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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Infidel

Monday, August 5th, 2013

I’ve written about Ayaan Hirsi Ali a few times, having heard her speak two years running now at the President’s Conference in Jerusalem. Each time, in her elegant and dignified way, she put the other speakers to shame. There were quiet and short remarks – there is great beauty is simplicity.

Last year, as several American Jews, diplomats and scholars, debated the need for Israel to surrender more, Hirsi Ali was handed the microphone and now, more than 16 months later, her words remain imprinted on my brain, “Even if you give them Jerusalem…EVEN if you give them Jerusalem, there will be no peace.”

Many clapped for this statement and the first thing I did after blogging about her was to promise myself I would learn more. With a great many excuses, a full year past and I was back again this past June at the President’s Conference, thrilled to have another opportunity to hear her speak. The room was packed – not a vacant seat (I grabbed the last three seats and called Chaim telling him he had to come hear this session). After hearing her speak again, I fulfilled that promise by ordering two of her books – “Infidel” and “Nomad.” These contain the story of her life – up to this point, whatever she wants to tell us – but certainly in much more detail than she could provide during her short presentations.

I learned so much about Islam – about that world on the other side of my borders. To be honest, I knew a lot of it, or suspected it – but she gave depth to my knowledge and then took me way beyond. She gave reasons, deeply rooted in Islam and in the Koran. I knew the results; she taught me the cause.

So here, I have a confession – I am a mother, a wife, even a grandmother, if you can believe that…and though I have joined others in condemning it, I only realized in reading her story what female genital mutilation was. I had no idea…and a part of me wishes I still didn’t know. How these men could do this to their daughters; how they could want this in their wives – I honestly and truly don’t understand.

That is, perhaps, the curse of Western civilization – we cannot comprehend the barbarity and because we are so naive, because we cannot understand, we tend to excuse, minimize the acts. We conveniently use the words and condemn the action…but to read pages that describe the act, the pain and suffering of these young girls – then and for years after was a startling revelation, a glimpse into a world that I had never imagined.

Can a mother want to do this to her daughter, as Ayaan’s mother chose to do to hers? How? In God’s name, how? I have never knowingly caused my daughter’s pain. And when they have been in pain, I have felt that pain throughout my body.

As to Ayaan, her story is amazing…what she survived…what she made of herself is a lesson to all of us – even those of us who, by comparison, have been blessed to live with relatively few hardships. I have never known hunger; I have never been beaten. Medical care has always been available, education, food, and love.

There were several things that got to me in her story (I’ve only read Infidel so far; I’m starting Nomad tonight) on so many levels – as a woman, as a Jew, as an Israeli, as a mother.

One of the first things that struck me, even as I found myself deeply involved with her personal story, were the few references to Jews. Until she was well into her 20s, I don’t think Ayaan ever met a Jew. I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry when I read, “In Saudi Arabia, everything bad was the fault of the Jews. When the air conditioner broke or suddenly the tap sopped running,t he Saudi women next door used to say the Jews did it…I had never med a Jew. (Neither had these Saudis.)” What I got from this was something I had already known – they really really hate us. They don’t even know us, but they hate us…go figure.

Another thing that bothered me, though I understood her reasoning, was her journey away from Islam. She describes a religion that demands absolute obedience; a religion that has no mechanism for change over time; and a religion that focuses on punishment and the Hereafter – all you do in this life is preparation for the Hereafter and there are seemingly thousands or more things for which you are regularly threatened to be condemned to hell. It seems almost as if it is impossible to get to this heaven, given the number of restrictions – in action and in thought – that are applied to Muslims.

Ayaan’s brilliant reasoning takes all of this into consideration and reaches a conclusion – there is no hell; there is no hereafter. The Koran was written by man, not be God…and from there – she decides there is no God. I’m simplifying it. For her, it was a journey of thousands of miles and many years. She embraced Islam, searching and searching to justify her beliefs. She found contradictions and still pushed on.

It is written in the Koran that you may beat your wife…and Ayaan properly asks, what kind of God would allow that? It is written that you can cheat and lie to an infidel…and what kind of God would allow that?

