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Friday, April 10, 2020

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Every week, we post seven to ten news stories from Israel with a suggested prayer focus and scripture for each one, guiding readers how to pray for Israel’s most urgent needs. This Prayer Update is also sent to over 18,000 subscribers every Friday by e-mail. Please contact us at intl.office@bridgesforpeace.com if you would like to receive this Prayer Update by e-mail.

 

Israel Celebrates Passover Apart but Not Alone

by Ilse Strauss

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A Passover seder meal celebrated in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening

Friday, 10 April 2020 | It was a sight unlike any other in the history of the modern State of Israel. At 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday night—the first night of Passover—tens of thousands of Israelis from Metula on the northernmost border all the way down to Eilat in the south streamed onto their balconies or stood framed in windows open wide.

Within seconds, the darkened, deserted streets of Israel resounded with men, women and children singing a song sung for thousands of generations around hundreds of thousands of festive Passover tables: “Ma nishtana haleilah hazeh mikol haleilot?” (“Why is this night different from all other nights?”, known as “The Four Questions”).

Israel sang through all four verses of the traditional song—some even twice and a third time. Then came the cheers, clapping and shouts of chag sameach (“happy holiday”), as neighbors and perfect strangers across the divide of apartment walls and empty streets wished each other a festive Passover.

As the echo of the last voice died down, Israel retreated back inside—shutting balcony doors and windows—to continue the Passover seder feast and the reading of the Haggadah (“the telling” of the story of God leading His people from bondage and slavery in Egypt to freedom) in solitude.

Usually, the seder (literally “order”), is a large, extended family affair, bringing together parents and children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and anyone else who needs a place to celebrate. Usually, the youngest member of the household sings the Ma Nistana to a large, extended audience seated around the seder table. But on Wednesday night, that could not be. Therefore, young and old belted out the song together to the largest possible audience: all of Israel.

So, why was this year’s first night of Passover so different from all other first nights of Passover?

The short answer is COVID-19 coronavirus, a modern plague sending Israelis along with the rest of the world into self-isolation to seek safety from the virus. Ironically, because of COVID-19, this Passover bears a striking resemblance to the very first Passover celebrated in Egypt.

On the first Passover, God instructed the Children of Israel to remain in their homes, with no man, woman or child going “out of the door of his house until morning,” (Exod. 12:22). A terrible pandemic was about to be unleashed, and every firstborn male in the land of Egypt would perish. Yet where the Lord saw a home brandishing lintels stained red with the blood of the Passover lamb, “I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you…” (Exod. 12:13).

Some 3,300 years later, Israel received a similar command. On Monday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a curfew, barring Israelis from leaving their homes from late Wednesday evening to Thursday morning. “Every family will have seder alone,” the prime minister instructed. “Only celebrate with the family who are now at home with you.”

As a result, Israelis remained in their homes, with no man, woman or child going “out of the door of his house until morning” (Exod. 12:22)—just like their ancient ancestors on their last night as slaves in Egypt.

Apart from the first night of Passover’s curfew, Netanyahu also rolled out a new set of coronavirus restrictions to tighten the general lockdown rules during the holiday.

The regulations, which came into effect on Tuesday afternoon, ban Israelis from travelling between cities and restrict essential errands like trips to the grocery store, pharmacy or doctor to within the municipal area where a person resides. Jerusalemites are also prohibited from crossing certain restricted areas. Public transportation has also been halted until Sunday morning.

The measures serve as a means to force Israelis to stay put during Passover—particularly the festive meal for extended family on Wednesday night. Health officials warned that these gatherings could pass the virus from home to home, sparking a new spike in infections, just when Israel has said that there might be signs of the curve flattening in the future.

However, even while adhering to the curfew and social distancing restrictions, Israel found a way of celebrating “together.” Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett introduced the idea of singing the Ma Nistana together. Tens of thousands answered his clarion call, causing the deserted streets of Israel to resound with the declarations of a faithful God leading His people from slavery to freedom, even as the modern-day plague lurked outside.

With the first and second nights of Passover having come and gone, Israel is set to celebrate the next five days of the seven-day feast. They will celebrate differently, carefully and cut off from extended family, but they will celebrate nonetheless. The implication of Passover, does, after all, resound loudest through periods of hardship, uncertainty and suffering: the God Who led His people from slavery in Egypt “with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders” (Deut. 26:8) is the same God Who continues to lead us today.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 10, 2020)

Photo Credit: Sarah Yoder/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Pray for the people of Israel and the Jewish community worldwide as they face the unusual and difficult circumstances of Passover without extended family. Ask the Lord for an extra measure of His presence in each home during this important week, and pray that each person will hear and heed the instructions of their governments.

