Author Archives: Ophir Münz-Manor

South Mount Hebron Delegation to the US

Below are several reports from the visit of several villagers, villages group representatives and Rebuilding Alliance team the DC and NYC. All reports courtesy of Fiona Wright.

Six residents of the South Hebron Hills will travel together with two members of the Villages Group landed today in the U.S for a tour in Washington D.C. and New York City. Their ten-day trip is organised by our friends in the US ‘Rebuilding Alliance’. Fatma Nawajeh and her son Hamoudi and nephew Aysar from Susiya, and Ni’meh and Eid Hatheleen and their daughter Sadeen from Umm al-Kheir, will spend a week meeting with Congress men and women and Senators in Capitol Hill to tell their stories and represent the residents of South Hebron Hills and their struggle against demolition orders and the actions of the occupation authorities. Aysar and Sadeen will present the ‘Pinwheels for Peace’ project in these meetings, in which children from Susiya and Umm al-Kheir took part in June 2015.
The visit corresponds with International Peace Day, September 21st, and so we will take the chance to get the attention of policymakers and media in the United States about the struggles in the South Hebron Hills region. Apart from meeting with politicians there will be chances to talk with supporters and community members in Washington and in New York City, as well as a little time for sightseeing and having fun together in the two cities. The group will be accompanied by David Massey and Fiona Wright from the Villages Group who will help to present the work of the group in the region and to report on the tour.

On Monday we woke up early to get ready for the briefing in Capitol Hill at 12.00. The briefing was an open meeting in one of the house offices to which staff members of representatives of congress were invited, as well as members of the public. We had an hour to present and about 50 people attended – a mix of congress staffers, campaigners and friends in DC. Each member of the delegation, including the kids Aysar and Sadeen, talked during the briefing, each explaining a different part of the story of South Hebron Hills and the demolitions and expulsions. Naima told the crowd about what happened when her mother’s house was demolished in Umm al-Kheir and how her daughter Leen suffered for months after that day and what she witnessed there. Her talk was incredibly moving and later she explained that she feels a responsibility to represent the women and families of her village and region and to explain to the people she is meeting in the US about what these experiences do to people in her community. Fatma spoke about Susiya and how her childhood was marked by her family being expelled from the archeological site area in Susiya in 1986. She explained how her family and community have been affected by the demolitions happening over and over again. Eid spoke about the wider situation in South Hebron Hills and how so many Palestinian residents in the area live with the constant fear of demolition and the feeling of insecurity and anxiety that brings. He said how the reason they came to America was because they understood that the intervention of the State Department was crucial in postponing the demolitions in Susiya this year. He wanted to ask that Americans continue to ask their representatives to put pressure on Israel to stop the demolitions. David then spoke as a member of the Villages Group and explained how he was inspired by his friends in the South Hebron Hills and that where he finds hope is with them, and that he had come to ask that people from countries like the US and Israel use their privilege to demand that their representatives put pressure on Israel to stop the demolitions and not destroy the lives of communities in the South Hebron Hills. Aysar and Sadeen stole the show with their talks when they explained how they just want to live without the fear of settlers, demolitions, and seeing their families suffering. Sadeen said at the end of her talk that what she wants is ‘hurriya’, freedom. Kelly from Rebuilding Alliance explained for the briefing the current situation in Susiya and the negotiations with the Civil Administration, how the events of the last few months have played out, and what they are now asking happen in congress in terms of pressure on Israel.

After the briefing finished, although we were all very tired and happy with how the briefing had gone, we went to visit the offices of the 11 representatives who signed a letter in support of Susiya that was sent by Representative Anna Eshoo to Secretary of Foreign Affairs John Kerry in July of this year, and that played a role in the State Department’s urging of Israeli authorities not to go ahead with the demolitions. We spoke to staff members in each of the offices and explained that we had now come to Washington to ask that US representatives continue to intervene and to support Susiya and other threatened villages in the South Hebron Hills. The visits to the offices were important to keep up relationships with these representatives that have spoken in support of Susiya and were also very interesting for us to see a little bit of how congress works.

We finished all these meetings at around four o’clock by which time we were all very tired and for the rest of the day we just relaxed and had some dinner – a very tasty falafel restaurant run by an Iraqi in Washington!

