One of the aspects keeping me firmly on the right with regard to Israeli-Arab politics was the authentic views of Muslim-Arabs themselves.
For example, my son's boss Mustafa lives in what everyone calls a "kfar" (village) — which sounds quaint & primitive, but in actuality, hosts palatial homes.
When my son needed to drive his boss's car to his boss's home (a multi-story luxury villa which hosts his boss's family, his boss's parents, and his boss's brother's family — all with plenty of room & separate entrances, like an apartment building), my son parked the car in the family garage...next to one brother's Audi & another brother's Mercedes.
Many of the Muslim-Arab women in the kfar work in a local hi-tech Israeli company.
Mustafa & his wife regularly treat themselves to European vacations.
O, to be a poor & oppressed minority in Israel!
(Wait a minute...I AM a minority in Israel! Just not a NON-Jewish minority...)
To be fair, despite the kfar's progressive appearance (everyone speaks Hebrew as a fluent second language, many enjoy financial security & respectable jobs, plus many enjoy higher education — my son's boss earned a law degree — and they're not terribly religious Muslims, they get along with Jews pretty well, etc.), my son's boss is part of the main clan that runs the kfar.
And Mustafa is considered one of the respected members of that ruling clan.
This is part of the reason why my son could drive through the kfar in Mustafa's car in relative security.
It was pretty funny when, after entering the kfar, everyone my son passed honked & waved at him, thinking he was Mustafa, and then did a double-take upon seeing a Jew at the wheel.
(If you're wondering...there were some business documents necessary to update that day, which Mustafa had forgotten about. So while he was sleeping in, my son high-tailed over to the kfar to bring him the necessary documents before time ran out. As my son stepped out onto the sidewalk, he encountered Mustafa's wife rushing to work. "Oh, the door's unlocked," she cheerfully said after my son quickly explained the problem. "You can just go in and wake him up! Bye! Need to run!"
And my son was like, I'm NOT going to do that! Instead, he just kept knocking & ringing until Mustafa woke up.)
Even though many of the kfar's residents have Israeli citizenship, they refuse to serve in the IDF or vote in Israeli elections.
Officially, they oppose non-Muslim "occupation" (despite how much they're thriving in comparison to their co-religionists in the region).
Yet one day, Mustafa & a couple of guys from the kfar told my son if they would vote they would vote for...Bibi Netanyahu.
At first glance, that makes no sense.
After all, Netanyahu headed Likud, a right-of-center party.
No one thinks of the Likud as particularly concerned with Arab rights, nor does the Likud ever present themselves that way.
You'd think Muslim-Arabs would vote for an Arab party or a Leftist party.
Mustafa and his fellows felt things went well for them under Bibi's leadership.
(And they aren't the only Arabs in Israel who think this way.)
The Arab mentality ALWAYS favors strong leaders. You cannot rule effectively in the Middle East without strength.
This has always been true — including in pre-Islamic times.
Strong patriarchal leadership is not religious (although it became that too), but cultural.
And they perceive Bibi as strong.
(Plus, economics went well for them during his term.)
Who Needs More Uncivilized Violent Hotheads? Look Who's Talking...
Another complaint expressed by Mustafa & his cousins concerned controversy over the law of citizenship regarding spouses from what are known as Palestinian territories.
Due to legitimate terrorist concerns, such people could not receive Israeli citizenship upon marrying an Israeli-Arab.
Unfortunately, certain Israeli government ministers wished to change this.
They wanted to display fairness & generosity toward the Muslim-Arab population.
However, Mustafa & his cousins (along with many other Arabs) disagreed.
"What, I need some primitive guy coming from the Palestinian territories who loses his head way too easily, and can just plunge a knife in me during a disagreement?" Mustafa asked rhetorically.
It's hard to argue with that logic.
Mustafa & his cousins explained how they dislike dealing with such hot-headed uncivilized people — people with a strong propensity toward violence.
Yes, they're fellow Muslim-Arabs. But the whole Arab brotherhood thing is a farce.
Their Arab world remains divided by clans & outside of clans, divided by different ethnicities & nationalities.
I've also come across comments by Lebanese Muslim-Arabs regarding their own Palestinians, whom the native Lebanese often see as troublemakers & thieves who ruin the neighborhood.
Of course there are always differences between people of the same ethnicity or religion.
No group is completely uniform.
But the way simple-minded Leftists pander to purely theoretical Arab interests while ignoring the real Arab interests?
Another son worked with a Muslim-Arab in an area with a lot of secular Israeli Leftists.
That son quickly developed a disgust for the customers who kissed up to the Arab employee by cooing at him & flattering him during business transactions, plus expressing fake concern by saying things like, "What can be done about the high rate of murder in the Arab sector?"
As if they care.
(Note: In addition to speaking with Arabs, it's good to speak with Israeli Leftists. Contrary to how they present themselves, many of them do not actually like Arabs. In fact, they usually dislike anyone who is not exactly like them. They crave utter uniformity. A lot of their Leftist policies — including a 2-state solution — derive from their need to feel "righteous" AND to live apart from Arabs. They would also like to live apart from any religious Jews too. When Israeli Leftists speak of "co-existence," they actually mean "and never the twain shall meet." Israeli Leftists love segregation.)
Apparently, the high rate of murder in the Arab sector (1-2 every day) has recently become a big issue in Israeli media.
(And, in contrast to their representation in mainstream media, you may be surprised to learn that national-religious Jewish settlers are NOT behind the high murder rate in the Arab sector. Neither are Buddhists. Or Baptists. Or Mormons. Or Trump. And nope — not chareidim either! Guess who the real culprits are...)
The Arab guy always replied with something agreeable like, "Yeah! The police need go in & confiscate all the weapons! That's the only way!"
In other words, Israel needs to make the Arab sector a gun-free zone.
(There will now be a pause until those of you in-the-know stop laughing your heads off.)
Then an hour later, the Arab guy turned to my son and said, "You know, the other night my neighbor started shooting off his AK-47 during a family simcha in his home and woke my toddler. I had to go over there & tell him to stop. He apologized & promised to be more considerate next time."
Needless to say, his neighbor was in the same clan or the interaction might not have gone so smoothly.
"Yeah," continued the Arab co-worker. "Every single family in my area owns an AK-47! We don't have ONE home without a fully automatic weapon!" he boasted.
And my son was like, Wait a minute. I could've sworn that just one hour ago, someone who looks exactly like you was saying the illegal weapons ownership in the Arab sector was a problem & needed to be confiscated by the police!
We also see glaring cultural differences here.
Can you imagine that, instead of breaking a plate at a vort, the kallah's father simply started blasting 5-millimeter bullets out the window?
Knock-knock. "Mazal tov! I'm very sorry to bother you, Yeruchmiel Yoisef, and I'm sure you didn't realize it, but all your leibedich shooting woke my little Mendy."
"Oy, I'm so very sorry, Duvid. Thank you for being dan l'kaf zechus. I'll be sure to take your Mendy's shluffy time into consideration at our next simcha."
"Shkoyach, Yeruchmiel Yoisef! Oif simchos!"
Whoa, Where'd All These AK-47s Come From?
Then I said to my son, "Wait a minute...where is the Arab sector getting all these AK-47s from? Israel doesn't use AK-47s."
My son looked at me sagely and said, "They smuggle them in from Jordan & Egypt, and places like that."
In other words, all the surrounding countries.
(Note: I looked it up & Israel acquired AK-47s from battles with neighboring Arab armies. And they used them. And they created the Galil in imitation. But you don't run into AK-47s in Israel. Every time I've seen a rifle or someone talks about a rifle, it's always an M-16, a Tavor, an Uzi, etc., but never an AK-47. At least, that's my experience. So it's weird that so many Arabs in Israel own AK-47s...and without permits too, needless to say. How do they do that with such strict gun control going on? Hmm...)
Anyway, it's conversations like these that cemented my political views AGAINST the Israeli Left.
(The above are just the most recent samples & not the only interactions.)
Educated & successful Muslim-Arabs who truly wish to live good lives without war & terrorism actually oppose Leftist policies, which treat the Muslim-Arab world as a monolith & tend to favor the less civilized sectors to the detriment of the normal sectors of the Arab world.
Yes, in public, Muslim-Arabs tend to voice the opinion they feel needs to be said.
Whether they say it from actual conviction, religious duty, peer pressure, fear, getting caught up in the emotion of brotherhood, or some other reason...they say publicly whatever they think they should say.
And even the ones thriving under Israeli rule secretly wish they could live under Muslim rule.
That's their religious view, shared by even the less religious Muslims.
(In case you're wondering why they want Muslim rule when it's clearly not working well for the majority of Muslims in nearly every Muslim country in the world, they'll point to Turkey as an example. They think Muslim rule in Israel would be like Turkey and not like every other Muslim country. Although...I don't think Turkey provides better opportunities than Israel. And Israel's Muslims fantasize they'd enjoy the same standard of living under Muslim rule as they enjoy now under Jewish rule.)
But in private conversation, they freely express their true feelings.
And as we see above, regardless of their true feelings & friendly behavior, there is a very real difference in mentality.
(They shoot fully automatic machine guns in the air at their simchos; we complain about the music being too loud at ours, etc. Okay, not ALL of them do that...but it's common enough.)
And in addition to the fact that Leftism is so harmful toward Jews in Eretz Yisrael, the harm it causes the Arab sector merely solidified my view of Leftism as a wholly useless & harmful — and even deadly — approach to life in Israel.
Follow-up post: eating-my-words-after-yesterdays-post.html
An Informal Social Experiment Indicates Israeli Society Discriminates against Charedim More than against Arabs – And Why That Happens.
A couple of months ago, son's Muslim-Arab boss, Mustafa, complained to my son about Jewish discrimination against Arabs in Eretz Yisrael.
No matter that all the Muslim-Arab countries in the world also host discrimination (sometimes extremely violent & lethal discrimination) against Christian-Arabs and even against their fellow Muslim-Arab brethren based on class, ethnicity, clan loyalties, religiosity, and so forth — it's only a problem when Jews do it.
(And Jews aren't even unwarrantedly violent about it when it does happen.)
And unlike the reason for discrimination among Muslim-Arabs in Muslim-Arab countries, the main reason why an Arab might experience discrimination in Eretz Yisrael is due to the very realistic fear of Jew-hatred & terrorism (even though certainly not every Muslim is a terrorist or a Jew-hater).
So my son replied, "I promise you — there is more discrimination against charedim than against Arabs."
Mustafa scoffed at the idea.
"Oh yeah?" said my son. "I'll prove it to you."
So my son took Mustafa to the elevator of a popular mall catering to a mostly secular Jewish middle-to-upper-class crowd.
There my son gave Mustafa the following instructions:
"Get on the elevator with your mask covering your mouth & not your nose. Speak into your cell phone in Arabic so it's clear you're an Arab. At the same time, pay attention to how the other passengers react. Keep riding the elevator until I get on. Make sure you're positioned to see how everyone responds when I get on."
At this point, it's important to know my son is a very clean & spiffy-looking 18-year-old with excellent personal hygiene. He dresses in a neat white shirt, black pants, and a black kippah (no suit jacket or hat).
So Mustafa rode the elevator, speaking into his phone in Arabic & wearing his mask improperly (without covering his nose), and suffered no adverse reaction from any of the passengers (who also wore their masks over only their mouths or around their chins).
Mustafa rode up & down in peace until my son finally stepped in with his mask properly positioned over both his mouth & nose.
Immediately, as if on cue, all the passengers took a step back (social distancing!) & pulled their masks up over their nose.
Mustafa & my son got off at the next floor and Mustafa said, "Okay, you win. You're right. I never would've believed it, but charedim suffer more discrimination than Arabs."
Why the Disproportionate Discrimination?
What could possibly be the reason for this more extreme discrimination against charedim?
(And I don't mean just the fear that charedim are covid-carriers. That was just one example of discrimination for illustration.)
Before covid came along, people carry a lot of fear & even hatred of charedim.
Not everyone, of course, but you listen to the REASON for their hatred & fear, you'll notice it almost exclusively comes from what they read or saw in the media.
A lot of times, their personal experience with charedim is even positive, but they still oppose charedim in general based on the media.
And why would you consider the charedi community more of a threat than the Arab community (despite all the decent Arab folk)?
After all, when was the last time any charedi did the following:
I'm not saying anyone should go around bullying random Arabs (who may be perfectly law-abiding peaceful fellows), but the fear of charedim over the fear of a group which, while comprised of perfectly decent people, also produces a larger-than-normal percentage of bloodthirsty savages — well, this dichotomy makes no sense.
As far as I can tell, this disproportionate fear-mongering comes from the media.
The media values being politically correct over facts & common sense.
The media emphasizes the need to treat Arabs with respect and not assume every Arab is a terrorist...
...while at the same time, this same media encourages intense fear & hatred of charedim, spotlighting & magnifying ANY negative act committed by any charedi.
Sometimes, a criminal act occurs in a charedi neighborhood & is reported as "charedi violence"—but cameras clearly show the perps are NOT charedi.
They may have been at one point, they may have even grown up in the charedi neighborhood, but their appearance shows they no longer identify as charedi — yet the violence is reported as "charedi violence."
This is like saying all the pre-WWII wholly assimilated maskilim & completely secular commies are ultra-Orthodox or Chassidic simply because that's how they grew up.
Actually, some historians did this with the heartless Warsaw ghetto police force.
Because some of the police grew up frum (even though long before the Warsaw ghetto, they cast off all vestiges of Torah Judaism), some historians labeled them as Orthodox Jews — simply to vilify Orthodox Jews, even though, if I remember correctly, not even one was actually a practicing Jew at that time.
One of the heads of the ghetto police was even a former Christian pastor; so go figure.
I'm not saying charedim never behave badly. I've lived in charedi communities in Eretz Yisrael since 1994, and I know the ins & outs, and even the specific issues of different groups.
(I've also lived among other groups, both Jewish & not, so I've what to compare too.)
But to incite people to fear & hate charedim more than the group that produces suicide bombers & baby beheaders?
And most severely, this fear-and-hate fest infests the secular Jewish media.
Ending on a Positive Note!
It's also important to note that Israeli society has been improving in this regard as more people meet actual charedim (rather than relying on the media to form their opinion) & also develop an interest in exploring their own religion.
Many non-charedi Jews feel kinship with charedim (along with other types of Jews), and this has been a welcome transition — which the secular Jewish media continues to fight with rabid disproportion.
For related posts:
And just because I know some people (again, misled by the secular Jewish media) will have answered "Neturei Karta!" to a couple of the bulleted questions above, please see this post in response:
(It's essential to read the comments in which a knowledgeable Satmar chassid contributes to the discussion.)
Rav Miller on Parshat Noach, Rav Schwartz on Chodesh Cheshvan, and a Sweet Snippet of Torah Life in Eretz Yisrael
Rav Avigdor Miller on Parshat Noach
I don't see that Toras Avigdor produced a new dvar Torah for Parshat Noach this year (and who can blame them after the bustling Shabbat-chag-Shabbat-chag experience this year?—some us are still catching up!).
So here is the one from before:
And another from even earlier, focusing on the Flood:
Parshat Noach is always fascinating because that's where everything all started. (It's also where everything ended.)
In the most recent dvar Torah, Rav Miller talks about the innovations in metallurgy, music (classical), shepherding, housing, meat delicatessen, and etiquette produced by the offspring of Kayin (Cain).
And, as usual in Torah attitude, we learn how Kayin's descendants stood out as the really cool people in the world while the world considered Kayin's baby brother, Shes (Seth), as just a regular nice guy—and they held the same attitude toward Shes's descendant, Noach.
And so what could a man like Noach – no matter how righteous he may be – what can a man like that show to compete with the descendants of Kayin?
Yet the nice quiet guys inherited it all.
Not one descendant remains from Kayin. (Or Hevel/Abel, for that matter.)
Nice, humble, non-flashy, unimpressive Shes got it all.
If you also wish to read the old Myrtle Rising post about it, please click here:
And the previous one:
Rav Itamar Schwartz on Chodesh Cheshvan
To enhance your Hebrew month of Cheshvan, please check out these posts from Bilvavi:
The mazal/astrological sign of Cheshvan is Akrav/Scorpion/Scorpio:
The Tribe correlating to Cheshvan is Levi:
Cheshvan also correlates to the actions of the nose:
This last one includes an interesting Q&A at the end, explaining how to do the breathing exercises, plus the vital difference between the non-Jewish breathing exercises & the authentically Jewish ones.
A Sweet Snippet of Torah Life in Eretz Yisrael
The other evening, I glanced out my son's bedroom window as I was lowering the shade, and happened to see our Sephardi-charedi neighbor in his yard quietly bent over a Gemara while gently rocking his baby in its carriage.
He kept at it for a long time.
(In general, he's known to be a very nice, sincere, and gentle fellow.)
It was a very sweet heart-warming sight that makes me grateful that Hashem brought me to this life & to live where I do.
Sukkot: When Jokes about the Cozy Heimishe Living of Frum Neighborhoods in Eretz Yisrael Come to Life
The cozy heimish living conditions in many frum neighborhoods in Eretz Yisrael lead to some pretty funny jokes—jokes which aren't far from the reality, as you'll see below.
One joke goes like this:
A man in his apartment in Bnei Brak opens his mouth to enjoy a dairy meal when he hears a neighbor's voice calling out: "Stop! You ate a hot dog only a couple of hours ago—you're still fleishig!"
Then another neighbor's voice rings out: "No, it's okay—it was a pareve hot dog!"
Other jokes feature a neighbor who corrects your bracha or says "Gezundheit!" after you sneeze.
Our real-life scenario occurred in our sukkah this year on Shabbat chol hamo'ed, the Sabbath during the intermediate days of Sukkot, between the festival/chag/yantiv days.
We build our sukkah on our porch, which sits across from the sukkah our next-door neighbors & diagonally under the staggered sukkahs of all the neighbors above us, and borders on the schach of our downstairs neighbors.
A bedroom window sits next to our porch where our under-the-weather teenager lay in bed.
So we all thought Shabbat Kiddush should be said really loud so he could hear it through the sukkah walls via his open bedroom window.
And so, the beginning of Kiddush was cheerfully bellowed out, with the Sefardi "Savri maranan" prior to the bracha (to which everyone answers "L'chaim!")—except we heard not even a faint "L'chaim" from the mildly ill child's direction.
So "Savri maranan" was repeated louder & louder, until we all figured he heard, but we just couldn't hear him.
As the bracha was being said, a voice rang out from above: "You're saying Kiddush for Shabbat-Yom Tov! You need to say Kiddush for Shabbat-chol hamo'ed!"