Scripture

So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.


- Exodus 12:14

From China with Love: Donations Abound for Israel’s COVID-19 Battle

by Kate Norman

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Twenty tons of critical medical equipment, including protective gear, masks and gloves, arrived in Israel from China (illustrative).

Tuesday, 7 April 2020 | The first of multiple planes brimming with medical supplies to aid in Israel’s battle against the coronavirus arrived in the Jewish state Monday from China.

Ten more planes will make the trip from China to deliver desperately needed supplies, including ventilators, protective suits, face masks and other medical equipment, a spokesman from the Defense Ministry announced.

As the virus continues to spread in Israel, infecting more than 9,000 people and killing 60, the Israeli government is fighting a desperate battle to curb the spread. Prime Minister Netanyahu has reportedly ordered the Defense Ministry and Israel’s secret service to procure as many test kits and ventilators as possible—a tall order with global demand currently running so high.

The 20-ton care package that arrived on the first flight from China Monday was a lifesaver, containing much-needed equipment, including over 900,000 masks and 500,000 protective suits, according to the Defense Ministry.

The equipment was donated by wealthy Chinese lovers of Israel as well as Chinese cities, an adviser from Israel’s consulate in Shanghai told the Times of Israel.

“We got donations from several entities. There are very rich people in China who were willing to donate, people who love Israel,” Yossi Ben Shitrit told the Times of Israel. “In China it’s opposite to other places in the world in that there isn’t anti-Semitism but rather lots of admiration for Israel and Jews.”

The donors include people who have traveled to Israel for business and pleasure as well as people who have studied at universities in Israel, including Bar Ilan University.

Bar Ilan’s facility in Safed will be receiving essential supplies like masks, suits and face shields, which were specifically donated by Chinese alumni, the Times of Israel reported. The medical facility was running so low on equipment that they were forced to send home medical staff who would be unprotected without the proper gear. Now, thanks to the influx of equipment from their friends in China, they will be able to return and resume the fight against the virus.

“It’s like a miracle, as we really didn’t know where to get equipment from, or even where to search,” the university’s coordinator for the Chinese alumni organization told the Times of Israel.

The Jewish people hold to a concept of tikkun olam, which essentially means “repairing the world.” The idea stretches back to God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that through his descendants, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

In the spirit of tikkun olam, Israel sent help when the COVID-19 coronavirus sparked in China at the end of 2019. Israeli nonprofits and agencies sent masks and medical supplies to help the nation in its battle against the virus.

Now that China is on the mend and its official numbers are lower than European nations and the US, it is returning the favor.

When COVID-19 originated in China at the end of 2019, over the course of a few short months it sparked a global pandemic, spreading across the world. China held the #1 slot on the lists of countries with most cases and the most deaths. To date it has experienced more than 83,000 confirmed cases of the virus and nearly 3,500 reported deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Over the last few weeks, however, the nation was surpassed by other countries whose COVID-19 numbers exploded, such as the US, Spain, Italy and Germany.

Though the fear and anxiety have spread as quickly or even faster than the virus, this is a time that is bringing out the best in people. Humanity is finding ways to connect and support each other—from the proper social distance, of course.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 7, 2020)

Photo Credit: West Virginia National Guard/flickr.com

Source: flickr.com

Prayer Focus
Praise God for meeting Israel’s critical need through the miracle of these amazing gifts from Israel-lovers in China! Ask Him to pour out His blessing on them as they are blessing Israel, and pray that this equipment will be used to save many lives

Scripture

Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.


- Isaiah 46:4

Israeli Invention Reduces the Risk of Contagion for Medical Personnel 

by Ilse Strauss

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The “Maya” sticker will make medical masks more effective in protecting medial personell from COVID-19 (illustrative).

Friday, 3 April 2020 | Over the past six decades, the tiny nation of Israel has repeatedly demonstrated its huge heart of compassion for those in need. Regardless of where hardship hits, the Jewish state is often the first on the frontlines, bringing medical personnel, rescue workers, drought relief specialists, scientists, equipment and inventions to those who need it most.