Another highlight of the day was when Aysar met an American cowboy on the way back to the guest house. See attached photo

After our time in Washington D.C. we arrived in Manhattan late on Thursday for some more relaxed days, although still of course very exciting and busy for the group. We had a couple of meetings with journalists who will hopefully write about the time of the delegation in the US and the situation of the South Hebron Hills villages (watch this space). On Saturday evening we were invited to a potluck dinner house meeting with members of Jewish Voice for Peace. This was a nice opportunity to connect with friends of the group and to meet some new faces and talk about what groups like JVP can be doing to support the villages. Apart from these meetings we saw some of the amazing sights of the city (thanks also to Chaim, Erella’s cousin, who lent us his tour-guiding skills) – walking across the Manhattan Bridge and looking back at the city at night, a trip across the water to the Statue of Liberty on Saturday afternoon, a visit to the site of Ground Zero and the memorials there, and of course some pilgrimages to the city’s temples of consumerism. The best moment came when, on Sunday evening as we happened to be walking on Fifth Avenue, suddenly there were a lot of police and all the cars were blocked from the street to make way for the entourage of President Obama, who was in town for the UN General Assembly – the group were delighted to have seen him drive by. We had hoped to have a face-to-face meeting to tell him about Susiya and Umm al-Kheir but this encounter came a close second.

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Summer Camp in Umm al-Kheir

Officers of the civil administration of the occupation army came recently to Umm al-Kheir cluster near the fence of Carmel settlement. The officers said to the locals that they intend to to demolish in the short run, most of the structures in the place that were built in replacement for the structures demolished last October (check: In the meanwhile in the same cluster, Na’ama Hadhalin, a  teacher and local activist, organized, with the help of her husband Eid and high school students,a summer camp for the children who experience, since they were born, the anxiety and uncertainty of those whose houses are been demolished again and again. The summer camp was sponsored by the British Shalom-Salaam Trust ( Eyal Shani of the Villages Group held Tai Chi workshop for the children in the summer camp. Below is a report by Na’ama – the summer camp organizer and some photos she attached from the summer camp’s activities.

Ehud, on behalf of the Villages Group

Letter from Na’ama Hadhalin, in charge of the Umm al-Kheir summer children’s camp


To begin, on behalf of myself and the villagers of Umm al-Kheir, I would like to thank all of you who helped this summer camp in which our children spent an enjoyable and delicious time this season.

We began our activity on the third day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, July 19, 2015. On the first day, the camp’s outfit were distributed and the children were divided into three groups led by the three volunteers of the camp, according to their age groups – from 4- to 15-years old, aimed at their respective activities. We began by preparing holiday greeting cards. Activities were geared for fun, learning and the arts. We also enjoyed some drama, puppet theater, singing, drawing, puzzles and more, alongside talks about morality values, tolerance, honesty and cleanliness.

On July 27, a trip was held in which the villagers of Umm al-Kheir participated. It was a special occasion in which we- including the adults among us – breathed some enjoyable free air and holiday spirit. On July 28 the camp’s ending ceremony was held with the parents from Umm al-Kheir attending as well as a group of young people from Sweden. School bags were handed out as well as writing materials for the children who had taken part in the camp.

Finally, I would like to express heartfelt thanks on behalf of myself – Na’ama, the camp volunteers and all of Umm al-Kheir’s inhabitants and children. Thank you for having enabled us to give our children a chance to spend some very enjoyable time during an especially long summer vacation. Our children eagerly waited for this vacation in order to be able to participate in the summer camp that you supported and helped bring about.

Thank you for your humaneness and love, and your solidarity with us.

Yours sincerely, Na’ama Hadhalin

summer camp3 summer camp2 summer camp5 summer camp4 summer camp1

Take Action on Behalf of Palestinian Susiya

Dear friends and supports,

See in the attached the letter sent by Member of the European Parliament Jude Kriton-Darling to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy- Federica Mogherin. MEP Kriton-Darling wrote this message after the urgent situation of Palestinian Susiya was brought to her attention by friends of the Villages Group and the people of south Hebron Hills from Hexham. MEP Kriton-Darling letter contains the important details concerning the current state of affairs in Susiya’s case. This initiative stand out as a fine example on what can and should be done, in terms of political pressure, for the sake Susiya’s survival. We urge you to take similar steps and apply to your political representative and ask them to take action on behalf of Palestinian Susiya and its residents.
Information about the current risk facing Susiya can obtain in the links below.
Ehud Krinis on behalf of the Villages Group

Yasmin (Ikhlas) Jebara from Salem Village at the Tenth Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony.

