Compassion

Help us bless the people of Israel.

Friday, April 24, 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.

 

Health Ministry Number Two: Current Wave of Israel’s Virus Outbreak Over

by Alexandra Lukash and Itamar Eichner

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A woman wears a mask while grocery shopping

Thursday, 23 April 2020 | Health Ministry’s Deputy Director General Prof. Itamar Grotto said yesterday that the current wave of the coronavirus outbreak in Israel has reached its peak and has begun to subside.

“We can say we have stopped the current wave of the outbreak,” said the Health Ministry’s No. 2 in an interview with Ynet.

He warned, however, that a new wave of COVID-19 might be around the corner if the economy and the education system is reopened too soon. “Even 200 new patients a day could be the spark of a new epidemic.”

“It [the new wave] will be much harder to contain in contrast to two months ago, where most infected came from abroad and we could quarantine them.”

Prof. Grotto also addressed the sharp rise in infections over the past 24 hours released yesterday morning. “It’s not correct to only look at the daily rise, but we are aware and a bit troubled by it,” he said.

“We are developing new techniques [to] estimate the number of patients we’re able to treat at a given moment, so we can decide if we can move forward with the easing of restrictions or if we have to roll them back.”

When asked about the likely lockdown on Israel’s independence and memorial days, Prof. Grotto said that “we must refrain from public celebrations completely.”

“Families will still be allowed to arrive at the cemeteries a day before Memorial Day,” he said, referring to the expected shuttering of all military cemeteries on Memorial Day. “We must also take into account that the majority of those who will visit are in risk groups due to their age and we must make sure there will be no risk involved.”

“When it comes to Ramadan [one of the Five Pillars of Islam when stringent disciplines are observed], we will mainly focus on enforcement [of the directives] and on making sure shops are closed at night. We want people to pray at home and not in mosques. I expect that the Arab population will adhere to the new restrictions,” he said.

The deputy director general also said the Health Ministry is keeping a close eye on countries like Denmark, which decided to gradually reopen its education system.

“We have several plans for reopening the education system,” said Grotto. “If we reopen the education system, however, it is clear to us that there will be more patients. The state has to decide how much risk it is willing to take.”

Commenting on Singapore, which has had a sharp rise of patients after proclaiming that they had successfully contained the virus, Prof. Grotto said he hoped that Israel will not be in a similar situation in the future.

“We are always trying to walk the tight rope between opening up the economy and infection rate, therefore we must take do everything slowly and gradually,” Grotto said.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on April 22, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Anna Shvets/pexels.com

Prayer Focus
Thank the Lord for the decreasing number of coronavirus infections in Israel. Pray that the nation will proceed with caution, trusting the Lord but doing their due diligence, maintaining lifesaving restrictions as long as they are truly necessary. Pray that the economic impact on the nation will not be significant.

Scripture

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.


- Psalm 23:4

United at Last: Netanyahu and Gantz Sign Unity Agreement

by Kate Norman

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PM Netanyahu (right) greets Benny Gantz at former President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres’s annual memorial service on September 20, 2019.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020 | After a year and a half of wringing hands while hoping and praying for a whole, functional government, Israel at last has one. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz signed a unity agreement last night.

The agreement will see Netanyahu continue as prime minister for 18 months with Gantz serving underneath him as defense minister. In October 2021, Netanyahu will pass the baton to Gantz and serve underneath him as deputy prime minister.

The deal sets up a six-month emergency government that will reportedly focus only on matters pertaining to quashing the COVID-19 in Israel, with all other legislation to be tabled for a later time. After that time, they can agree to extend the emergency period or move into the unity period.

Essentially, Netanyahu and Gantz will split ministerial positions between their political blocs, and each will retain control over his own bloc rather than the government as a whole.

The unity deal is reportedly rife with safety nets protecting each party from being double crossed by the other. The 14-page document reads like two opponents setting up a chessboard, anticipating the other person’s possible moves and blocking them.

The main obstacle in the unity talks was deciding who would control judiciary appointments—a special sticking point for Netanyahu, who is under indictment for charges of corruption and will go to trial next month, pending the ability to do so without virus-related restrictions. Netanyahu has written the charges off as an attempted political coup, but he would not budge on the judicial roadblock during the talks.

Gantz appears to have folded on that point, as Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc was given veto power over judicial appointments and a former cabinet member under the premier will join the panel.

The unity deal also has a special contingency that will automatically send Israel back to another round of elections if Netanyahu is legally barred from serving as prime minister while under indictment.

In the second and third elections, Netanyahu ran on a campaign promise to annex more land in Judea and Samaria if reelected. That was also one of the initial obstacles in the unity negotiations, but the new government could oversee annexation as early as July.

The unity government was unthinkable, as Gantz has spent a majority of the last year and a half promising to oust Netanyahu and saying he would never sit in a coalition with the premier. But the world forced his hand. Under pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic, chastising from President Reuven Rivlin and cries from the Israeli people to set their differences aside and unite for the good of the nation, Gantz relented. Unthinkable—but in Israeli politics, the unthinkable is often exactly what happens.

Gantz took to Twitter after the announcement, writing, “We prevented fourth elections,” and making promises to Israelis.

“We’ll safeguard democracy,” he continued. “We’ll fight the coronavirus and look out for all Israeli citizens.”

The unity government may or may not function as a cohesive governing body, but it is a major step forward after trudging along with a caretaker government since December 2018. In Israel, each day can bring any number of surprises: a pandemic, a sudden attack from external enemies, and an unlikely unity government.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 21, 2020)

Photo Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Ashernet

Prayer Focus
Praise the Lord that a unity government is finally in place, giving Israel a functioning governing body for the first time in a year and a half. Beseech the Lord for true unity, cooperation and stability as Netanyahu and Gantz work together to lead the nation.

Scripture

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forevermore.


- Psalm 133:1,3

Report: Israel Examines Coronavirus Patients Virtually

by Ilse Strauss

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The doctors at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center’s home hospitalization unit have come up with a way to monitor coronavirus patients remotely (illustrative).

Thursday, 23 April 2020 | COVID-19 presents medical personnel with the same catch-22 as all other contagious diseases. On the one hand, patients require medical care and examinations to monitor their condition. On the other, personal contact to provide such care exposes medical personnel to infection.

The Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer near Tel Aviv recently introduced a solution to the catch-22. Thanks to the home hospitalization unit established at Israel’s largest hospital, coronavirus patients are treated virtually. The result? Patients receive the checkups they need while keeping the medical professionals who provide the service safe.

A video clip released via the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ YouTube channel offers a glimpse of the process.

Once a person tests positive for coronavirus, the patient’s symptoms often determine treatment. Those with severe symptoms or preexisting health conditions generally require hospitalization. However, otherwise healthy patients who are asymptomatic or display mild symptoms will usually fight the disease from home. Sheba Medical Center’s home hospitalization unit is designed to care for and examine the latter group remotely.

A doctor from the unit delivers a kit packed with the required medical equipment to the patient’s doorsteps. The patient then places a video call to the Sheba Medical Center’s home hospitalization unit, where a doctor is ready to walk the patient through the examination process step by step. The doctors taking the calls are specifically selected, chosen for their professional and interpersonal abilities. Those on the other end of the line are, after all, ill, frightened and alone.

The procedure is performed using Tyto, a small, handheld exam kit and app device that allows patients to perform guided medical examinations, capture the required information and dispatch it to a healthcare professional remotely. To monitor corona patients, the doctor first shows the patient how to take his or her temperature and then examines the patient’s throat for signs of infection. The final step entails listening to the patient’s lungs. The patient connects the stethoscope found in the examination kit to Tyto, which enables the doctor to listen to the patient’s lungs as he or she breathes deeply in and out, just like during a face-to-face examination.

The remote examination enables the doctor to provide feedback immediately. If the patient remains asymptomatic or continues to display mild symptoms, home care—and home monitoring—continues until the patient beats the disease. On the flip side, the process enables doctors to detect a worsening condition early on and treat the patient accordingly.

Sheba Medical Center’s home hospitalization unit offers a solution to crucial conundrums with the infectious disease medical care. Patients receive the necessary examination and care their condition requires. Regular access to a qualified and caring healthcare professional sets hearts and minds at ease as patients battle a novel illness in isolation. At the same time, removing personal contact from the equation keeps medical personal safe from exposure.

Just another way Israel is at the forefront in the battle against the coronavirus.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 24, 2020)

Photo Credit: Mohamed Hassan/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Thank God for blessing Israel with this wonderful new treatment option that will help save the lives of both patients and health care workers. Pray that major hospitals throughout Israel will be able to avail themselves of this technology, as well as treatment facilities throughout the world.

