not to forget those who were there.
I once read with my students an article about the different ways of dealing with conflicts. The writer claimed that in some cases, with people outside our immediate circle, a physical or emotional withdrawal is a good solution. And this is what I chose to do, I am not angry or hurt any more, but on the other hand, those people are no longer part of my life.
What I described above, about my responses to life-size grievances and the choices I made, has no connection to the Holocaust. However when it comes to the Holocaust I do not have the freedom to withdraw and stay away, and that memory remains a permanent fixture in my immediate circle, almost like family.
The Nazis killed my grandparents and one uncle, my other uncle had gone through the horrors of the death camps and survived. That uncle stayed in Germany after the war and until he died at the age of 88. He remembered the Holocaust when he was awake and didn't forget it when he was asleep.
So I, the grandaughter and the niece, have to keep that memory alive.
P.S I also remeber today the brave people who risked their lives to help the Jews: