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Friday, July 17, 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.

Multibillion-Dollar China–Iran Deal: The Implication for Israel

by Ilse Strauss

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President Xi Jinping of China with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei (illustrative)

Tuesday, 14 July 2020 | While US President Donald Trump pushes ahead with a “maximum pressure” campaign to dissuade the mullahs in Tehran from their nuclear ambitions, China is rushing to Tehran’s aid with a 25-year multibillion dollar economic and security deal that is guaranteed to take the pressure off.

According to the New York Times, which obtained a copy of the 180-page agreement marked “final version” and dated June 2020, the accord details a Chinese investment of US $400 billion over the next quarter of a century flowing into Iranian banking, energy, cyber, telecommunications and transport sectors. In exchange, Iranian oil will flow to China at a sharply reduced rate for the next 25 years.

The agreement also promises close military cooperation between the two nations, including joint weapons research and development, combined military training and intelligence sharing.

In the document, Iran and China hail each other as “two ancient Asian countries…with a similar outlook” that “will consider one another strategic partners.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping first proposed the partnership during a visit to Iran in 2016, the New York Times reports. Over the next four years, Beijing and Tehran had apparently been working behind the scenes to hammer out the details of the accord. Negotiations have now reportedly concluded and as soon as the agreement is approved by the Iranian parliament, the Chinese cash coffers will open for Iran, and the Iranian oil fields for China.

While the tangible gains to both nations are obvious, the intangible benefits are equally pertinent—not only for China and Iran, but also for Israel and the US.

Since the US’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018, President Trump has persistently tightened the vice grip of crippling sanctions in an effort to make Iran toe the nuclear line. The Chinese influx will not only negate Washington’s efforts to isolate the Iranian government, it also threatens to curtail the impact it had so far. Israel and the US have also appealed to the UN Security Council members to extend the arms embargo on Iran that expires in October. However, China is sticking up for its strategic partner at the UN, opposing the attempts to activate the snapback sanctions.

The partnership also affords China a significant military and economic foothold in the Middle East, which sets off alarm bells for the US. However, Israel clearly has the most to lose.

“Any dollar going into the Iranian system is one that can likely be spent against Israel,” Carice Witte, executive director of SIGNAL, a think tank for Israel–China relations, told the Jerusalem Post.

This holds particularly true where military cooperation is concerned. Iran has made it clear on numerous occasions that it actively seeks Israel’s destruction. It thus stands to reason that “any of the new resources directed to the Islamic Republic’s army can potentially—and likely will—be turned on Israel,” the Jerusalem Post reports.

As part of the agreement, Iran can also look forward to a massive cache of advanced Chinese weapons. According to a Pentagon report, China is ready to sell attack helicopters, fighter jets and tanks to Iran as soon as the arms embargo expires in October. And with Iran using every soapbox to boast about the imminent annihilation of the Jewish state, it takes no guesswork to determine at whom those weapons will be aimed.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, July 14, 2020)

Photo Credit: khamenei.ir

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that the Lord will protect Israel and the USA from the dire ramifications of such a partnership between Iran and China. Pray that the arms embargo will in fact be reinstated, and cry out to Him for His supernatural intervention to keep this disastrous deal from becoming a reality.

Scripture

Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.


- Psalm 25:19–20

Abbas: We Are Ready to Return to the Negotiation Table

by Ilse Strauss

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PA President Abbas with Russian President Putin (illustrative)

Monday, 13 July 2020 | Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas told Russian President Vladimir Putin last week that the Palestinians are prepared to resuscitate Israeli–Palestinian peace talks to hash out a plan that will bring more than seven decades of bloodshed to a harmonious close.

According to the Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abbas informed Putin of his decision during a telephone discussion on Wednesday. Wafa and perhaps even Abbas himself seemed rather impressed with the magnanimous concession of returning to the negotiation table alongside their Jewish neighbors. The reality is, however, somewhat different.

Abbas demands that the prospective peace talks be based on “international legitimacy” and held under the auspices of the Quartet on the Middle East—a foursome comprising the US, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union, tasked with mediating peace between Israel and the Palestinians—with international input, Wafa reported.

The bottom line? The PA rejects the territorial exchanges offered in US President Donald Trump’s Peace to Prosperity plan that paves the way for Israel to apply sovereignty to existing Jewish communities amounting to 30% of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley existing alongside a demilitarized Palestinian state on the remaining 70% of the territory.