Scripture

“For I am the LORD who heals you.”


- Exodus 15:26

Jerusalem City Hall Set Alight in Second Terror Attack of the Day

by Kate Norman

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Jerusalem City Hall

Thursday, 23 April 2020 | As life slowly begins to return to normal in the Jewish state with the government tentatively loosening the restrictions on the public, more and more people are returning to their usual activities—including Israel’s enemies. The Jewish state saw two attacks Wednesday: the first in a car ramming and stabbing terror attack on a border guard and the second in an arson attack on Jerusalem City Hall.

The arson attack Wednesday afternoon forced Jerusalem City Hall workers, including Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and his team, to evacuate the building while eight teams of firefighters battled the flames. No casualties were reported in the fire.

Police reportedly arrested an Arab from eastern Jerusalem suspected of starting the fire, and officials also discovered multiple Molotov cocktails inside the building, Israel’s Kan News reported.

Hours earlier, a young Palestinian conducted a car ramming and stabbing attack at a checkpoint outside of Jerusalem that left an Israeli Border Police guard moderately injured.

Dramatic security footage of the attack shows the Palestinian approaching the checkpoint in a white van and swerving into the unsuspecting guard. The guard falls but instantly jumps back up to defend himself when the Palestinian exits his vehicle and begins chasing the guard with a pair of scissors. Other security guards at the scene quickly swing into action and open fire, killing the terrorist. Police reportedly found and neutralized pipe bombs in the van.

Thursday evening begins the month of Ramadan (one of the Five Pillars of Islam when stringent disciplines are observed). For the next 30 days, Muslims around the world will fast from all food and drink from sunup to sundown. Many use this time to buckle down and refocus on prayer, reading Islamic religious tests and other religious activities. Israel in the past has seen a rise in terror activity during this holiday.

Ramadan will look different this year for the Muslim people of Israel in the midst of COVID-19. Though the holiday is usually filled with fellowship and feasting following the fast at the end of the day, people will have to celebrate in their own homes under lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus—just as Jewish people were required to do earlier this month while celebrating Passover.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 23, 2020)

Photo Credit: Daniel Baránek/wikipedia.org

Photo License: wikipedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray for the victims of these most recent terror attacks and their families as well. Beseech the Lord that the loosening of restrictions will not see an increase in terror activity. Also pray that the Muslim community will cooperate with constraints placed on their holiday celebrations, as the Jewish people did during Passover.

Scripture

Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice. He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me.


- Psalm 55:17–18

Never Again: Israel Marks Holocaust Remembrance Day

by Ilse Strass

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Sirens wail in Jerusalem as people stop to honor Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020 | Today is different—doubly so.

Sundown last night in Israel ushered in Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a somber day, 24 hours set aside every year to remember the six million Jewish people murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust. On this day, Israel also remembers those who lived through the atrocities, who passed through the living hell and emerged to find every shred of their former lives erased. On this day, Israel remembers all the victims of the Holocaust—those who perished and those who survived.

More than 70 years ago, the Nazis and their collaborators set about their mission of exterminating every trace of Jewish life from the face of the earth with chilling zeal and grisly efficiency. Within the course of a decade, European Jewry all but disappeared, collected from urban and rural homes and swept into the yawning voids of concentration camps, crematoriums and mass graves. When the gates of the concentration camps opened and the din of war finally came to an end, six million Jews were murdered.

The figures are staggering; the timeframe in which they were tallied up ridiculously short. But more than anything, the Holocaust brings with it an overwhelming sense of loss. It is a gaping hole where an entire generation of mothers, fathers, siblings, family and friends should have been.

And so, as the sun set over the Jewish homeland last night, Israel mourned a generation of loved ones who were lost. That is why today is different.

Every year, Israel observes Holocaust Memorial Day in much the same way. Flags hang half-mast. A hush descends over the usually vibrant city streets. Movie theaters, bars, restaurants and places of entertainment close their doors for the day. Sorrow and reverence wrap like a blanket around the hearts of Israelis. Countless memorial events are hosted across the length and breadth of the country, making sure that as many Holocaust survivors as possible are given a platform to speak and share their testimony—lest we forget.

The main event usually takes place at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, drawing thousands. Top political, religious and military leaders—including the prime minister and president—deliver key note addresses. Each year, six Holocaust survivors are selected to light six torches and share their testimonies.

