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September 28, 2016 / 25 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Likud’

Meet the Activist Rabbi and his Gay Bodyguard: the Knesset’s Most Incredible Allies

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

By Jesse Lempel/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – Looking at the two newest lawmakers for the Likud party, you would never guess they were close friends: Yehuda Glick is a Brooklyn-born Orthodox rabbi who built his career on pressing for Jewish prayer on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount; Amir Ohana is the first openly gay parliamentarian of the center-right Likud party and founder of its LGBT Caucus.

Yet the two men share an extraordinarily unique bond that began in earnest in 2014 when Glick was gunned down by an Arab would-be assassin, an attack he miraculously survived. After being released from the hospital, the death threats continued pouring in – yet the police declined to provide protection.

That’s when Amir Ohana, a relatively unknown LGBT activist from the southern city of Be’er Sheva and a former agent with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), stepped in: he volunteered to be Glick’s personal bodyguard.

“I’m not a religious person, but I believe in freedom – and it was my honor to defend freedom,” Ohana, 40, explained in a recent interview with Tazpit Press Service (TPS) that took place, together with Glick, 51, in Ohana’s office in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. “I don’t hold religious views but I can respect our legacy and our history as a people. What I want is for everyone to be free to pray wherever they want, and the Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews.”

The Temple Mount, however, also houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock complex – the third holiest site in Islam. The shrine has been a frequent flashpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and tensions surrounding the site – in particular Palestinian claims that Israelis, including Glick personally, are “invading” and “defiling” the complex by visiting – are widely seen as underlying the most recent wave of terror attacks against Israelis.

Because of that tension, for the last several months all members of the Israeli parliament – Jewish and Arab alike – have been banned from visiting the holy site by order of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud party. And in keeping with the “status quo” on the site: Jews may visit sections of the compound in small groups, and only during designated hours, but are evicted if they attempt to pray.

Both Glick and Ohana strongly protest this policy. Glick has been perhaps the most visible advocate of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount and, with his striking red beard, has become something of an infamous figure in the Arabic-language media and social networking platforms, where he has been caricaturized as a serpentine villain.

Glick as snake

The hatred directed at Glick eventually led to his near-assassination and, later on, brought him together with Ohana – who is now, as chance would have it, his colleague in the Knesset.

The ‘Enemy of Al-Aqsa’

On the night of October 29, 2014, Glick was leaving an event at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem. At 10:04 p.m. Mutaz Hijazi, a Palestinian from eastern Jerusalem, showed up on a motorbike.

“This guy stops right next to me on his motorcycle, wearing a white helmet and all black,” Glick recalled to TPS. “He says to me, in Hebrew, ‘I’m very sorry.’ I said, ‘What are you sorry about?’ I get close to him and he says to me, ‘You are an enemy of Al-Aqsa’ and he takes out a pistol and shoots four bullets into the center of my body.”

As Hijazi sped off, Glick staggered along with four bullets in his torso.

“My wife hid under the steering wheel. I saw that I was bleeding and – I have no explanation for this – I had no pain. I managed to walk maybe twenty yards, then I collapsed,” Glick said. “I heard Shai [Malka] say, ‘We just witnessed murder.’ He rips off my shirt and yells to me, ‘[Rabbi] Yehuda, don’t go! We need you!’ That was the last sentence I remember.”

Within a few hours, Israeli security agents – “Amir’s friends” in the Shin Bet, Glick says – discovered footage of Hijazi on the security camera from St. Andrew’s Scottish Church adjacent to the scene of the shooting. By 4 a.m. Israeli forces had tracked Hijazi to his family’s home in the Abu Tor neighborhood and, following a shootout on the roof, killed him.

Hijazi was a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, but a local official of the mainstream Fatah party also claimed responsibility for the “heroic act.”

“I knew there were threats, but I didn’t really believe that it could happen,” Glick said of his attitude before the shooting. “I also believed we have a democratic country and people don’t kill people because they have different views.”

“Now he’s dead and I’m alive,” Glick summed up.

‘A Zealot for Human Rights’

For all the fury he attracts from extremists in the Arab world, as well as from his left wing colleagues (one of whom boycotted his swearing-in ceremony at the Knesset), Glick also faces a backlash from rightist Israelis who recoil from some of his more liberal ideas – including his acceptance of non-Orthodox Jews, his criticism of an Israeli soldier who shot an already-wounded Palestinian terrorist, and his extensive interfaith work (which, according to Glick, was sparked by hours spent in his Bedouin .

Ohana, too, finds himself in the odd position of fending off attacks from opposing sides of the aisle. As he attended the Tel Aviv Pride Parade nearly two weeks ago, despite remarks from some of his right-wing political allies who have crudely likened the to parade to a celebration of bestiality, Ohana also received threats from some in the largely liberal gay community who despise his nationalist politics – so much so that the police, in a twist of fate, decided to provide Ohana with a personal bodyguard for the march. (The interview with Glick and Ohana took place before massacre at the gay bar in Orlando this past weekend and before the terror attack at Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market last week, at which Ohana happened to be present.)

“In Israel it’s quite unique. When you talk about right and left, unlike everywhere else in the world, you primarily talk about the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Ohana explains. “So there is no reason why a person can’t be right wing – and even, as I’m sometimes called, a hawkish right winger – and yet support LGBT rights, women’s rights, freedom of speech, everything that is considered liberal. We are a liberal national party.”

Remarkably, despite all their drastically different backgrounds and religious beliefs, Glick and Ohana seem to share this view. Both men seem determined to fight for issues beyond their own sectarian interests – whether it’s Ohana, the LGBT activist, protecting Glick’s struggle for the Temple Mount, or Glick, the Orthodox rabbi, irritating his base by supporting non-Orthodox women’s prayer groups at the Western Wall, for example, and even gay rights.

“I’m a zealot when it comes to human rights and respecting every single human being,” Glick boasts. “I think that every single person deserves rights. I mean it’s obvious, you know, we’re living in a democratic country.”

Does he, then, support gay marriage, an impossibility under the current Israeli arrangement in which marriage is governed by the Orthodox rabbinate?

“I support that he should have every single right he deserves,” Glick says somewhat evasively, pointing to Ohana, and referring to Ohana’s partner: “I know that he has a wonderful mate.”

Yet when asked why he wouldn’t attend the Tel Aviv Pride Parade, Glick replied: “I don’t see a problem with [going to the parade], but I wouldn’t go because other people might see me as a problem,” adding that he went to visit Shira Banki, a teenage girl stabbed by a Jewish religious extremist at the Jerusalem Pride Parade in 2015, while she was in the hospital. Shortly afterward, Banki died of her wounds.

‘Jerusalem of Peace’

Glick was sworn in to his parliament post in late May, following the resignation of former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. As our interview ended, he decided to inaugurate his new office by placing the ritual mezuzah on the doorpost – a small box holding verses of the Torah which is thought to protect one’s home.

Ohana tags along to Glick’s new office, borrowing a kippa from an aide, and the two hang the mezuzah together.

“I protected you once, so I may as well finish the job,” Ohana quips.

Glick then declares that his office has a name.

“This isn’t Yehuda Glick’s office,” he says. “It’s called ‘Jerusalem of Peace.’”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

FM Kahlon Tussles With Netanyahu Over Casinos in Eilat

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Kulanu party chairman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon apparently is teaming up with Bayit Yehudi chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett in a minor political brawl against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The argument is over funding, as usual – this time, a plan to open a casino in Eilat.

In the past Kahlon has sidestepped the issue altogether by saying, “Everyone knows there will not be a casino here.”

The Finance Ministry has taken steps to block gambling activities that target Israelis and others who have low incomes and difficulty walking away from their hopes for easy money.

“Last week we decided to put an end to slot machines and horse races – gambling activities that ruin families. These machines are placed in poor neighborhoods to sell them illusions and hopes while taking money out of their pockets,” Kahlon said, according to the Globes business news site.

“Sadly, this has been going on since 2003 – it has been talked about for years and we decided to take action; soon we’ll remove them, and Mifal HaPayis can scrap them as far as I’m concerned.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu appointed Tourism Minister Yariv Levin to head a commission to look into the possibility of developing a gambling spot in the southern resort city.

But Kahlon told journalists at the start of the Kulanu faction meeting in the Knesset on Monday: “The State of Israel does not need casinos. It needs to provide education, values, and jobs – not a casino.”

Hana Levi Julian

Israel ‘Shocked and Horrified’ at Orlando Massacre, But Life Must Go On

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was speaking on behalf of the entire nation at the opening of the cabinet meeting on Monday when he offered condolences to the United States over the Orlando massacre.

The attack carried out by an ISIS terrorist at an Orlando night club in the wee hours of Sunday morning left 50 people dead and another 53 wounded, plus countless others deeply traumatized in the Florida city where Disney, among others, feel at home on the East Coast.

“We are all shocked at the horrific massacre in Orlando,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly government cabinet meeting.

“On behalf of the government and people of Israel, I would like to again express our condolences to the American people and the families at this especially difficult hour.

“This terror threatens the entire world and it is necessary – first of all – that the enlightened countries urgently unite to fight it. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the American people,” he said.

The prime minister then went on to discuss the economic improvements being considered by the government – including the separation of credit companies from the major Israeli banks.

“Competition in the banking sector will ease the credit situation for small and medium business,” he said. “And separation between the major banks and credit card companies is the start of a comprehensive reform that will be good for all Israelis.”

Hana Levi Julian

Likely Compromise Found in Coalition Rift over Reform, Conservative Mikvahs

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) on Monday morning presented a compromise solution for the problem caused by last Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling siding with the demands of Reform and Conservative petitioners for equal access to state-run mikvahs-ritual baths. Last February, the Supreme Court ruled that local religious councils must make state-run mikvahs available for conversion ceremonies run by Israeli Reform and Conservative clergy.

Last week, the Knesset Interior Committee debated a bill proposed by Shas and UTJ, the two ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, determining that the use of public mikvahs in Israel will be conducted strictly according to halakha and under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate.

Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) for his part on Friday announced that he plans to submit the bill in order to prevent the implementation of the court’s ruling. This would be in keeping with the coalition agreement between UTJ and Likud, which says that each time the Supreme Court issues a ruling that jeopardizes issues close to the heart of the Orthodox-Jewish party, the government must submit a bill to bypass the court.

Gafni, who argued that the court’s new ruling violates the national status quo on issues of religion and state, also cited the coalition’s obligation to maintain the same status quo.

Judge Elyakim Rubinstein, an Orthodox Jew who was part of the unanimous decision in favor of the Reform and Conservative petitioners, suggested in his ruling that the religious council in question, in Be’er Sheva, illegally segregated against Israeli citizens. “From the moment the state has constructed public mikvahs and made them available to the public — including for use in conversions — it cannot practice inequality in their usage,” Elyakim wrote. Rubinstein added that “the state’s decision not to supervise dipping in the mikvah that is conducted as part of a private conversion does not justify preventing it.”

One of the other two judges on the panel was Salim Joubran, a Christian Arab. Chief Justice Miriam Naor was the third judge. It should be noted that while last week Ha’aretz complained about a decision by Judge Rubinstein favoring the Chief Rabbinate, implying he should have recused himself from deciding Orthodox Jewish issues because he wears a yarmulke (sic), the same paper did not make a similar complaint in this case.

The MK Bitan compromise will suspend the application of the Mikvah law for nine months, during which time two to four mikvahs would be built for the Reform and Conservative public. The Jewish Agency is expected to bear the costs of construction. Meanwhile, the coalition would work on a softer version of the Shas-UTJ bill, which would skirt the Supreme Court ruling but not actually bypass it. The first draft was scheduled to be presented to the Interior committee Monday morning.

According to MK Bitan, “We are not planning to pass a Supreme Court bypassing law, but instead to find solutions to the problems raised by the court’s ruling. According to the understanding, we will build between two to four mikvahs in various locations in the country for the Reform and Conservative public so they can dip there according to their method.” Bitan stressed that “we must maintain equality for everyone in spending resources.”

A Haredi party source that spoke to JNi.media on the condition of anonymity said the Bitan compromise will most likely be accepted since it does not actually compel religious councils to share existing mikvahs with the Reform and Conservative, but allocates to them new mikvahs. Nevertheless, the Haredi coalition parties are likely going to be subjected to attacks from the Haredi media, which see the very idea of allowing the two non-Orthodox movement a foot in the door as ushering disaster. Some in the Haredi media, such as Ha’peles, would like to see the Haredi parties using their critical role in Netanyahu’s small coalition to extract deeper concessions regarding the non-Orthodox mikvahs.

JNi.Media

Bennett: ‘You Can’t Be in Favor of Eretz Israel in Hebrew while Establishing the State of Palestine in English.’

Monday, June 6th, 2016

On Sunday night, during the celebrations of Jerusalem Liberation Day at the Merkaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem, the academic crown jewel of the rightwing Greater Israel movement, Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett flatly accused Prime Minister Netanyahu of lying about his true intentions regarding a Palestinian State. “You can’t be in favor of Eretz Israel in Hebrew while establishing the State of Palestine in English,” he said, obviously pointing to the PM, who was present at the same ceremony, and accusing him of telling his voters (in Hebrew) during the last campaign that he was opposed to dividing the land, while scheming with foreign dignitaries and a number of Israeli politicians to bring on some form of the two-state solution.

The relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) and Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) is about as bad as can be, feeding on 20 years of bad blood, resentments, betrayals and condescension. Ten years ago, after fighting in the 2006 Lebanon War, Bennett served as chief of staff for Netanyahu, who was then the opposition leader. He helped Netanyahu dig his way up from a deep electoral hole, but couldn’t get along with Mrs. Netanyahu (few could). Eventually, in 2008, Bennett and his political partner, Ayelet Shaked, set out to carve their own path among Israel’s rightwing voters.

When they returned victorious in 2013, with 12 seats, as leaders of a National Religious Party that everyone had been certain was going to leave the political stage — they were considered Netanyahu’s natural coalition partners — but Sara Netanyahu put down her foot. Instead of a negotiation between friends, Bennett et al were put through the wringer. It took the intervention of a third party leader, MK Yair Lapid, who forged an ad hoc, mutual-benefit alliance with Bennett, to finally open the door. Then, after the 2015 elections, when Bennett generously endorsed Netanyahu’s message that it made no difference if the settler community voted for Likud or for his own party, because he had been promised they’d all be part of the same winning coalition in the end — Bennett ended up as the last man the PM had turned to for a government post. Promises of the Defense Ministry were reneged on, and Bennett, a party chairman, ended up with a second-tier portfolio. Mind you, Bennett believes a full five of Likud’s 30 Knesset seats should have gone to him. That’s ten years’ worth of resentment.

And now, as Netanyahu continues his pursuit of a broader coalition with MK Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Camp (Labor), voices in Labor are starting to say that they’d consider the offer only if the PM is sincere in his desire for a two-state solution, and the profound way in which he could signal that commitment would be by sacrificing the only dedicated enemy of the very idea of a Palestinian State, Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi. If Netanyahu were to go ahead and fire, or demote Bennett and the other two Habayit Hayehudi ministers, Ayelet Shaked and Uri Ariel, it would mean that five seats worth of voters who believed Netanyahu was just as anti-two-state as Bennett, actually cast their vote to get themselves and their families evicted from their homes and lands. There’s plenty to resent there.

“There are some, in Israel and the world, who join various Arab initiatives according to which we would divide the land, divide–God forbid–Jerusalem, and return to the 1967 lines,” Bennett said, “because the world is pressuring, and we must appease them. I tell these individuals tonight: never.”

As to the dual-language policy, Bennett told Netanyahu: “It’s time to say in a clear voice: the Land of Israel belongs to the nation of Israel. In Hebrew, English, Russian and French, in summer, in winter, during elections and when there are no elections. Why? Because the world is listening to us. To every word we say. The world recognizes weakness, just as it recognizes strength. The world sniffs whenever we are not certain of our right to the land, and attacks us with the fury of boycotts.”

It was a painful, raging attack, that marked the worst day in the complex relationship of these two politicians. But it would be a mistake to suggest that Bennett was acting emotionally. In fact, this had to be a well planned assault, ahead of a foreseeable dismissal of Habayit Hayehudi from the coalition. Even before Sunday’s de facto declaration of war, Bennett’s party was up at least three seats in the polls, while Likud was down by those same three seats — that was the Judea and Samaria vote. And should Netanyahu actually pursue peace negotiations at this juncture, those three seats could grow to become five, putting in risk Likud’s numeric supremacy in the next Knesset.

It was such an aggressive attack on Bennett’s part, that the pushback had to come from Likud’s own rightwing, pro-settlements wing: an anonymous Likud senior official was cited by the press, but everyone knew it was Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin, who accused Bennett of hypocrisy—since he had lived comfortably in the previous coalition government with Minister Tzipi LIvni, while the latter was in charge of the two-state negotiations. Elkin, speaking as senior anonymous Likud man, also said it was Bennett who was threatening the stability of the most rightwing government in Israel’s history.

In the end, the cooling down of the internal fighting came from the new defense minister, Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), also a former Netanyahu lieutenant in Likud who broke up with the boss and has maintained a terrible personal relationship with him, complete with bad blood and burgeoning resentments. Liberman said Monday morning: “I call on Naftali Bennett to calm down. Right now we need fewer declarations and more coordinated, quiet work.”

“If he can’t hold back, I suggest he undergo surgery to remove his short fuse,” Liberman said about Bennett, in a bearish kind of humor.

Incidentally, you may recall that Liberman has endured his share of ridicule upon taking on his important new position, because in an interview Liberman had given only last April, he promised that should he become defense minister, he would demand that Deputy Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniya return the bodies of Israeli soldiers in his possessions or face death. There’s even a website counting the days since Liberman’s appointment and noting that the Hamas leader is still alive.

“I suggest to anyone who is asking me regarding taking care of Haniya to wait until the end of my term, and not [harass me] in my first week in office,” the new defense minsiter said.

Except that in that interview Liberman actually said Haniya should be counting his days on this earth from Liberman’s first day in office. So the inquiries are certainly legitimate.

JNi.Media

Likud, Labor MKs Conclude First Official Visit to Muslim Tajikistan

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Knesset Members Sharren Haskel (Likud) and Yoseph Yonah (Zionist Camp-Labor) on Sunday concluded their official visit to Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, where they held a series of meetings with senior state officials, including the speaker of Tajikistan’s parliament, the country’s labor and agriculture ministers, and Members of Parliament.

The Republic of Tajikistan is a mountainous, landlocked country in Central Asia with an estimated 8 million people, bordered by Afghanistan and Pakistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east. Tajikistan became an independent nation in 1991, following the breakup of the Soviet Union. A civil war erupted almost immediately after independence, lasting from 1992 to 1997. Since the end of the war, newly established political stability and foreign aid have allowed the country’s stability and economy to grow.

The MKs’ discussions centered on intensifying the cooperation between Israel and Tajikistan – mainly with regards to agriculture and health, and establishing permanent ties between the friendship groups of the countries’ parliaments. The MKs invited senior government officials to visit Israel.