Instead, the PA wants to push a path to the peace they want in line with their agenda and based on their rules.

The PA submitted a similar “counterproposal” to President Trump’s peace plan late last month. They dispatched a missive to the Quartet offering to resuscitate peace talks with Israel, agreeing to “minor territorial exchanges” based on pre-Six Day War borders and accepting “a state with a limited amount of weapons and…a strong police force,” with an international force, such as NATO, monitoring compliance to a peace treaty.

The letter did, however, threaten to withdraw the offer of “concessions” should Israel apply sovereignty to “any part” of what the PA claims “Palestinian territory.”

This was the first time the Palestinians offered a formal response to President Trump’s peace plan, which was released in January. Ever since President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017, the PA has boycotted the Trump Administration and cut all ties with the US as well as security cooperation with Israel. The PA also accused the US of a pro-Israel bias and preemptively rejected Trump’s “Deal of the Century” in its entirety, hailing it as the “slap of the century.”

This is also the first time the Palestinians express a willingness to negotiate with Israel after the previous round of peace talks in 2014 went the way of every other round before that: nowhere.

While Abbas’s offer appears to be a step in the right direction, several factors are cause for concern.

First, the past 70 odd years have seen numerous attempts to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinians—all unsuccessful. While the Jewish state remains ready to engage in meaningful discussions, Palestinian leaders have consistently shunned Israeli efforts, demanded certain preconditions before starting talks, refused to compromise or simply walked away from the negotiation table not long after sitting down.

Second, if Abbas and the PA so vehemently reject the offer of a whopping 70% of the contested territory earmarked for a Palestinian state, how much will they agree to? 100%? And if so, doesn’t that fly in the face of the definition of a negotiated peace that asks for concessions from both sides?

Lastly, the two main Palestinian political parties, sworn arch enemies Fatah—Abbas’s party and the backbone of the PA—and Hamas—the Sunni-Islamic terrorist organization ruling Gaza with an iron fist—announced they are setting aside decades of feuding and bloodshed to unite the Palestinian people against Israel.

However, the Hamas charter highlights the destruction of Israel as one of the organization’s main purposes. According to the manifesto, Hamas opposes Israel’s existence, seeks to replace the Jewish state with a Palestinian one and calls for jihad (holy war) to “raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” If Fatah and Hamas unite as the Palestinian leadership, Hamas will sit at the negotiation table too. And willing as Israel is to make concessions for peace, its destruction is hardly a matter up for negotiation.

At the end of the day, talk is cheap. Abbas may ply world leaders with a pitiful victim narrative of a Palestinian people simply wanting to live in peace and willing to sacrifice to do so. He may even convince a world audience that Israel is to blame for the lack of peaceful coexistence with their Palestinian brethren. Tragically, it is the Palestinian people he leads who pay the price for yet another missed opportunity.

Source: (Bridges for Peace, July 13, 2020)

Photo Credit: kremlin.ru

Photo License: kremlin.ru

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord that the true motivations behind the recent Palestinian statements be made clear. Pray that the negotiation table is closed to them until they come with an honest agenda that accepts the presence of Israel as a Jewish state and is based on a sincere desire for peace.

Scripture

Do not take me away with the wicked and with the workers of iniquity, who speak peace to their neighbors, but evil is in their hearts. Give them according to their deeds.


- Psalm 28:3–4a

Cholesterol-Lowering Drug May Stop COVID-19 in its Tracks

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Wednesday, 15 July 2020 | Could a simple drug that has been on the market for decades be used to treat COVID-19?  A research team led by Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Professor Yaakov Nahmias says that early research looks promising; their findings appear in this week’s Cell Press’ Sneak Peak.

Over the last three-months, Nahmias and Dr. Benjamin tenOever at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center have focused on the ways in which the SARS-CoV-2 (aka, the coronavirus that’s causing our current pandemic) changes patients’ lungs in order to reproduce itself. Their major finding? This virus prevents the routine burning of carbohydrates. As a result, large amounts of fat accumulate inside lung cells, a condition the virus needs in order to reproduce. This new understanding of SARS CoV-2 may help explain why patients with high blood sugar and cholesterol levels are often at a particularly high risk to develop COVID-19.

Viruses are parasites that lack the ability to replicate on their own, so they take control of our cells to help accomplish that task. “By understanding how the SARS-CoV-2 controls our metabolism, we can wrestle back control from the virus and deprive it from the very resources it needs to survive,” Nahmias explained.