Usually, the bustling activity in Israel grinds to a halt at exactly 10:00 a.m. The throng of cars speeding along the main highways will first slow to a crawl. One by one, they will pull over to the side of the road. Car doors will open and drivers pour out to stand waiting on now-deserted lanes. In every city, town and community, Israelis will pour from homes, schools and office buildings to stand and mourn as one as an air raid siren screams for two minutes.

But this year is different. This year there will be no ceremonies or public gatherings. This year, Israel—like much of the word—is battling an invisible enemy called COVID-19 and remains in lockdown to curb the spread of infection. That doesn’t mean Israel doesn’t remember. On the contrary. It just means Israel remembers differently.

This year, the doors of Yad Vashem remain closed and the usual commemorations take place online. Instead of the torch lighting ceremony, each of the six survivors chosen for this year were filmed ahead of the event and their testimonies recorded. The recording includes pictures of the families they raised in the aftermath of the Holocaust, showcasing their legacy of life.

Thanks to online forums like Zoom and Facebook Live, Holocaust survivors across the length and breadth of the country still have the platform to speak and share their testimony—lest we forget. They speak from the confines of their apartments where they remain shut away from the virus that unleashes the brunt of its fury on the sick and the elderly.

At 10:00 the siren wailed as usual. It echoed through deserted streets while Israelis stood on balconies or framed in windows, mourning the horror of their history. Israel dispatched a volunteer to stand guard outside the locked doors of survivors’ apartments so that they would not be alone with the memories when the siren screamed.

In a video message, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel embraces its Holocaust survivors today, albeit not in person. The prime minister acknowledged reports that the coronavirus may be the biggest international challenge since World War II, but pointed out that COVID-19 and its fallout pales in comparison to the Holocaust.

“In this period there are many challenges, but from every perspective, they can’t compare and are not equal to the systematic, diabolical extermination of six million,” Netanyahu said.

Bridges for Peace also plays an active role today. A team of our volunteers are out today visiting Holocaust survivors to deliver some much-needed food staples—and a little company—on this sombre day. Of course, our approach looks a little different. Instead of our usual visits, we call beforehand, drop the food parcel at the closed door, ring the doorbell and then move away. We’ll linger there, offering a smile, a friendly face—perhaps the only face they’ve see in days—and some conversation.

Seeing the gratitude on their faces and hearing the words of blessing they speak over us for continuing to love and care for them touches our hearts deeply.

Today, more than ever, it is crucial that our Holocaust survivors know that they are cared for, looked after and not forgotten. Today, more than ever, it is vital that they know that there are Christians around the world who continue to say “Never again!” in these difficult times. Today, more than ever, they will see our masked faces and hear our voices.

Today is different—doubly so. A different day in a different world. We don’t know what the future holds or whether, when and to what degree the world will return to life as we knew it. But as we mourn and remember, we can rest in the fact that God always has the final word.

Am Yisrael Chai! Let it be known across the earth and for all time: even while air raid sirens echo across deserted streets and Jews stand still to mourn, the people of Israel live. Because the God of Israel lives.

Will you join your voice with ours? Will you help us pour out love, companionship and food staples on these precious survivors as we help them weather these dark, lonely days?

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 21, 2020)

Photo Credit: Henry Strauss/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will make His presence known to every Holocaust survivor in Israel as they sit in isolation, especially at this time that is usually very meaningful for them and for the nation as a whole. Pray that they will find comfort and peace for their souls. Beseech Him for generosity on the part of Christians around the world as Bridges for Peace seeks badly needed funds to help meet the needs of these precious children of God.

Scripture

You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book? When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me. For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?


- Psalm 56:8–9,13

Fourteen Million: World Jewry Matches 1925 Numbers

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Jewish men praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Tuesday, 21 April 2020 | The number of Jews in the world currently stands at 14 million, according to data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics [CBS] on Sunday.

The data, released ahead of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day which began last night, shows the current number of world Jewry in 2020 matches that of 1925, but is still short of the pre-World War II figures.

According to the CBS, there were 14.7 million Jews at the end of 2018, just shy of the 14.8 million there were in 1925, but still significantly fewer than the 16.6 million that were on the eve of World War II in 1939.

At that time, only 3% of the world’s Jewry (about 449,000) lived in pre-state Palestine, with that number increasing to about 650,000 on the eve of Israel’s establishment in 1948.