Because we were in the middle of hearing Kiddush, we didn't catch everything he said, so the Kiddush stopped and there was total silence before our side uttered the traditional "Ah-ah-ah?" that Orthodox Jews do when you can't talk, like between netilat yadayim & hamotzi.
So the neighbor loudly repeated: "You need to say Kiddush for Shabbat-chol hamo'ed. You just started saying Kiddush for Yom Tov—but it's not Yom Tov. You need to say Kiddush for Shabbat-chol hamo'ed. SHA-BAT CHOL HA-MO-ED."
"Ahhahh!" said our side. (Translation: "Okay, got it! Thank you!")
This was accompanied by lots of embarrassed giggling on our side of the schach (muffled by our hands because we didn't want the neighbor to think we were laughing at him; after all, he was absolutely right & definitely helpful).
After lots of frantic page turning (with all of us still convulsing with muffled laughter), the proper Kiddush was found & resumed.
Later, we all agreed it's fun to live a place with such a "shteibel ambience" (as one adult child put it).
It's one of the aspects I very much appreciate & enjoy about living in frum Eretz Yisrael.
Sukkahs on the porches of apartments in Bnei Brak by Dr. Avishai Teicher Pikiwiki Israel, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
UPDATE 25/8/21: Please also note this heart-warming video of frum children saying Tehillim & Slichot for the recovery of Bar-El Achiya ben Nitza, courtesy of Yaakov Yeranen:
Recently, I was struck by certain events in Eretz Yisrael.
First of all, there was the horrifying near-fatal shooting of the soldier Bar-El Achiya ben Nitza (may Hashem please grant him a complete & speedy refuah).
Then, there were the events that followed that shooting...
The Show Must NOT Go On—We Need to Say Tehillim!
One of Israeli society's most popular singers, Omer Adam, made a special break in his recent concert to invite his audience of thousands of fans to say Tehillim with him for Bar-El's complete recovery.
Omer Adam's insistence on prioritizing aspects of Torah above his celebrity status were discussed here:
I do not know the secular media's response to his most recent public expression of religious feeling, but they've been critical of him in the past for prioritizing Shabbat above the most coveted goals of popstar fame.
He knows he can take a public tongue/pen-lashing for doing things like this.
Yet he continues to follow his soul yearnings to do what's right.
And people love him for it.
(Hopefully, he will soon reach the point where he is fully devoted to all aspects of Jewish Law—and I wish the same for all of us!)
Likewise, masses of Jews came together outside the hospital in which Bar-El lies to recite Slichot with great enthusiasm in Bar-El's merit.
Slichot consists of praising Hashem combined with repeating, "We have sinned before You—please have mercy on us!"
Only Jews do this kind of thing.
Due to their Leftist secular (or Buddhist) celebrity focus, it is impossible to imagine any mainstream pop star in any of the Anglo countries stopping a performance to recite a Psalm from Tanach for the recovery of one of their nation's soldiers.
(Certainly, they would not give up a coveted performance for the sake of a religious value, as Omer Adam did for Shabbat—and he did so more than once.)
And certainly, no one gathers outside a hospital en masse to do teshuvah in the merit of a mortally wounded fellow.
Yes, societies hold candlelight vigils and leave slogans, teddy bears, and flowers at trauma sites and in honor of someone they care about.
But they don't sing teshuvah with great gusto en masse for another person.
When did the our modern-day Edomite societies see mass gatherings to promote their values?
Well, let's see...
A couple years back, Europe marched to protest the killings at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office.
Charlie Hebdo published magazines filled with extremely coarse mockery (including of Judaism) & particularly vulgar graphics.
Yet the impingement on the free speech to be a vulgar immature leitz brought Europe together in a march with cries of "I am Charlie Hebdo!"—very different & considerably less impressive than a large crowd of Jews shouting a prayer of teshuvah with gusto or Omer Adam's audience singing, "I lift my eyes to the mountains—from where comes my help? My help is from Hashem, who makes the Heavens and Earth."
Je suis Charlie Hebdo falls flat in comparison—to say the least.
In America, citizens came together to pretend that only white cops shoot black suspects—and even actively seek to do so—and that this is a routine occurrence.
To protest this perceived danger & discrimination against the black community, many gleeful radicals destroyed property in black neighborhoods & looted stores owned by their fellow black people—whom they claim to very much want to protect them from the extremely rare incidence of being shot by a white cop.
(Fact: Black people are more likely to be shot by a black cop—in fact, anyone is more likely to be shot by a black cop...3 times more likely, to be exact. See here:
www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/2330443X.2015.1129918. But even that happens only rarely. Criminal shooting deaths are 28 times more likely than a cop shooting death. Seriously.)
We could all go on with examples of people joining together to act like foolish or wild quacks, but let's go back to people doing things RIGHT.
The Real You—An Authentic Jew
We Jews are at our best when we act like US—ourselves!
The more authentic we are, the better we are, and the better things go for both us & the entire world.
We don't need to look at what all the nations are doing. We don't need to imitate them or join with them in their wonky values & bursts of self-expression.
We have everything we need within our souls, within our Torah.
And we need to express that authentically, based on our individual circumstances.
For example, if I got up to lead a mixed-gender audience in singing Tehillim, it would be a chilul Hashem.
When Omer Adam did it, it was great.
If I started dancing around outside a hospital & singing Slichot with crowds of men, it would not sweeten din...it would worsen din.
It would be terrible if I did such things.
So each person as they should, according to their individual circumstances and their current level.
Let's get in touch with our own Torah-based authenticity without caring what others think (including if those "others" are apparent fellow Jews with anti-Torah values who rule the airwaves, the newspapers, and the Internet).
Rav Avigdor Miller on Parshat Ekev: How to Prevent Inner Rebellion & Live with Purpose
In Rav Avigdor Miller's dvar Torah for Parshas Ekev 4 – The Good Life, the rav brings ancient Eretz Yisrael to life with a compelling description of Eretz Yisrael looked in the times of Yehoshua bin Nun (pages 3-4).
But it held one Divinely ordained lack: No massive river.
Ancient Babylon & ancient Egypt relied on their massive rivers for irrigation & to meet variety of other needs.
But not Eretz Yisrael.
Hashem held plans for Am Yisrael.
Am Yisrael needed to rely on the unpredictability of rain.
And, as always, that reliance on something so unpredictable led to our betterment.
Keeping Eyes & Minds Focused in the Right Direction
A farmer's eyes always turn toward the Heavens.
A society dependent on rain constantly checks the sky.
Is that a rain cloud—or a storm cloud?
Is that crop-destroying hail?
Is it snow?
Is that a tornado-spawning cloud?
Or is that a cloud of locusts?
Throughout Laura Ingalls Wilder's biographical novels of 19th-Century America, clouds play a huge role.
They're almost characters of their own.
She and her family always notice what's going on with the sky.
Wintertime meant constantly checking the north sky for a blizzard cloud.
Throughout the summer, they watched for the revolving dark greenish clouds that spawned tornadoes.
A rain of hail at the wrong time destroyed crops.
Sometimes, a cloud of smoke indicated a wildfire sweeping across the prairie.
Yet the right clouds in the right time bode well for farmers.
Laura's father-in-law, a wealthy farmer of that time, often stated, "Snow is a poor man's fertilizer."
People dependent on agriculture also watch the sky in hope of snow & rain in the right time.
A God-fearing farmer turns to Hashem as he turns to look at the sky.
Part of Am Yisrael's joy during Sukkot derived from their joy over the generous crops brought by an abundance of rain at the right times.
And that's why Hashem created Eretz Yisrael in this way. Page 5:
Eretz Yisroel was a prescription for the benefit of those who were there – it was for the purpose of making them the very best that they could become.
So why, if Eretz Yisrael's innate nature serves as such a tamper-resistant emunah-booster, do we need Hashem Torah warning to not let our hearts turn astray?
How can our hearts turn astray if we always look to the sky in hope & prayer, then reap & enjoy in thanksgiving to HaKadosh Baruch Hu?
Big Fat Atheism
Throughout Tanach, we run into the ugly situations of people who ended up a bit too "fat."
"Vayishman Yeshurun vayivat—Yeshurun got fat and kicked" Devarim 32:15.
When people are well-fed, they tend to rebel against Hashem.
Of course, we have God-fearing wealthy people—those religious Jews strive to maintain an awareness of & gratitude toward Hashem.
And it IS a struggle to maintain one's awareness & gratitude when life is so good.
Rav Miller notes that atheism & evolution flourished in one of the most well-fed nations of that time: England.
Atheism flourishes when there’s abundance because a man whose stomach is full doesn't want to have competition in the world.
That sounds a lot like Kayin, the world's first murderer.
Anyway, Rav Miller emphasizes that it's not about being rich, but well-fed.
He notes what we all see today, that America's poorest people tend to be the fattest.
In fact, when you see a truly obese person in the US, don't you instinctively assume the person must NOT be rich?
If someone would request your automatic impression of the economic standing of a very obese person, wouldn't you instinctively say that person is probably lower-middle class or even on welfare?
But if being well-fed harms us spiritually, then why does Eretz Yisrael yield such an abundance—especially when Am Yisrael behaves as it should?
Why does Eretz Yisrael end up feeding us so richly if a full stomach impinges on our spiritual level?
Don't Let the Kosher-Looking Pig Fool You
Hashem wants us to be...happy.
That's why He gives us so much.
That's why Eretz Yisrael yields so much.
As Rav Miller emphasizes on page 8:
Now it’s a big chiddush what I’m telling you now.
On pages 8-11, Rav Miller describes what is so bad about serving Hashem in gloom and what's so good about serving Hashem with a song in your heart.
On those same pages, he also trashes the assumption that the non-Jewish cultures surrounding us are so happy.
He gives his own examples, which are best reading in the dvar Torah itself, so here I'll give you mine.
I once endured the misery of temporarily living in one America's wealthiest neighborhoods.
(In case you're wondering...why such misery? Well, our particular apartment was a piece of garbage, plus I missed my frum neighbors & frum environment. And I really hated driving through extremely narrow streets lined with cars on both sides, plus dealing with stressful parking issues, and getting my big pregnant stomach in & out from under the steering wheel all the time. Plus my 2 oldest sons, who rarely fought, would suddenly start trying to kick each other in the face in the backseat davka at the times when I needed full concentration on the driving & also not at a place where I could stop the car.)
Surrounded by young (under 30) white & Asian yuppies living in luxury apartments & driving Mercedes, I noticed that most seemed unhappy.
I saw this at the local grocery store serving this successful populace, on the street, running into neighbors, and so on.
Most of the guys wore sour expressions & an undercurrent of biting resentment lay under their speech.
The sweet young women walked around with eyes full of insecurity & unhappiness, even when they smiled.
A non-Jewish couple lived near us with their 5-year-old daughter, who was the same age as our oldest son.
They were nice and the wife was super-nice, but again, an undercurrent of unhappiness always hovered around the wife. And the husband, even in his jovial moods, always carried his own undercurrent, as if he might lash out at any moment.
Hollywood & a lot of non-fiction best-sellers do everything they can to sell certain ideas to their global audience.
The innate nature of Edom/Esav resembles the pig.
With its split hoof, it looks wholesomely kosher on the outside.
Yet inside, no cud-chewing mechanism exists—it's as treif as a slug.
Unfortunately, most people buy into it.
How to Prevent a Full-Bellied Rebellion
Rav Miller mentions two ways to prevent well-fed rebellion:
And what happens to people who don't invest in the above 2 methods (especially method #2—gratitude)?
Rav Miller describes their reality on page 14:
...you’re in trouble; pen yifteh levavchem vesartem – you'll turn away, chas v’shalom.
Once again, Rav Miller concludes with one of his most popular ideas:
Our purpose in life is gratitude to Hashem.
It's connecting to Hashem, maintaining an awareness of Hashem, and bringing Hashem into the world & into our lives—into ourselves.
May we all succeed in forging a very real & joyful connection with our Creator.
Credit for material & all quotes goes to Toras Avigdor—thank you!
You can be both very yeshivish & adventurous—and gain from both.
For example, one of my sons loves yeshivah.
He happily ensconces himself there, including through a mass bout of covid-19 when he & his friends ended up quarantined there (and not even allowed out on the steps of the yeshivah) for many weeks.
(I end up mentioning him the most because his adventures are so compelling & fun to write about it—with his permission, of course.)
This same son also loves going around Eretz Yisrael, exploring with his friends the forests & bodies of water & deserts.
So throughout every break in yeshivah, he basically comes home between outings.
He & his friends walk, ride, and hitchhike to get where they need to go.
And he's witnessed the best Am Yisrael has to offer regarding fraternity & caring about each other.
An Erev Shabbat Emergency that Exhibted the Warm Heimishe Fuzzies of Am Yisrael
His most recent escapade occurred one Friday when he and his friends rode in his friend's car to the guys-only part of the beach in Ashdod.
They finished their swim and, with a nice amount of time before Shabbat, they piled back into the car—which wouldn't start.
They tried all sorts of remedies, but nothing worked.
A Jew driving by noticed their dilemma and stopped to apply his charger cables to the engine.
It still wouldn't start.
After a while, they realized they needed to get going in order to make it to their yeshivah in Yerushalayim before Shabbat.
So they hailed down cars going anywhere north, and made their way in that fashion until they met a secular-looking Jew who offered to drive them all the way to the yeshivah.
But part way through, his wife called and said she needed to light Shabbat candles.
At that point, the boys realized that though their savior would arrive at the yeshivah before Shabbat, he would need to drive back on home on Shabbat.
And even if he didn't care, they needed to care and not be the cause of the Shabbat transgression of a fellow Jew.
So they assured him he could just let them out on the spot and they would manage.
Immediately after he drove off, another secular-looking Jew sped by, saw the yeshivah boys, skidded to a stop, stuck his head out the window, and hollered, "Hey! Get in the car! You have no time! It's almost Shabbat!"
"Where are you headed?" they asked him.
"What does it matter?! You guys need to GO! Get in!"
So they got in and made it as far as Kiryat Malachi (where the driver was headed anyway) and also the location of the yeshivah in which the brother of one of their friends learns.
The yeshivah boys in Kiryat Malachi warmly welcomed their 3 unexpected guests and provided them with showers, beds, plus meals & friendship for the duration of Shabbat.
Also, the yeshivah provided a particularly pleasant wake-up regimen.
The young man in charge of waking everyone up for Shacharit first knocked lightly on the door of each room, then went to each young man in turn, patted him gently on the arm and with soft-spoken cheerfulness said, "My brother, my brother! Wake up—tefillat Shacharit of Shabbat!"
When the sleeping bachur mumbled, "Okay, I'm waking up," the young man then said, "Ashrecha!—Happy & fortunate are you!"
And then my son and his friends somehow made it back to their car after Shabbat and somehow got back to their yeshivah (not sure of the details).
Let's Talk about the Truth for a Moment
I think the guy kippah-less who exhibited so much concern about their Erev Shabbat predicament also kept Shabbat.
One of the nice things about living in Eretz Yisrael is because of the ease, convenience, popularity, and social acceptability of keeping Shabbat, a lot of people do it—including people who don't look like they do.
Also, despite both the English & Hebrew media's insistent & consistent portrayal of yeshivah students as traitors & lazy parasites, a lot of people who aren't chareidi are still pretty nice to these much-vilified yeshivah students & other charedim.
And despite how charedim are portrayed (including in a lot of charedi media), many charedim are good people who go out of their way to be good to others.
And (with a few exceptions) I've also experienced quite a lot of achva (brother/sisterhood) since I've come to Eretz Yisrael.
Time after time, experience shows me that regular Jews naturally like & get along with each other.
Regardless of one's specific group or religious level, many Jews still feel connected to each other.
A lot of bad feelings actually emanate from media propaganda and/or a charismatic instigator.
In general, that feeling of "other," plus self-righteous anger & resentment comes from without and not from within.
Sure, individuals get upset with each other.
Yes, insensitivity & worse occur on the individual level.
We don't need denials or whitewashed portrayals.
But there IS genuine good out there!
And the genuine good that exists MUST be exposed.
In the general sense, as far as a group goes, people feel connected to each other much more than many bloggers, journalists, authors, scriptwriters, and news producers would have you believe.
And that's the truth.
For previous posts about my son's adventures, please see:
This is a related post regarding my other older son:www.myrtlerising.com/blog/finkelshtayn-learns-to-hug-a-sephardi-ashkenazi-love-story
For other posts on this topic, please see:
Stories of Good Jews: How to Cultivate Authentic Honesty according to the Torah & Utilize the Lion Aspect of Yehudah
One of the fondest memories of my youthful Shabbats in Tzfat consisted of going up the unending staircase (Tzfat is built on a small mountain) and hearing Lecha Dodi sung in a variety of different melodies, depending on what shul I happened pass at that moment.
This modern-day coming together of different groups and their customs always creates the feeling of us as different links (or pearls!) within the same precious necklace.
If one is missing, the whole strand falls apart.
And I’m far from being the only one who feels this way.
Enjoying Our Differences
Many, many frum Jews enjoy an opportunity to connect with other frum Jews from a different ethnicities and nationalities.
In fact, I lived near a Yerushalmi chassidish neighbor who loves hanging out with Sephardi neighbors. She also started inviting Russian baalei teshuvah couples for meals.
She’s very makpid with her own children that they should never denigrate another group. I can tell that it’s all fun for her (and because I’m Sefardi by marriage and American by birth—and therefore another part of the colorful prism of frum Jewry in her eyes—thus I also end up as part of her fun...which greatly benefits me too because she is a wonderful person).
After she came back from a trip to different holy graves of Rebbes in Eastern Europe, she enthused about how a Breslov woman on the bus inspired her with a steady stream of Breslov thought throughout the ride to Uman.
“I said Tikkun Haklali at the grave of Rebbe Nachman!” she bubbled. “And I saw orot (lights/spiritual illumination)—yes, really!”
And she is part of a chassidus reputed to oppose Breslov (although Rav Levi Yitchak Bender insisted this wasn’t true, as stated by the former Rebbe of that chassidus himself, as recalled by Rav Bender in Words of Faith).
A Minyan in Every Flavor
A Litvish charedi kollel guy from America spent his first month of Shabboses in Eretz Yisrael davening in a different shul for each tefillah.
He experienced different kinds of chassidus and different kinds of Sefardi...and he thoroughly enjoyed himself.
If you saw him, you’d think he is a very quiet serious-but-nice conventional Litvak.
And he is!
But that doesn’t contradict his healthy appreciation for other frum groups.
Spending Shabbat in a Totally Different Hashkafah
My son, who learns in a standard Sefardi charedi yeshivah, spent Shabbat in Kiryat Arba-Chevron/Hebron and enjoyed every minute of the warm, vibrant Judaism of his Kahanist hosts.