The coronavirus presents a unique challenge: almost the entire world faces the pandemic that threatens to ravage societies, health care systems and economies. In the midst of global hardship, Israel is once again on the frontline, bringing its scientific and technological ingenuity to help the world battle the invisible enemy. Israeli inventions have produced medications currently tested as a possible antidote, tools for rapid diagnosis and early detection and methods to help slow the spread of the disease.

The latest Israeli addition to the COVID-19 arsenal is a sticker that attaches to surgical masks to add a crucial layer of protection to safeguard medical personnel against the virus.

The 3D-printed sticker—simply called “Maya”—is made up of disinfectant-coated nanometric fibers that capture nanoparticles—and any viruses they contain—thus neutralizing the coronavirus as it comes into contact with the mask.

Maya is the brainchild of a mechanical engineering team led by Prof. Eyal Zussman from the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology. Both Israel’s Ministry of Health and the Directorate of Defense Research and Development have given Maya their nod of approval. In coming days, the Galilee Medical Center in northern Israel is set to become the first medical facility to equip its personnel with the sticker to test its effectiveness in curbing the infection rate among medical teams.

Some 4,000 years ago, God made a promise to a man from Ur of the Chaldeans from whose lineage He desired to birth a people for Himself. “I will make you a great nation…And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:2,3b), He vowed to Abraham. Today we continue to see the partial fulfillment of this prophecy in the numerous ways in which Israel blesses the nations of the word—particularly at a time of crisis like this.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 3, 2020)

Photo Credit: Павел Сорокин/pexels.com

Photo License: pexels.com

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord that this ingenious sticker will prove to be an effective protection from the coronavirus. Pray that it will save lives in Israel and beyond, as the nation makes yet another innovation available to the world.

Scripture

And in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.


- Genesis 28:14b–15

COVID-19 Cases Continue to Rise in Israel with 10,000 Infected, 92 Dead

by Kate Norman

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Tighter regulations now require that Israelis must wear a face mask in public at all times.

Friday, 10 April 2020 | There is an air of somber calm and quiet in Jerusalem as the nation has entered the Passover holiday, commemorating their ancient exodus from slavery in Egypt to freedom in their own Land.

Still, the cloud of the coronavirus hovers over the Jewish state—just as it looms over the rest of the world. As of Friday morning, over 10,000 people have been infected with COVID-19, the Health Ministry reported, and the death toll has reached 92.

Of those infected, 164 patients are reportedly in serious condition—125 of them being treated with ventilators. Nearly 200 more are in moderate condition, but the other patients are only displaying mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

Of the more than 10,000 Israelis who have been infected, over 1,000 have recovered.

Most of those who succumbed to the virus were elderly and suffered from preexisting conditions. Israel’s youngest victim so far was a 37-year-old man who reportedly had severe underlying health conditions that had weakened his immune system.

A ban on traveling between cities lifted Friday morning that had begun on Tuesday in order to discourage Israelis from visiting loved ones for the Passover holiday. The government also imposed a curfew from Wednesday afternoon at the beginning of Passover to Thursday morning to ensure that everyone remained in their own homes at the beginning of the holiday.

Worldwide nearly 1.5 million people have been infected by the virus, leading to nearly 86,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The countries holding the top spots of most infected are the US, Spain, Italy, Germany, China, France, Iran and the UK.

Nonetheless, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke words of hope in a statement on Monday. Though he was announcing stricter regulations for the Passover holiday, he spoke of “positive signs on the horizon,” saying the Jewish state could possibly begin an exit from the national lockdown after Passover and slowly begin sending people back to work and school.

“First and foremost, citizens of Israel, it depends on you,” the prime minister said, encouraging Israelis to vigilantly maintain social distancing. “It depends on the degree to which you adhere to the hard instructions that we are issuing to you for the benefit of all.”

The people of Israel are spending Passover behind closed doors, shut away from the plague that looms outside—just as their ancestors did during the very first Passover. Today, much like then, the people of Israel hold on to hope, looking forward to the passing of the cloud.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 10, 2020)

Photo Credit: Engin_Akyurt/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Join your voice with the millions of believers around the world who are praying for an end to this insidious evil. Proclaim Psalm 91 over the nation of Israel, reminding God of His promises to be her shield and defender. Pray for comfort for those who have lost loved ones to the virus, for swift healing for those who are currently suffering from it and for peace in the hearts of all of Israel.

Scripture

I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence.