And while I agree with her, it is also the point where I lose my way in following her. I won’t argue whether Allah is God and God is Allah, but I will say that the God she describes is not my God. I do believe in God – but not this Allah that she describes. My God has told us to choose life, not death. My God does not allow a man to beat his wife and the value of a life – Jew or not, is important. You cannot cheat or beat a slave and even slaves have an “out” clause to their slavery such that they must be set free after a certain number of years. These are the laws given to my people, by our God, a God we refer to as merciful and just.

A man can sell himself into slavery to pay off a debt, knowing that when the debt is paid, he will be freed. I don’t want to get into a legal comparison of Jewish law versus Islamic law – I am an expert of neither.

But I do believe in the hereafter – only different from what Ayaan was taught. We are taught that God waits to the last minute of your life to forgive any transgressions; the Islam she learned involved having two “angels” over her shoulders, each writing down the good and bad you do – and the list of bad could be as simple as being alone with a man, seeing a movie, etc. If you wear pants, if you show any skin except for your face and hands, certainly not your neck, you are sinful and evil.

I don’t blame Ayaan for walking away from a culture in which a man can take several wives and beat them as he wishes; a culture in which a man can marry off his daughter to a someone she has never met; a culture in which a woman cannot move freely unless she is escorted by a man. I can only hope that had God put me in the same culture, I would have found the courage, as she did, to escape. And she didn’t just escape, she took with her a responsibility to try to help others.

I think it took tremendous courage to walk away, to flee and save herself and thousands of other Muslim women by the work she did in Holland and now does in the United States.

I just wish somehow that along her journey, she could have found a way to keep God. It seems to me that Ayaan’s logical conclusion should have been that if Islam is as flawed as she believes it to be…she should understand that their version and vision of God is flawed too. I do not believe in the God she worshiped as a child and a young woman. Flawed, vindictive, vengeful, and promoting inequality – no, these are not traits of the God that I have known.

This Allah she was raised to worship demanded absolute obedience – compare that to the story of Abraham arguing with God to save the few righteous of Sodom. We have been in a dialog with God for thousands of years – and He listens to us. It is a relationship of love, of gratitude.

In Israel, we have seen too many miracles to do anything but believe in God. Every time a missile hits…it is a miracle because moments before a car passed by, a person left the room, a class was in the library. We have seen it all and we recognize the source. I’m sure we have atheists in Israel, but even among secular Jews here, God is pretty much accepted.

The radio broadcaster will bless the memory of someone who has died; will say, “thank God,” when no one is hurt. God escorts us through our lives here and encourages us to be better, kinder, and more charitable. We are not measured by how many infidels we kill, how many women we force into modesty. This concept of honor killing finds no home in our religion or with our God.

We have seen the horrors of what man can do to man (and to woman) but to blame God for the actions of man seems unfair. There is evil in this world – we all know that. We are given the choice – to choose good and God or to choose evil and work against God.

I can’t explain why bad things happen, but I do believe even the horrible serves a purpose. What was done to Ayaan, and so many others, were terrible, almost unimaginable and yet, didn’t these actions form her into the person she is? Overall, as I read her book, I was left with the impression that she was happy with who she is and what she has done. God, yes, I believe God, gave her a task in this life – one that she accomplishes each time she spreads the knowledge of the culture in which she was raised, each time she forces us to open our eyes and see.

Would she have accomplished what she has, without the challenges along the way? I think the answer is obvious.

What I can say is that there is tremendous comfort in believing that there is a God looking out for you, guiding you, protecting you. And I wish Ayaan could have this comfort. God has a plan – perhaps the greatest evil comes when man attempts to control or redirect that plan; when man attempts to become master of that plan.

Perhaps the irony is that the religion of Islam’s greatest flaw is not that it targets infidels, but that it fails to understand what an infidel is. I would say an infidel is a man who beats his wife, mutilates his daughter, encourages his sons to commit suicide. An infidel is one who is so busy defining God for others, he forgets to understand it is not for us to define God at all.

In carefully defining every aspect of how you live, Islam has succeeded in defining nothing. What the Muslim man fails to realize is that when he blows up a building, murders and terrorizes – and it is he who will go to hell, not the poor woman who was seen talking to a man, not the family sitting in the pizza store in Jerusalem. There are infidels in the world – but these are the people who forsake the love of God, for a culture of death and misery.