Everyone treated him with such warmth and no one agonized over why he was in yeshivah as opposed to the army (as sometimes happens outside the charedi community).
He experienced a lot of warmth, acceptance, and good old-fashioned ahavat Yisrael combined with tremendous ahavat Torah—the divrei Torah never stopping flowing from the host and his family.
One family there in particular adores the mitzvah of hosting guests (which quite suits the place, being so near Avraham Avinu, who epitomizes the hosting of guests).
My son doesn’t want to join that community; he’s happy where he is.
But he received tremendous enjoyment and inspiration from frum Jews who subscribe to a different hashkafah.
Getting to Know the Hilltop Youth Never Shown by the Media
This same son also spent a Shabbat in Bat Ayin among the much maligned Hilltop Youth, whom every branch of media portrays as drunk, stoned, wayward bums who possess a fanatical Zionist streak.
And some of them are like that.
But many are not.
Many observe things others (sometimes including their own parents & community leaders) do not wish to see.
Many are thinkers & idealists.
My son ended up in Bat Ayin for Shabbat & he stayed with some Bat Ayin boys in an ancient ruin they'd made habitable. (The boys' families lived in regular homes nearby.)
These boys both knew & cared about all the Shabbat halachot for living in an ancient stone ruin with minimal electricity, including keeping the food warm over Shabbat, etc.
One of the boys' fathers stopped by before Shabbat to make sure their electric wiring remained in good condition.
It was a very cool experience—the experience of living in ancient Judea as our ancestors did in the same kind of structure constructed of local stones.
Also, my son is obviously a charedi yeshivah bachur and felt total acceptance from these non-charedi-yet-religious Bat Ayin residents because Bat Ayin residents have a solid sense of achdut (unity) with their fellow Jews.
You keep Shabbat & learn Torah? Hey, you're one of us!
That's their attitude.
Like my son, his youthful hosts never served in the IDF—but for completely different reasons.
My son received an exemption based on his yeshivah attendance.
(Just to prevent confusion between my older sons, who are periodically mentioned in this blog: Son #1 served in the IDF; Son #2 happily remains firmly in the charedi yeshivah world.)
The IDF refused to let these Bat Ayin boys serve, stating the boys held views that were too far right.
(It stunned me the first few times I heard of the IDF rejecting eligible young men because of views deemed too far to the right. But it's really not uncommon for the IDF to do that. Chew that idea over for a minute...)
Anyway, these boys displayed wonderful character, commitment to Jewish Law, and detachment from materialism.
Here's how I see them:
They crave authentic Judaism. And their living in the original housing & lifestyle of the Judean Hills of Eretz Yisrael, along with their open hospitality, is all part of their desire for authenticity.
With their good middot & knowledgeable commitment to Jewish Law, they clearly are not as portrayed in the media.
Our Satmar Brothers
When I asked my explorer-son about patterns he noticed throughout his hitchhiking travels, he expressed positive experiences with Jews from all different groups, then stated, "But the Satmarers are the friendliest & warmest, hands down. Each and every time I run into a Satmarer, he always acts like I'm his brother."
Satmar chassidim are another much-maligned group.
My son meets them as they drive around the country here on their business trips.
(Even though a Satmar community exists within Eretz Yisrael, my son always runs into only the American Satmarers here on business.)
My son and his friends clearly look like Sefardi yeshivah bachurs—a very different group than Satmar chassidim.
Yet the Satmar chassidim my son encounters never seem to feel my son is different than them.
Intrigued by their very different outlooks & customs regarding the political situation in Eretz Yisrael, my son nicely asked the Satmar driver about it all as they rode in his car.
In a friendly & casual manner, the Satmarer acknowledged the opposite viewpoint held by nearly everyone else, then briefly explained the Satmar view in the same unimposing & friendly manner.
Another time, my son & his friends spotted a Satmar chassid at a gas station in northern Israel.
They politely inquired whether they could join him. His eyes widened in pleasant surprise as he said, "Of course! If there's room in my car, then why not?"
It's hard to convey the exact tone & facial expression of the Satmarer, but my son described it as if the Satmarer was surprised they felt the need to even ask.
Meaning, it was as if he didn't understand why, upon seeing room in the car, they didn't automatically pile in as he finished paying for the gas.
It's just as if you would have no problem finding your brother—not just any brother, but the brother you REALLY like—suddenly in your car.
You'd be pleasantly surprised, right?
So that's the vibe this Satmar chassid gave off to them.
Tongue-in-Cheek Note: Having exemplified all this Satmar generosity & brotherhood, it should be noted: If you see a Satmarer, you still shouldn't just get into his car without permission. Even if he's as generous-hearted & welcoming as this Satmarer, it could still be he needs to get somewhere urgently, or pick up other people. So you should still ask.
Seeing the Full Picture according to Torah
Yes, I realize dysfunctional frum people also exist.
We also have problems in our communities.
But these are discussed obsessively (and a bit hopelessly)—with great relish & self-righteousness by the secular & non-Jewish media (including blogs), and with a great deal of recrimination & self-flagellation by the frum media/blogs.
The reason why I often focus on good people doing good isn't because my brains consist of half-baked noodle kugel, but rather because all my reading of authentic Torah sources indicate this as the correct & healthiest way to relate to the world.
While the non-Jewish world only considers you honest if you mention the negative aspects among the positive, the study of our Sagely commentaries on Tanach opened my eyes to the fact that Judaism only considers your portrayal honest if you mention the positive among the negative.
You see an aspect of this in how the Great Sanhedrin could only sentence a person to execution as long as the guilty verdict was NOT unanimous.
Meaning, if not one Sage on the Great Sanhedrin could not see a way in which the accused was innocent—in other words, finding some kind of merit—then they assumed they lacked the full story.
Emulating the Lion of Yehudah
Also, dwelling solely on the passive sur m'ra (turn from evil) prevents one from ever achieving the proactive aseh tov (do good).
As Rav Itamar Schwartz explained in his talk for the month of Av, there are 2 types of "lion."
One is the lion of Dan (who also represents the serpent).
If you only focus on the sur m'ra, on repressing your yetzer hara, you will certainly be a very good person, but you will not be able to rise from the dust (just like a serpent cannot raise itself from the dust).
We need to be proactively good — aseh tov! — and leap from the place in which we could remain stuck—like the lion of Yehudah.
The lion of Dan excels in guarding the boundaries & fences.