- Psalm 91:2–3

Israel Welcomes New UK Labour Leader Planning to “Tear Out” Anti-Semitism

by Joshua Spurlock

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Starmer at the 2020 Labour Party elections in Bristol

Monday, 6 April 2020 | The British Labour party last week elected a new leader, Keir Starmer, who plans to do more than just replace former leader Jeremy Corbyn—he plans to “tear out” the “poison” of anti-Semitism that had become associated with Corbyn and the party. “We have to face the future with honesty. Anti-Semitism has been a stain on our party,” said Starmer in a video posted to his Twitter feed. “I have seen the grief that it has brought to so many Jewish communities.

“On behalf of the Labour party, I am sorry. And I will tear out this poison by its roots, and judge success by the return of our Jewish members and those who felt that they could no longer support us.”

Israel welcomed the new Labour leader, especially his approach to anti-Semitism. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeted, “I congratulate @Keir_Starmer on his election to lead the UK Labour Party. I hope he will live up to his promise to eradicate anti-Semitism that has emerged in the party in recent years & like former Labour leaders, he will strengthen the friendship between Britain and Israel.”

Mark Regev, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, pointed back to history between the Labour party and Israel as well. “Mazal Tov @Keir_Starmer. Time to reembrace the principled solidarity with Israel of Nye Bevan, Harold Wilson and so many @UKLabour luminaries,” tweeted Regev, who included a photo from 1982 of former Labour leader Wilson with then-Israeli Labor party leader Yitzhak Rabin.

Starmer scored an overwhelming victory in the Labour party election—the party’s website said he won 56.2% of the vote, besting second-best Rebecca Long-Bailey by nearly 30 percentage points. That shows party support for a candidate aiming to bring the Labour party back to power after a humbling defeat in the last UK parliamentary elections. Starmer, who pushed for party unity in his videoed speech on Twitter, still tipped his hat to Corbyn despite the latter’s soiled reputation.

“I want to pay tribute to Jeremy Corbyn, who led our party through some really difficult times, who energized our movement and who is a friend, as well as a colleague,” said Starmer.

However, Starmer’s stance against the anti-Semitism that had become associated with Corbyn has given some Jews in the UK hope. Former Labour Minister of Parliament and former Parliamentary Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement in the UK Ruth Smeeth tweeted on Saturday, “I always said that to end the shame of antisemitism in the Labour Party it had to mean wholesale cultural change, having spoken to @Keir_Starmer this afternoon I am convinced that he understands this and has plan to once again make our party a home for the Jewish community.”

However, the Jewish Labour Movement itself was more hesitant in their congratulatory message posted to Twitter. After wishing Starmer a “mazel tov” for his victory, the statement said that “this change of leadership must mark a turning point for Labour in its relationship with the Jewish community.”

Looking ahead, the Jewish Labour Movement expressed optimism in noting plans for change, but also voiced caution. “The past five years have without doubt been one of the darkest times for Jewish Labour members and supporters,” said the statement. “We will dare to be optimistic that the Party can once again be a safe place for Jews, but we are equally clear that this is just the beginning of that process.”

Source: (The Mideast Update originally published this article on April 5, 2020. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: Rwendland/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for this change in leadership, hopefully bringing an end to the vile anti-Semitism found in the UK’s Labour Party. Pray that the changes will be swift and lasting, routing all hatred of the Jewish people and replacing it with the respect and appreciation God’s chosen nation deserves.

Scripture

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is from Me,” says the LORD.


- Isaiah 54:17

Why Palestinian Leaders Aren’t Helping Gaza Combat COVID-19

by Bassam Tawil ~ Gatestone Institute

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Gaza is ruled by terror organization Hamas.

Monday, 6 April 2020 | After the discovery of the first coronavirus cases in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is ignoring appeals to lift a series of sanctions it imposed on the two million Palestinians living there. Actually, the PA leadership has done virtually nothing to help the Gaza Strip confront the coronavirus pandemic. Ironically, the only country that has been helping the Gaza Strip in the past few weeks is Israel.

The question is, why is the PA ignoring calls to help the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip in their effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus? One explanation—that accords with history—is that if a large number of Palestinians living in Gaza are infected with the disease and there is a huge catastrophe there, the PA leadership wants the world to blame Israel.

The PA has a long record of hiding its own responsibility for the suffering of its people, and instead blaming Israel for the woes of the Gaza Strip.

The moment that the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health announced the first coronavirus cases in the Gaza Strip on March 22, several international media outlets began talking about Israel’s responsibility for the safety and health of the Palestinians there, even though there has not been a single Jew living in Gaza since they all left the entire area in 2005.