(It’s still an incredible book and I highly recommend it…I just wish I could tell Ayaan Hirsi Ali that she is where she is in life…by her own intelligence, her own strength, and by the grace of God…if not Allah.)

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

Vienna Hosts First European Jewish Choral Festival

Monday, May 13th, 2013

The Vienna Jewish Choir last weekend hosted the first European Jewish Choral Festival with a comprehensive repertoire of Yiddish, Hebrew, and Ladino songs, the European Jewish Press reported,

Hundreds of Jewish and non-Jewish singers from 18 groups in Europe participated n the four-day event that drew approximately 1,500 spectators.

The festival, under the patronage of Austria’s Federal President, Heinz Fischer, is sponsored by the European Jewish Parliament, the European Jewish Union and the Jewish Community of Vienna.

The singers took part in intensive workshops to increase cultural exchange, learn specifically about techniques of Jewish music under the guidance of renowned teachers and exchange views on their interpretations of Jewish music.

Roman Grinberg, who hosted the festival and who heads the Vienna Jewish Choir, founded in 1989, said it “brings together these many initiatives in Vienna to a great musical fireworks.”

The event is to become an annual festival, and Rome and Paris are scheduled to host the event in 2013 and 2014.

Sounds Israeli: The Idan Raichel Project

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Idan Raichel burst on to the Israeli musical scene in 2003, inviting collaborations from artists of multiple ethnicities and singing in languages as diverse as Spanish, Arabic, Amharic and Swahili. The resulting highly evocative music – blending African, Latin American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern sounds – made Raichel one of his country’s biggest musical breakthroughs.

Here’s a live version of his 2010 hit song “Mima’amakim” (Out of the depths).

Visit CifWatch.

Open Letter to Roger Waters: Music Is Our Shared Language

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters has declareed that a boycott of Israel is the “way to go”(“Roger Waters Calls For Boycott Of Israel,” Rolling Stone, March 20,2013). This statement is distressing not only because his numerous accusations leveled against the state are based on falsehoods, but are inflammatory as well. As members of the entertainment industry, we question Mr. Waters’ misinforming his fans in a way that only triggers further hostilities while continuing to dampen hopes for peaceful dialogue in the Middle East.

Mr. Waters blatantly condemns Israel, yet ignores the facts. Israel has never practiced or enforced racial segregation. As the sole democracy in the Middle East, Israel has always encouraged and legally enabled the integration of Arab peoples into all aspects of Israeli life. Arabs have been elected to the Knesset in every election since Israel’s founding and the Israeli Supreme Court guarantees all Arabs equal rights and full protection under the law.

The recently crowned Miss Israel was born in Ethiopia and quoted Martin Luther King in her acceptance speech! “There are many different communities of many different colors in Israel, and it’s important to show that to the world,” said the new Miss Israel.

Also consider that Israel has already elected a female prime minister, LGBT Israeli soldiers have the right to serve openly in the military, and married LGBT couples are ensured full adoption and inheritance rights. In fact, Israel’s official policies are often more advanced than America’s in promoting and supporting freedom of religion, women’s rights and gay rights, none of which exist in their neighboring nations or states.

Mr. Waters also proclaims his outspoken support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a frequently vilified organization that fundamentally questions Israel’s very right to exist. Even political author-activist Norman Finkelstein – a noted advocate of the Palestinian cause – has branded the movement “a hypocritical, dishonest cult” and said in a recent interview that BDS is “not really talking about rights. They want to destroy Israel.”

One-sided cultural embargos such as those advocated by Mr. Waters are an affront to both Palestinian and Israeli moderates who seek peace. We too wish for a resolution to the complicated Palestinian-Israeli situation, and believe that the unique connection between artist and fan is part of the solution. Music can reflect politics, but should never be disingenuous.

Mr. Waters should remember that music is our shared language, one that transcends dialects of hatred. Fans are the same everywhere in the world, and today many of Roger Waters’ fans are severely disappointed that he chose the words he did instead of those spoken on the same day by President Obama: “The United States of America stands with the State of Israel because . . . it makes us both stronger. It makes us both more prosperous. And it makes the world a better place.”