With this information in hand, Nahmias and tenOever began to screen FDA-approved medications that interfere with the virus’s ability to reproduce. In lab studies, the cholesterol-lowering drug Fenofibrate (Tricor) showed extremely promising results. By allowing lung cells to burn more fat, fenofibrate breaks the virus’s grip on these cells and prevents SARS CoV-2’s ability to reproduce. In fact, within only five days of treatment, the virus almost completely disappeared. 

“With second-wave infections spiking in countries across the globe, these findings couldn’t come at a better time,” shared Nahmias, and global cooperation may provide the cure. “The collaboration between the Nahmias and tenOever labs demonstrates the power of adopting a multi-disciplinary approach to study SARS-CoV-2 and that our findings could truly make a significant different in reducing the global burden of COVID-19,” tenOever added.

While there are many international efforts currently underway to develop a coronavirus vaccine, studies suggest that vaccines may only protect patients for a few months. Therefore, blocking the virus’s ability to function rather than neutralizing its ability to strike in the first place may be the key to turning the tables on COVID-19. “If our findings are borne out by clinical studies, this course of treatment could potentially downgrade COVID-19’s severity into nothing worse than a common cold,” Nahmias concluded.

Source: (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem originally published this article on July 14, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today.)

Photo Credit: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Prayer Focus
Pray that this innovative treatment for COVID-19 has the blessing and favor of the Lord. Pray that clinical trials will prove the effectiveness of the drug, and ask the Lord to get it into the hands of medical professionals who are actually treating patients in the very, very near future. Pray that Israel will again be recognized for its ongoing contributions to the health and safety of the nations.

Scripture

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me.


- Psalm 57:1–3a

Historical and Legal Milestones for Israeli Sovereignty in Judea and Samaria

by Amb. Alan Baker

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Overlooking the Jordan Valley from a hilltop in Samaria

Thursday, 16 July 2020 | The subject of the rights of the Jewish people and the State of Israel under international law in the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria involves a complex and extensive web of historical, legal, military and political issues.

The Jewish People Have Historical Claims in Judea and Samaria

Israel’s claims to sovereignty regarding the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria did not originate with Israel’s attaining control of the area following the 1967 Six Day War.

Israel’s rights are based on the indigenous and historical claims of the Jewish people in the area as a whole, virtually from time immemorial.

Israel’s international legal rights were acknowledged in 1917 by the Balfour Declaration’s promise to the Jews to reestablish their historical national home in Palestine. These rights are based on clear historical, archeological and biblical evidence.

The Balfour Declaration was subsequently recognized internationally and encapsulated into international law through a series of international instruments commencing with the 1920 San Remo Declaration by the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers, followed by the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine.

The continued validity of these foundational legal rights was also assured under Article 80 of the United Nations Charter.

These Areas Cannot Formally Be Defined as Occupied Territories

During the 1967 Six Day War, in which Egypt, Syria and Jordan offensively invaded Israel in a combined military action, Israel attained control of the areas of Gaza, the Golan [as well as] Judea and Samaria, and established a military administration to govern the local population pursuant to the accepted norms and requirements of international law.

UN Security Council resolution 242 (1967) called for a negotiated solution to the conflict.

Since neither Jordan nor Egypt had acquired recognized sovereign powers in the areas, they could not be formally defined as occupied territories, and Israel committed itself to act in accordance with the relevant norms of international law, pending a negotiated settlement. This was done without officially acknowledging the formal applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to the areas.

The Oslo Accords Established an Agreed Interim Territorial Arrangement

The 1993–1995 Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization], signed and witnessed by leading powers and endorsed by the UN, established a unique and agreed interim territorial arrangement to govern the West Bank and Gaza areas between a Palestinian Authority [PA], established for that purpose, and Israel.

In the accords, it was agreed that issues such as settlements, borders, Jerusalem, refugees, water and security would be negotiated in permanent status negotiations. 

Pending completion of such negotiations, it was agreed that the areas would be divided such that a PA would govern the major towns and villages (areas A and B), and Israel would govern the area in which Israeli military installations and settlements were located (area C).

The Oslo Accords did not specify the outcome of the permanent status negotiations—whether one state, two states, a federation, confederation or otherwise. Any agreed solution will only emanate from negotiations between the Palestinian leadership and Israel.

