I love to iron clothes. Just as the press is essential for a democracy, it's a really good thing for a button-down shirt, too. As I iron, I have time to think and contemplate; as I iron out those wrinkles and creases - I feel as if I'm straightening out the wrinkles in my personality.

I've learned many life lessons from ironing, lessons that apply to life in general, as an individual, as a community and as a nation.

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Lesson #1: Once upon a time, long ago, I wanted to surprise my wife by ironing her clothes. One skirt in particular was entirely wracked with horrendous creases from top to bottom. I was in the middle of working particularly hard on that skirt, about half-way through and proud of my achievement, when my wife sallied through the door. I anticipated the pleasant surprise she'd have and the deep feeling of warmth that would permeate the house... Oh, she was surprised alright, as was I.

"What "ARE you doing to my skirt?!" she demanded to know.
I modestly replied: "I'm ironing out all those nasty, stubborn creases", quite pleased with myself.
"That skirt isn't wrinkled or creased; those are pleats! They're meant to be there!"
What infinite patience she has always had with me, seriously.

The important lesson from this: if it's not wrinkled, don't iron it. In other words: if it's not broken - don't fix it!

Lesson #2: I learned from mistakes in my ironing that sometimes it is easier to burn than burnish. An iron is a powerful thing, full of heat and - well - iron. If you're not careful, and I learned this the hard way, you may end up burning the thing you have come to care for and tried to straighten out. Every fabric has a different temperature that fits it; some fabrics need steam, some need water, and with all you have to be careful not to burn.

There are two parts to this important lesson. First: treat every wrinkle, every fabric, and every shirt, in an individual manner. The solution-to-the-problem in one instance may be the problem-without-solution in another. Second: the very thing that can bring relief and straightening, can also bring scorching and disarrangement. So - be very careful in applying the solution from one situation to another and to the degree and type of pressure or persuasion applied.

Lesson #3: This lesson about ironing is about the irons themselves, memories, and iron-clad memories. My very first memory is being about two years old, sitting in a high chair in the kitchen. Near me the ironing board was open with the iron sitting on it, all silvery, bright and shining. I remember reaching out to touch the bright, shiny object - and burning my fingertips. This made me fear an iron for many years. Curiously, when I once told my mother this memory, when I was already in high school, she looked me square in the eye and said: "That never happened!" And so my very first memory was denied to have ever been! Years later, my psychologist daughter-in-law remarked that my memory was quite right, it being much more important to me than to my mother, since it a major event in my life and not in hers. This taught me that my strongly-held memories are right, even if others disregard them.

Lesson #1 in regards to Israel is: Israel isn't broken - our democracy is rambunctious, our freedoms robust, our tolerance for the other rare in the Middle East and the demographics of the Jewish people rosy - so don't try to fix us, especially not from abroad.

Lesson #2: You may think you know how to bring accord between two conflicting parties, whether they are management and labor, Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, or whatever other model you learned in your courses on conflict management and solving. However - all your experience may very well not be relevant to the Arab-Israeli conflict. So be careful that you don't burn and harm more than you help!

Lesson #3: We and all knowledgeable, honest people in the world, know the Jewish people's memories in Yerushalayim and in all of the Land of Israel; no UNESCO resolution or other propaganda can change that, ever.

And to think: I learned all that just by ironing.


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