The Deconstruction of Marriage

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

The only question worth asking about gay marriage is whether anyone on the left would care about this crusade if it didn’t come with the privilege of bulldozing another civilizational institution.

Gay marriage is not about men marrying men or women marrying women, it is about the deconstruction of marriage between men and women. That is a thing that many men and women of one generation understand but have trouble conveying to another generation for whom marriage has already largely been deconstructed.

The statistics about the falling marriage rate tell the tale well enough. Marriage is a fading institution. Family is a flickering light in the evening of the West.

The deconstruction is destruction. Entire countries are fading away, their populations being replaced by emigrants from more traditional lands whose understanding of the male-female relationship is positively reactionary. These emigrants may lack technology or the virtues of civilization, and their idea of marriage resembles slavery more than any modern ideal, but it fulfills the minimum purpose of any group, tribe or country– it produces its next generation.

The deconstruction of marriage is not a mere matter of front page photos of men kissing. It began with the deconstruction of the family. Gay marriage is only one small stop on a tour that includes rising divorce rates, falling childbirth rates and the abandonment of responsibility by twenty and even thirty-somethings.

Each step on the tour takes apart the definition and structure of marriage until there is nothing left. Gay marriage is not inclusive, it is yet another attempt at eliminating marriage as a social institution by deconstructing it until it no longer exists.

There are two ways to destroy a thing. You can either run at it while swinging a hammer with both hands or you can attack its structure until it no longer means anything.

The left hasn’t gone all out by outlawing marriage, instead it has deconstructed it, taking apart each of its assumptions, from the economic to the cooperative to the emotional to the social, until it no longer means anything at all. Until there is no way to distinguish marriage from a temporary liaison between members of uncertain sexes for reasons that due to their vagueness cannot be held to have any solemn and meaningful purpose.

You can abolish democracy by banning the vote or you can do it by letting people vote as many times as they want, by letting small children and foreigners vote, until no one sees the point in counting the votes or taking the process seriously. The same goes for marriage or any other institution. You can destroy it by outlawing it or by eliminating its meaningfulness until it becomes so open that it is absurd.

Every aspect of marriage is deconstructed and then eliminated until it no longer means anything. And once marriage is no longer a lifetime commitment between a man and a woman, but a ceremony with no deeper meaning than most modern ceremonies, then the deconstruction and destruction will be complete.

The deconstruction of marriage eroded it as an enduring institution and then as an exclusive institution and finally as a meaningful institution. The trendy folk who claim to be holding off on getting married until gay marriage is enacted are not eager for marriage equality, they are using it as an excuse for an ongoing rejection of marriage.

Gay marriage was never the issue. It was always marriage.

In the world that the deconstructionists are striving to build, there will be marriage, but it will mean nothing. Like a greeting card holiday, it will be an event, but not an institution. An old ritual with no further meaning. An egotistical exercise in attention-seeking and self-celebration with no deeper purpose. It will be a display every bit as hollow as the churches and synagogues it takes place in.

The deconstruction of marriage is only a subset of the deconstruction of gender from a state of being to a state of mind. The decline of marriage was preceded by the deconstruction of gender roles and gay marriage is being succeeded by the destruction of gender as anything other than a voluntary identity, a costume that one puts on and takes off.

The ‘Whipped Cream’ Arabs of Israel

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

The Arab citizens of Israel constitute twenty percent of Israeli society – a population that has equal rights, but does not share the Zionist dream. But just as there are differences of opinion among Jewish Israelis, Arab-Israeli attitudes towards the Jewish sector, the state of Israel and its institutions not only differ, but often are even polar opposites.

And just there is no cohesive “Jewish sector,” there is also no such thing in Israel as one cohesive “Arab sector” (though I will use the terms for sake of simplicity). Instead, there are several Middle Eastern populations, some of which are not Arab, and they differ from each other in religion, culture, ethnic origin and historical background.