MKs Haskel and Yona (center) in Tajikistan / Courtesy

MKs Haskel and Yona (center) in Tajikistan / Courtesy

The visit marked the first time members of Israel’s political echelon visit Tajikistan in an official capacity. Relations between the countries were established in 1992, and they are defined as “friendly.” Israel is represented in Tajikistan by a non-resident ambassador. In October 1995, Tajikistan’s president, Emomali Rahmon, met with then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, but, generally, contacts between the countries were maintained by lower-level officials.

The MKs said they received a particularly warm welcome in Tajikistan. MK Haskel, head of the Israel-Tajikistan Parliamentary Friendship Group, said the visit by the Israeli parliamentary delegation is “historic and groundbreaking in our relations with a country which, until now, has not maintained parliamentary relations with the State of Israel.”

“Tajikistan is a Muslim state that has close economic, social and cultural ties with Iran,” she continued. “Tajikistan supported Iran’s nuclear program, opposed the international sanctions against Tehran, and has stood by the Palestinians in their disputes with Israel and the UN. Particularly because of this, their wish to establish parliamentary relations with Israel for the first time is extremely significant. The breakthrough in improving Israel’s status in the world will come from cooperating with countries that are not necessarily our natural partners.”

MK Yona said the visit was meant to “strengthen the friendly relations between the countries and examine possibilities for fruitful cooperation. I expect that in light of our visit, official Tajikistani work delegations will visit Israel to give a practical expression to the developing cooperation.”

JNi.Media

Likud MK Benny Begin Tears Into Liberman Supporters, Liberman Himself

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Likud MK Benny Begin tore into fellow party members who supported the appointment Monday of Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman as defense minister. Begin also ripped into Liberman himself, for his statement late Monday proclaiming support for a “two state solution.”

Liberman thanked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement at his swearing-in Monday night, saying: “I listened to everything you said and I absolutely agree with every word, including two states for two peoples.

“There was a lot of speculation about what the policy of the government would be. I want to remind people that for many years Yisrael Beytenu decided, and I spoke more than once about recognizing, that same solution of two states for two peoples.

“I also believe that I was very supportive of the Bar Ilan speech,” he added. “I think that President al-Sisi’s speech was very important and has created a genuine opportunity. We must try to pick up the gauntlet. I absolutely agree that the Arab [Peace] Initiative also has some very, very positive elements that enable a serious dialogue with all our neighbors in the region.”

Begin, however, was not at all surprised at Liberman’s statement. He was instead surprised by residents of Judea and Samaria who he said should remember past statements by Liberman promoting Highway 6 as the western border of any proposed Palestinian Authority state. Begin said he sees any such state as a PLO state that will quickly transform itself a bastion of Hamas.

He added that residents of Samaria, or members of the Likud party who celebrated the appointment of Liberman as defense minister were “fools.”

Begin also said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasn’t much smarter: “He knows that idea isn’t supported within the Likud party in the Knesset and not by the government he currently leads,” he said, according to Channel 2 television news.

“I was amazed at the joy with which right-wing activists greeted the ouster of [Defense Minister] Moshe Ya’alon in favor of Liberman,” Begin told Channel 2 on Monday night.

“It was Ya’alon who opposed the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Begin noted. He added in a similar interview with Galei Tzahal Army Radio, “It seems there are three types of right wing: moderate, extremists and stupid.”

Begin warned that it is likely that Liberman may implement policies that will not be “considerate, not be careful, not be responsible, and not be moderate,” based on his statements as a member of the opposition.

The Likud MK was bitterly angry that Ya’alon was inspired to end his political career over Liberman’s appointment. “A man who was completely committed to opposing a PLO or Hamas state, or who knows what might follow in Judea and Samaria, is not acceptable to them (Likud) while someone who is committed to that …. is kosher l’mehadrin? Begin said on Galei Tzahal.

Liberman has long resided in the Jewish community of Nokdim, located south of Bethlehem in the northern Judean hills.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/likud-mk-benny-begin-tears-into-liberman-supporters-liberman-himself/2016/05/31/

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