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"As Many As Seventy Times Seven?" 

            "Then Peter came up and said to him, 'Lord, how often shall by brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?'  Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.'" (Matthew 18:21-22)

Eva Mozes Kor is a remarkable person.  She's a Holocaust Survivor.  Born in Romania in 1935, her country was overrun by the Nazis when she was still very little.  She and her whole family were herded in the "cattle cars" to a concentration camp.  There, she and her twin sister, Miriam, were separated from their parents, and selected to participate in the notorious experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele, who used twins as "guinea pigs."  Eva Kor never saw her parents, or anyone else in her family, again.  She was ten years old when she was liberated from Auschwitz, along with her twin sister, Miriam.   They first moved back to Transylvania, then happily migrated to Israel when it was formed in 1948.  There, Eva met and married another Holocaust survivor who brought her to the United States.  They raised two (very American) children, but he did not live to enjoy his old age.

Eva Kor is now a real estate agent in Terre Haute, Indiana.  She has gained some notoriety not only because she is willing to tell her story, but because she has publicly---and unapologetically---forgiven the Germans.  Even the Nazis.  And yes, even those SS torturers who were never brought to justice.  She says that she forgives them not for religious reasons, particularly, but because her being able to grant forgiveness gives her the empowerment to move on, and to not be a victim for the rest of her life.  The only way she can deal with the pain is to let go of it.  She says that getting even, even if she could, would not relieve the burden from her.  She must forgive.

            Of course, her point of view brought much criticism from other survivors, who feel that Eva Kor's pronouncement has somehow diminished the legacy of those who suffered.  Eva will have none of that.  She herself established a Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute.  When it was burned down by arsonist(s) unknown who themselves have never been brought to justice, Eva Kor headed up the rebuilding operation.  She has a great deal of inner strength.  She's also significantly overweight, saying that she promised herself she would never go hungry again.  She also, she says, experiences a constant, deep, sadness, as if it's difficult for her to ever be really happy.  Perhaps that's the real permanent consequence of a traumatized childhood.

            Under the gentle and empathetic direction of Bob Hercules and Cheri Pugh, Eva Kor is an admirable figure, even when debating with other Jews, but especially when she is sympathizing with American teenagers, who line up to tell her that they have gained strength from her in facing their own difficulties.  (She seems to studiously avoid patronizing them, or belittling their trauma.)  But Eva Kor has a blind spot, as well:

when given the opportunity to converse with some Palestinians, she found she had no patience for listening to their troubles.  Her justification was that she could forgive something done to her in the past, but not the people who were lining up to call themselves victims at the hands of the present-day Jews.  She could not help but roll her eyes and want to leave the room.  She's willing to pronounce forgiveness about the distant past, but unwilling to work toward an active solution for those currently in death-grip conflict.  She says it made her too uncomfortable.  That's a shame.  Because somebody, somewhere, somehow, has to figure out how to make these two groups with their hands at each others' throats let go of their hatred, or there will only be more bloodshed.  And if Eva Kor can't, then who can?


Questions For Discussion:

1)  Have you been able to forgive a person or group of persons who wronged you?

2)  What are the personal consequences of holding on to anger?

3)  What are the personal consequences of letting go of anger?

4)  How many times must we forgive?  As many as seventy times seven?