The United Nations [UN], nevertheless, is also trying to pave the way for holding Israel responsible for the possible spread of the virus in the Gaza Strip. A senior UN official, Jamie McGoldrick, warned that a possible outbreak of the virus in the Gaza Strip “can be terrible due to the long-term [Israeli] blockade, over-population, and limited health facilities” there.

It is important to emphasize that there is no Israeli “siege” on the Gaza Strip. First, the Gaza Strip shares borders not only with Israel, but also with Egypt. It is Egypt, not Israel, that controls the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, and that is effectively blockading Gaza.

In addition, all goods from Israel are allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, except for weapons and a shortlist of dual-use items that could be used by terrorists to attack Israelis. The ban on weapons and the restrictions on dual-use items stems from the fact that, since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been ruled by a terrorist organization, Hamas, whose declared aim is the destruction of Israel, and that has a track record of using, for example, cement sent for building and repairing homes instead to construct cross-border tunnels for terrorists to attack Israel.

“Not only do food, medicine, fuel and aid enter freely at all times, but in peacetime, commodities and consumer goods of every type are transferred daily from Israel to the Gaza Strip through the land crossing,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry noted. “A December 2104 report by the PA and the UN provides statistics on life in the Gaza Strip. According to the report, 93.6% of the Gaza Strip’s households own a satellite dish, 93.2% own a washing machine, 90% a refrigerator and 88.2% a television.”

As for Israel’s maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip, the UN has determined that, under international law, it is legal.

In 2011, a special panel convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also found Israel’s naval controls, including their enforcement in international waters, to be legal. “The Israeli naval blockade on the Gaza Strip was imposed as a legitimate security measure to prevent weapons from entering [the Gaza Strip] by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law,” the UN panel said.

The panel of experts emphasized, in addition, that all assistance to the Gaza Strip should be transferred only through the two designated land crossings. The UN panel also concluded that Israel had legitimate security concerns regarding violence by Hamas and that weapons trafficking to the Gaza Strip permitted Israel to set restrictions to protect its Mediterranean border.

Despite the outbreak of the coronavirus, the transit of goods between Israel and the Gaza Strip has continued to operate as seamlessly as before. The Israeli Defense Ministry is working to ensure a steady supply of goods reaches the markets and that a normal routine of living is maintained there.

Between March 15 and March 21, a total of 2,547 truckloads of goods entered the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Israel.

Additionally, during the same week, 116 tanker trucks of fuel, 206 tons of medical supplies, 393 tons of agriculture products, 11,457 tons of food, and 48,667 tons of building materials were transferred into the Gaza Strip through the same border crossing.

On March 20, hundreds of additional coronavirus testing kits were delivered by Israel to the Gaza Strip.

Needless to say, no truckloads of any goods or medical supplies or testing kits have entered the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

In 2017, apparently as part of an effort to undermine his rivals in Hamas, PA President Mahmoud Abbas imposed a series of sanctions on the Gaza Strip.

They included cutting salaries of thousands of Palestinian public employees and forcing many others into early retirement, as well as suspending social and health benefits to impoverished families.

Abbas has since rejected many appeals from Palestinians to lift the sanctions he imposed on the Gaza Strip. When Palestinians took to the streets of Ramallah to protest the sanctions, Abbas sent his security forces violently to suppress the protesters with stun grenades, tear gas and clubs.

By March 24, Abbas had still not uttered a word about the situation in the Gaza Strip after the discovery of the first coronavirus cases there. He also has not responded to urgent appeals to lift the punitive measures he imposed there.

Abbas is undoubtedly looking forward to a day when he can hold Israel fully responsible for the outbreak of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip. He is also likely waiting for the UN and many in the international community to join him in blaming Israel and Jews for the spread of the pandemic among his people while ignoring his own responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. As is well known, the real name of the virus causing the current crisis is “novel coronavirus”—and that is where the novelty ends in the Palestinian world, where it is incitement as usual toward Israel.

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Gatestone Institute on April 1, 2020. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: OneArmedMan/Wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that God will deal swiftly and harshly with Palestinian leadership that continually uses their own suffering people as pawns in an evil political game designed to denigrate the nation of Israel. Pray that the truth of their actions will become known to the nations and to the Palestinian people. Pray also that Israel’s efforts to help Gazans will be successful in preventing the spread of the virus.

Scripture

Like a roaring lion and a charging bear is a wicked ruler over poor people. A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor, but he who hates covetousness will prolong his days.


- Proverbs 28:15–16

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