The 6.7 million Jews who live in Israel now account for 45% of the world Jewry. Of them, 5.2 million were born in Israel while the rest were born in either Europe or in the Americas, about 293,000 in Africa and 164,000 in Asia.

The United States has the second-largest Jewish population in the world with 5.7 million, followed by France with about 450,000, Canada with 392,000, the United Kingdom with 292,000, Argentina with 180,000, Russia with 165,000, Germany with 180,000 and Australia with some 116,000 Jews.

Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed this year for 24 hours beginning last night and ending this evening.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on April 19, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Ilya Varlamov/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Thank God for the growth in the Jewish community in Israel and around the world. Beseech Him for their safety and prosperity, especially as He brings them back to their homeland in fulfillment of His ancient promises. Pray that more and more will heed His call to come home and build their lives in the Land He has chosen for them.

Scripture

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that they shall no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ And they shall dwell in their own land.”


- Jeremiah 23:7–8

Coronavirus and the Virus of Anti-Semitism

by Kate Norman

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Social media is used to spread vicious anti-Semitic conspiracies.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020 | As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues spreading across the globe, infecting nearly 2.5 million people so far, according to the World Health Organization, it is sparking the spread of another disease: anti-Semitism.

The ancient plague of hatred is returning on the back of a centuries-old trope: Jewish blood libel—especially when it pertains to blaming whatever the world’s current problem happens to be on the Jewish people.

Yesterday, Israel and the Jewish population worldwide commemorated the worst manifestation of anti-Semitism—the Holocaust, in which six million people were wiped off the face of the earth for no crime but the Jewish blood that flowed through their veins.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University released a study which reported an 18% spike of anti-Semitic attacks globally last year, continuing a pattern over the last several years that sees the problem growing worse each year. Though the report did not contain data from this year, the researchers warned the COVID-19 crisis and the anti-Jew hatred it has stirred up will only make things worse.

Extremists of all sorts have spread vicious libel and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories across various social media platforms blaming Israel and the Jewish people for every evil associated with the virus from engineering it to spreading it and reaping the financial benefits during the economic fallout.

Earlier this month, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a global organization dedicated to combatting anti-Semitism, released a report detailing the gut-wrenching history of Jews bearing the blame of disease and blood libel from the bubonic plague, to killing Christian children to use their blood and make unleavened bread, to the Spanish influenza. The author, Dr. Harold Brackman, argued that today’s anti-Semitic blaming of the Jewish people for engineering and spreading the disease are merely a modern-day resurgence of the same old tactic of libel.

“The coronavirus pandemic may be new, but Jews have a long and tragic history of being accused of spreading deadly viruses as well as sacrificing children to ingest their blood,” Brackman wrote in the report.

Warning of the consequences of unchecked anti-Semitic libel, Brackman continued: “Hitler showed how a hater in a span of only twenty years could metastasize from an unknown anti-Semite into a tyrant who would unleash a genocide against a people after demonizing and dehumanizing them as ‘vermin.’”

Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry has dedicated itself to fighting the rising anti-Semitism on social media using the help of young Israelis, with encouraging results, according to Ido Daniel, the ministry’s director of digital strategy.

“It was really important to us to enable teenagers in Israel and abroad who care about Israel to fight back when they are at home and looking for ways to contribute, so we helped them through this campaign to do good, whether by taking down hateful material on social media, or sharing positive stories about how Israel is contributing to the global fight against coronavirus,” Daniel told the Jerusalem Post.

“We have received a lot of good reactions from people who also encouraged us to give them more tasks to help Israel fight this hate.”

What the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists fail to look at is all the good Israel has done through this pandemic. Researchers and medical professionals in the Start-Up Nation have been working hard to research, produce and distribute a vaccine as well as technology to combat the virus and protect medical workers. Many Israeli companies have given their products away free of charge and released the blueprints for their technology to ensure that everyone can reap the benefits of their hard work.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 22, 2020)

Photo Credit: Pixelkult/pixabay.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will protect the Jewish people and nation of Israel from the “strife of tongues” (Ps. 31:20) as conspiracy theorists focus their hatred on God’s chosen ones. Ask that the nations of the world unite to ensure that anti-Semitism is no longer tolerated and purveyors of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hate speech are punished to the full extent of the law.

Scripture

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.


- Isaiah 41:10

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