(This relates to gevurah—the power of restraint.)
The lion of Yehudah excels in leaping over the walls to proactively act before being acted upon.
(This represents the aspect of malchut—royalty; a true king is incredibly powerful. Regarding authentically Jewish malchut, this invincibility comes from Hashem, Who is Truly All-Powerful. It's the power to do good & come out victorious.)
The lion of Yehudah is Mashiach.
In part, this means we need to look at the good in others.
We need to see the people who ARE investing in goodness, who exhibit goodness—and not just the people who make a mess out of their lives and the lives of others.
While we needn't whitewash or deny the negative, we need to look for positive role models at the same time and follow their lead.
Sure, we can look only at the dysfunctional people.
Yet is it fair to ignore all the people who stretch themselves to do good?
Is it fair to ignore the people who DO treat others with compassion?
Is it "honest" to ignore all the people who behave with compassion & respect?
For example, there's a charedi city in Eretz Yisrael where a Lubavitcher chassid prepares a Kiddush table laden with refreshments for all the wayward youth hanging out on the streets (and often making trouble).
He feeds them & engages them.
He does this every Friday night.
Should we close our eyes to this religious Jew who invests so much time, caring, and expense in his fellow Jews?
A lot of charedim treat these kids compassionately.
Is it honest to completely ignore all these good-hearted people, pretending they don't exist?
That's just one example.
Likewise, we also need to view the positive qualities in ourselves.
We need to know that underneath everything, Hashem has gifted each & every one of us with a beautiful, pure neshamah that not only yearns to do good, but knows & loves what is good.
And we need to know that others possess this too.
We need to seek it in both ourselves & others.
It's true that some apparent Jews lack this.
Some contain primarily Erev Rav souls.
And some aren't even Jewish, but their actual status got lost over time (or was hidden or confused—maybe not even so long ago).
But before we dismiss people has lacking an authentic Yisrael neshamah, we should search for their innate holiness & goodness (and our own innate holiness & goodness!) through eyes of real honesty & compassion—eyes that take in the whole picture, and not just part of it.
For the full discussion of the lion aspects of both Dan & Yehudah, plus how we should express these aspects, please see:
The Original Borders of Eretz Yisrael as Defined by the Torah: A Stunning Photo-Documentary
Parshat Masei delineates the Torah's borders of Eretz Yisrael.
It's hard to know exactly where these areas are today, but a lot of it is certainly known.
Also, we have differing interpretations of these borders from Kaftor V'Ferach & Tevuot Ha'Aretz.
Not very different interpretations, however. They're basically the same.
Perhaps it's helpful to view photos of these borders to help us get a better picture in our minds.
To get a better idea of what we're viewing, here's a modern map:
One of the faint squiggly lines south of the modern Sinai-Israeli border is Wadi el-Arish, one of the locations for Nachal Mitzrayim (Stream of Egypt) and the God-given southern border of Eretz Yisrael.
However, for those who go by the Rambam, Nachal Mitzrayim (and therefore, the southernmost border of Eretz Yisrael) is the Nile:
The Northern Border of Eretz Yisrael
Here lies the biggest difference between the 2 interpretations.
Tevuot Ha'Aretz pinpoints Eretz Yisrael's north-westernmost border of Mount Hor as just north of the Lebanon Mountain Range, around modern-day Tripoli, Lebanon.
This is the Lebanon Mountain Range, the northernmost part would be that border and included within the territory of Asher (and also possibly Naphtali to its eastern side):
Lebanon Mountains (Area of Mount Hor & the Northern Border of Eretz Yisrael according to Tevuot Ha'Aretz) — Image by kab_s
According to Tevuot Ha'Aretz, the central northern border town called Chamat in the Torah is the city today known as Hama, Syria, which hosts a large river:
However, Kaftor V'Ferach pinpoints Mount Hor much farther north (which also pushes Chamat farther north too), where today stands the Nur mountain range in the Hatay Province of Turkey, and would further extend Asher's territory quite far north:
Here is a close-up of Mount Nur in Hatay, Turkey, the possible location of Mount Hor & the northernmost border of Eretz Yisrael:
The Western Border of Eretz Yisrael
Both identify the following along Eretz Yisrael's western border:
HaYam HaGadol (the Great Sea—the Mediterranean Sea)
Tzidon (today Saida in Lebanon)
Tzur (today Tyre or Sur in Lebanon)
The Eastern Border of Eretz Yisrael
The above 2 books differ according to the exact location of Zifron, but one of the locations appears to be in the area of Maaloula-Seidnaya in modern Syria.
The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) in Tiveria (Tiberias)
Yam HaMelech (the Salt Sea/the Dead Sea)
Maaleh Akrabbim (east of the southeastern part of the Dead Sea)
The Southern Border of Eretz Yisrael
Where is Kadesh-Barnea today?
Well, there's a settlement in the Negev called both Kadesh-Barnea & Nitzanei Sinai:
Some say it's Petra, Jordan:
Yet others see it as Ein Qedeis (note the similar name: Qedeis/Kadesh), known since 1905 as Ain-el-Qudeirat in Wadi el-Ain of northern Sinai. Shards of pottery engraved with Hebrew found there boost the theory that it hosted Jewish settlement.
The southernmost border includes Atzmon and Nachalah Mitzrayim (Stream of Egypt), which some identify as Wadi El-Arish in present-day Sinai, but others say it's Nachal Besor.
(To my great frustration, I could not find even one free photo of anywhere in Northern Sinai, let alone that specific location.)
The closest thing I found was one of Israel's most southern towns, Nitzana, which lies not far from today's Sinai-Israeli border:
However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, going according to the Rambam, considers the Sinai part of Eretz Yisrael too (can't remember where that's written).
(If so, that would explain the incredible sense of tranquility found there—never experienced such a thing anywhere else. Just the entire place is permeated with that feeling. I'm not the only one to feel this either.)
The reason is because they identify Nachalah Mitzrayim as the Nile:
And there you have it.
Hope you enjoyed this photo-documentary of the God-given Biblical borders of Eretz Yisrael as defined by the Torah.
If you wish to see photos of the original Torah-defined locations of the Tribes (updated with new photos & a quote from Rav Avigdor Miller, in addition the original psak of the Lubavitcher Rebbe), please click here:
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I'm a middle-aged housewife and mother in Eretz Yisrael who likes to read and write a lot.
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