Ethnic Division

Within the Arab sector of Israel there are a number of ethnic groups who differ from each other in language, history and culture: Arabs, Africans, Armenians, Circassians and Bosnians. These groups usually do not mingle with each other, and live in separate villages or in separate neighborhoods where a particular family predominates. For example, the Circassians in Israel are the descendants of people who came from the Caucasus to serve as officers in the Ottoman army. They live in two villages in the Galilee, Kfar Kama and Reyhaniya, and despite their being Muslim, the young people do not usually marry Arabs.

The Africans are mainly from Sudan. Some of them live as a large group in Jisr al-Zarqa and some live in family groups within Bedouin settlements in the south. They are called “Abid” from the Arabic word for “slaves.” The Bosnians live in family groups in Arab villages, for example, the Bushnak family in Kfar Manda.

The Armenians came mainly to escape the persecution that they suffered in Turkey in the days of the First World War, which culminated in the Armenian genocide of 1915.

Cultural Divisions

The Arab sector can generally be divided into three main cultural groups: urban, rural and Bedouin. Each one has its own cultural characteristics: lifestyle, status of a given clan, education, occupation, level of income, number of children and matters connected to women, for example polygamy (multiple wives), age of marriage, matchmaking or dating customs and dress. The residents of cities – and to a great extent the villagers – see the Bedouins as primitive, while the Bedouins see themselves as the only genuine Arabs, and in their opinion, the villagers and city folk are phony Arabs, who have lost their Arab character.

The Arabic language expresses this matter well: the meaning of the word “Arabi” is “Bedouin,” and some of the Bedouin tribes are called “Arab,” for example “Arab al-Heib” and “Arab al-Shibli” in the North.

The Bedouins of the Negev classify themselves according to the color of their skin into “hamar” (red) and “sud” (black), and Bedouins would never marry their daughters to a man who is darker than she is, because he does not want his grandchildren to be dark-skinned. Racist? Perhaps. Another division that exists in the Negev is between tribes that have a Bedouin origin, and tribes whose livelihood is agriculture (Fellahin), who have low status. A large tribe has a higher standing than a small tribe.

Religions and Sects

The Arab sector in Israel also breaks down by religion, into Muslims, Christians, Druze and ‘Alawites. The Christians are subdivided into several Sects: Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant, and among the Muslims, there is a distinct sect of Sufis, which has a significant presence in Baqa al-Gharbiya. There is also an interesting Salafi movement in Israel, which we will relate to later. The Islamist movement is organized along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The religion of the Druze is different from Islam, and Muslims consider the Druze to be heretics. Because of this, the Druze keep their religion secret, even from each other and therefore most are “juhal” (ignorant – of religious matters) and only a small number of the elder men are “aukal” (knowledgeable in matters of religion). In the modern age, however, there have been a number of books published about the Druze religion.

The Alawites in Israel live in Kfar Ghajar, in the foothills of the Hermon and some live over the border in Lebanon. They are also considered heretics in Islam, and their religion is a blend of Shi’ite Islam, Eastern Christianity and ancient religions that existed in the Middle East thousands of years ago. Their principle concentration is in the mountains of al-Ansariya in northwest Syria, although some are in Lebanon and some migrated southward and settled in Ghajar. The meaning of the word Ghajar in Arabic is “Gypsy”, meaning foreign nomads with a different religion. In Syria the Alawites – led by the Assad family – have ruled since 1966. That Alawites are considered heretics is the reason for the Muslim objection to Alawite rule in Syria since according to Islam, not only do they not have the right to rule, being a minority, but there is significant doubt as to whether they even have the right to live, being idol worshipers.

Buddha Statues Join Barbie Dolls in Iran’s ‘Cultural Circumcision’

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Iran has followed up on its ban of wicked Western influences, such as Barbie dolls and the Simpsons, by adding Far Eastern Buddha statues to its list of foreign evils.

The Iranian-based Arman daily quoted Saeed Jaberi Ansari, who helps protect Iran’s “cultural heritage,” as saying the items are part of a “cultural invasion.”

Dr. Alireza Nourizadeh, the director of the Center for Arab & Iranian Studies in London, criticized the ban as nothing more than “circumcised art,” according to the Saudi-based Al Arabiya website.

“Art is not an area the regime will succeed fighting against,” he said. “This has nothing to do with not allowing sculptures or artworks in the country – like some Islamic countries. Iran does have its film and theater festivals, but it’s what you can call ‘circumcised’ arts.”