This cannot be imposed unilaterally by UN resolutions or by any international forum or individual leaders. States and organizations advocating a “two-state solution” are, in fact, preempting the outcome of the negotiations that have yet to take place. 

Persistent Palestinian Refusal to Negotiate Leaves Israel No Option but to Act Unilaterally to Protect Its Rights

While Israel’s prior, well-established and documented international, legal, political and indigenous rights to sovereignty over the areas are clear, Israel nevertheless acknowledged in the Oslo Accords Palestinian rights in the areas and agreed to negotiate with them the permanent status of the areas.

Persistent Palestinian refusal to return to negotiations and their rejection of peace plans to settle the dispute cannot and should not serve to veto a settlement of the dispute.

Such ongoing refusal and rejection undermines the peace process, invalidates the Oslo Accords and leaves Israel no option but to act unilaterally in order to protect its vital security and other interests and historical rights.

Source: (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs originally published this article on July 13, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Sarah Yoder/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Pray that those voices raised against Israel constantly claiming that the Jewish state is acting outside of international law will be silenced once and for all. Plead with the Lord that any and all permanent status discussions, negotiations and/or resolutions will be based on His will and His will alone.

Scripture

Those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones.


- Psalm 83:2b–3

Pandemic Leaves Thousands of Israelis Fighting to Feed their Family

by Hadar Gil-Ad

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Bridges for Peace volunteers packing food for needy Israelis

Tuesday, 14 July 2020 | A poll recently conducted by the Jewish Agency among 3,000 families and 4,000 youths who were at risk or from low-income populations in Israel painted a very grim picture of those who effectively have been left behind.

The poll data showed that 25% of families who were not previously receiving regular financial support are in need of it during the coronavirus pandemic.

The poll also showed 73% of families at risk are in need of help with food, 26% need assistance to pay their bills and 20% require psychological support. 

Idit and Jorge Zinger, parents of two girls from the southern town of Dimona, have been unable to find work for nearly four months.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, they—and hundreds of thousands of other Israelis—have become mired in a severe financial crisis, and they simply do not know how to get out of it.

Idit used to work part-time at a local school, but that ended when the coronavirus pandemic shut down educational institutions across Israel.

Her husband, Jorge, used to work at a scaffolding factory but was fired several weeks before her. For now, their dream of a home where their daughters can have their own room is on hold, and the girls keep sleeping in the living room.

“[The pandemic] changed our lives,” Idit says.

“I cannot send my daughter to kindergarten if I don’t have the money. Essentially, I have a debt to the preschool that I cannot pay. I cannot pay our electricity bill either—we are deeply in debt,” she says.  

“We are in a bad situation. My husband used to be well paid, and suddenly from having two paychecks we are left with half of one,” she says, referring to the unemployment benefit received by her husband.

“I don’t work and I am not eligible for unemployment benefits.” 

Thousands of others who were already struggling are now closer than ever to not being able to put food on the table.

Ilan Casa, a single parent of five from the northern town of Migdal HaEmek, has also found himself out of work for an extended period.

Even before the virus hit, he struggled to make ends meet. He also says that the coronavirus made everything worse.

“I want to work and make an honest living, but I do not have any choice, I cannot find a job. I have been at home for a long time,” he says.

Casa, who alone must feed his five children, used to work full-time in a factory. Last January, the factory where he worked went through cuts, and he was put on part-time hours. He was placed on furlough when the pandemic broke out and since has not returned to work.

He is not eligible for unemployment benefits and [does not have] income apart from a stipend from the National Insurance Institute.  

“I’m the only provider and you cannot provide for a family like this. I hope it does not get any worse. I only spend money on things I need, such as food for the kids so they do not go hungry,” he says.

Ruti Scheinfeld, CEO of the Jewish Agency’s Potchim Atid (Opening the Future) Youth Partnership, says the pandemic has had a devastating impact on those who were previously facing financial difficulties.

“Many low-income families, who have already had to deal with so many daily financial and welfare challenges, and the children of these families who have to deal with emotional, social and educational hardships too, have found themselves during the pandemic in extreme situations that lead to real distress,” says Scheinfeld.

“This it is how it always works; the weak become weaker. And this is exactly where the state must intervene and support these families. Not huge conglomerates that lost a little during the pandemic, but families who are fighting for the right to live in dignity.”