The Simpsons were banned last year to defend the Islamic Republic against Western culture, but the Iranian regime reasoned that Spiderman and Superman were permissible because they help the “oppressed.”

Stretching the ban to the Far East’s Buddha statues won’t work, according to  Dr. Nourizadeh.

“Artistic circles will speak out; Iranian intellectuals will respond sharply,” he explained.

However, Ansari, the defender of culture, reportedly said that the “cleansing” would continue to prevent the promotion of a specific belief.

“The regime believes Iranian citizens, particularly the youth, are being corrupted by the West, foreign entities, imperialists, Zionists, you name it which encourages young people to leave Islamic values and Khomeini’s values,” he said.

Buddha statues are used more as ornaments than they are for religious practices in Iran, which officially guarantees the rights of non-Muslims.

Is it True that ‘No One Really Frum Has a TV’?

Monday, February 11th, 2013

I’m not going to comment on the substance of Rabbi Daniel Schneierson’s post on YWN, entitled, “Is Chemistry Important?” People can make their own judgments about the importance of chemistry between a dating couple. On that topic, I will just say that a lot of what he says has merit – but I reject the idea that chemistry is not important.

What troubled me about his essay is the following offhand comment which he puts into parentheses: Nowadays no one really frum has a TV…

With this comment he has just wiped out of Orthodoxy most of observant Jewry including many Haredim. (I don’t know him personally but if he is not Haredi – he sure sounds like it in this post.)

I am not going to debate the value of TV. I’ve discussed that issue many times. Suffice it to say that many of the criticisms of the right are true. But just like the internet, there is both good and bad in TV. And just like the internet, it ought not be banned or treated like hilul Shabbos to own one as Rabbi Schneierson does.

The problems with TV do not begin and end with Haredim. Nor even with Jews. There are many people who feel that TV is nothing more than a vast wasteland. And that one could spend their time much more productively without one. You don’t have to be a Haredi Jew to know that. Nor is it lost on decent people of all religions that there is way too much immorality on TV. I’m not going to argue any of that because it’s true.

But to make a blanket statement that nobody frum has a TV anymore (especially in a sort of humorous good natured tongue in cheek sort of way) proves just how isolated the fellow is… and how isolated he wants his community to be.Not because not owning a TV makes you isolated. But because identifying those who own one as not being frum. It is no secret that in his circles – not interacting with non frum Jews is an ideal they pursue. That’s why they try to isolate themselves from the rest of the world as much as possible. And it is why they reject some children from their schools. Children from homes that have a TV or the internet. They do not want to be ‘tainted’ by the ‘goyishe’ values children from those homes bring to the school.

This attitude is so arrogant and narrow minded that it boggles the mind that one can even make a statement like that let alone believe it… and by mentioning it in passing, he insinuates that we all already know that… he is just reminding us of it.

This man is a Rebbe (Shoel U’Meishiv) in a yeshiva. And he is teaching his students to think of any Jew with a TV as not frum. And he teaches it in the most insidious way – in a semi humorous post as a foregone conclusion, without any qualification.

This is the”my way or the highway” attitude of so many Haredim. And the mechanchim they produce make it very dangerous one. He is teaching intolerance whether he realizes it or not. Owning a TV makes one not frum and therefore a purposeful sinner. One must not intermingle with purposeful sinners because they will influence you to sin.

I know he means well. He thinks by insinuating that frum people don’t own TVs it will reinforce the idea of just how bad owning a TV is. He believes that owning a TV is so dangerous to your Frumkeit that he subliminally teaches you to consider TV owners as not observant. After all the definition of being Frum has historically been whether one keeps Shabbos. According to Rabbi Daniel Schneierson the new definition of being frum is not owning a TV. He subconsciously implants in the mind of those over which he has influence that owning a TV is like hilul Shabbos.

The fact that there are entire communities of Jews that own TVs and that there are not insignificant numbers of moderate Haredim among them – doesn’t phase him. He probably writes them off as not frum too.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/is-it-true-that-no-one-really-frum-has-a-tv/2013/02/11/

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