Editor’s note: As the numbers of new infections and serious cases continue to rise in Israel, the potential of another lockdown looms. Thousands of Israelis already find themselves in serious financial crises from the first lockdown and are having to go without basic needs. We have been flooded with requests for help as these people buckle under the financial burden imposed under the pandemic. Help us help them by donating to our Food Project so we can see the people of Israel through this critical time and show them the love of Christians across the world.

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on July 13, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Jenna Solomon/bridgesforpeace.com

Prayer Focus
Cry out to the Lord on behalf of His children, those whom He has pledged to care for as He restores their ancient homeland. Beseech Him for a miraculous rebuilding of the Israeli economy. Also thank Him for the wonderful donors who have supported the work of Bridges for Peace and helped create the kind of relationships that cause Israelis to feel safe in coming to Bridges for Peace for help. Pray that those Christians will continue to be generous with their loving gifts, and beseech Him that many others will join us as we show the love of the Father and the friendship of Christians to the nation of Israel at this time of very critical need.

Scripture

He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given.


- Proverbs 19:17

Israel Reportedly Passed Hamas New Prisoner Swap Outline

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The flag of Hamas

Friday, 10 July 2020 | Israel has passed Hamas a new outline for a prisoner swap, Palestinian sources familiar with the issue confirmed to Ynet on Thursday.

The outline was passed to the terror group via a third-party mediator, the sources said.

According to Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds, the outline does not meet the conditions previously demanded by Hamas that would lead to the start of negotiations on the issue.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, is holding the bodies of two IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers who fell in the 2014 war and two captive Israelis who entered the coastal enclave of their own volition.

Hamas said last week that the ball was in Israel’s court regarding a prisoner swap after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated his readiness to consider the issue.

“The ball is in the Israeli government’s court and it is up to them to take steps.”

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Ynetnews on July 9, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Guilherme Paula, Oren neu dag/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Pray that Israel will be able to negotiate the return of the two Israelis being held by Hamas. Ask the Lord to protect them physically, spiritually and psychologically until they are again safe in Israel. Pray also for the return of the bodies of the two IDF soldiers who fell in battle, bringing closure to their families. Beseech the Lord that an agreement will be reached that will not put terrorists back on the street, putting Israelis in further danger.

Scripture

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; defend me from those who rise up against me. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloodthirsty men.


- Psalm 59:1–2

Sweden Transfers Funds to an Anti-Israel Organization

by Itamar Eichner

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An anti-Israel demonstration in Sweden (illustrative)

Tuesday, 14 July 2020 | Sweden has recently transferred 1.8 million krona (nearly [US] $200,00) to a Palestinian Swedish organization acting against Israel under the guise of humanitarian aid.

As part of a 1.5 billion krona [US $164 million] aid plan, the Swedish government agency SIDA transferred the funds to the Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden—an organization that openly supports the BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] movement that calls to boycott and impose sanctions on Israel due to the conflict with the Palestinians.

The organization is effectively a Palestinian lobby in Sweden and often holds protests against Israel. The organization has previously called to boycott the 2019 Eurovision song contest that was held in Israel and also tried to prevent Israeli tennis players from participating in the Davis Cup games held in the Swedish capital.

Members of the organization, many of which are Palestinians living in Israel, have also often called for the liberation of Palestine, hosted representatives from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP] terrorist faction and praised Islamic “martyrs.”

The SIDA website states that the organization has applied for aid to “continue their public relations work, with the aim of providing Palestinians living under occupation or in refugee camps outside Palestine a voice in Sweden, and to give them additional knowledge about their rights as Palestinians, international law and global goals. The purpose of the project is that the increased knowledge will lead to an increased involvement among the target groups for a just peace and that the image of the Israel–Palestine conflict will be more multifaceted/nuanced, especially in the media.”

Despite the Swedish government’s generous aid package to the organization, Sweden does not officially support the BDS movement.

Israeli officials called to expose the purpose of the transaction to the Swedish public.

“The Swedish taxpayer needs to know that their money goes to an organization that openly supports the BDS and works actively within Sweden and that there is nothing between this and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people whatsoever.”

Source: (Ynetnews originally published this article on July 13, 2020. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Henrik Ström/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org

Prayer Focus
Beseech the Lord that there will be an outcry from the Swedish public, especially among Christians, as the truth about this government use of their taxpayer money to support BDS is revealed, angering even those who may have thought those funds were actually meeting the needs of the Palestinian people. Pray that the Swedish government will have no choice but to cease such support.

Scripture

A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness will utter lies. The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit.


- Proverbs 14:5, 8

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