Yasmin (Ikhlas) Jebara from Salem village participated yesterday (Tuesday 21st)  in Tel-Aviv in the tenth Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony. The ceremony was organized by the Combatants for Peace movement. You can watch Yamsin’s speech (Arabic with English and Hebrew sub-titles) and harp’s  playing (accompanying a colleague harp player and singer Renana Neeman) in the following link:
Yamsin’s speech which begin in 21:48 of the broadcast is followed by Renana Neeman’s ensemble playing starting in 29:30.
The initiative of inviting Yasmin to this ceremony came from the musician Idan Toledano upon reading a newspaper interview with Yasmin made during the harp festival in Jaffa last December (check:
Special thanks should be given to Buma Inbar who initiated the tenth Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony in 2006.
He also help in facilitating Yasmin’s visit in Tel-Aviv along with her mother Muna an her sister Asala.
The entry of Yamisn’s other sister as well as her brothers was denied by the Israeli occupation authorities.
Ehud, on behalf of the Villages Group  

A Letter from David Shulman Concerning Susya

Dear Friends

Most of you will remember the long and tortuous story of Susya, the tiny encampment– all tents and shacks– where few hundred people are still hanging on to what is left of their ancestral lands in the face of continuous harassment by the State and settlers, and in the wake of many earlier expulsions. You may also remember that many of their simple homes have had demolition orders issued against them by the Civil Administration, which clearly aims at destroying the entire village and expelling its inhabitants for good. The Civil Administration claims that the Susya shacks were built without permits and without an accepted, official plan for the village; in fact the villagers have submitted such a plan, and, as everyone knows, it is impossible for Palestinians living in Area C to get a permit to build anywhere on their own land

The Villages Group and Taayush has been involved together with the Rabbis for Human Rights and other organizations, for the last several years in the legal struggle over the fate of Susya; the courts have sometimes accepted our arguments for a stay of execution, but they have also at times ruled in favor of the Civil Administration bureaucrats and the soldiers.

About a year ago I reported on a truly astonishing document prepared by the Civil Administration in which they argue, in classic colonial style, that the impoverished Palestinians of Susya do not know what is good for them and that their opportunities will increase if only they are moved to the city of Yata– in other words, if they are forced to relinquish forever their homes, grazing grounds, and fields (

Last week the government gave notice that it will ask the courts to remove the last impediments to carrying out the demolition orders. links to the website of the Rabbis for Human Rights and to the Haaretz article describing the legal situation in detail:[1] [2]

We don’t yet know if the court will accept the arguments of the government lawyers, but we can say for sure that what we are witnessing today is an unmistakable move on the part of the government and the Occupation authority to dispossess the entire population of Palestinian Susya and to drive them off the land once and for all. Perhaps the results of the recent election have emboldened the settlers and their supporters; perhaps we are seeing the beginning of a much wider, shameless campaign of mass expulsion, which is, one should remember, the true, indeed the only, raison d’etre of the Occupation.

We have known the Susya Palestinians for some 15 years; they are our friends. We cannot stand by and watch the destruction of their village and their way of life. Those of you who can exert influence of any kind– on your representatives in government, in public office, on the public media, or through any other channel–  might be able to help at this possibly fateful moment.

Yours, David Shulman

Desert Snows

January 9, 2015

This time I am almost ashamed of the story I am about to tell, as the whole world is dealing with the unbearable mega-terror-attack on France, and while here in Israel people – even since before the attack – are still busy with the unusually harsh stormy and snow conditions here at the moment. And perhaps in spite or because of my shame, I should tell it.

I live in a farming community in the northern Negev, where the desert begins. A place not blessed with abundant rainfall or groundwater. The South Hebron Hills, too, lying about 60-70 km east of where I live, is an area even drier than ours. Some of my good friends live there, mostly farmers and shepherds. Year after year, as winter descends, I get a phone call from Nasser, Ali and Eid who live in various hamlets in the South Hebron Hills, asking whether rain has already fallen in our village and how our fields are doing. They tell me about theirs, and about their water holes – the main and sometimes only source of water for them for both human and animal consumption the whole year long – which the Occupation authorities repeatedly destroy, and do not even allow the Palestinians to connect to other water sources.

All of last week we exchanged reports of the plentiful rains that fell both on my village and on theirs. Today Nasser called to ask whether we were having snow. They – at the altitude of 800-900 meters above sea level – have been having snow for two days now, but they heard on the radio that snow was falling even at 400 meters. “We are at 200 meters’ altitude” I answered, “and snow is a very rare sight”. And since we were already talking, I asked Nasser whether Ahmad and Laish (his children) managed to put together the puzzle I had brought them last week. “Yes”, he answered. “It became a family activity”. We continue chatting. I even disclose that I did not take part in our weekly visit last Thursday because my back was giving me too much trouble. “I wasn’t home either”, he said. “I was working. I went to document the cutting down of olive trees in the area”. Shocked at the timing (not at the sabotage itself), I asked: “What!? Even in such freezing weather, in a snow storm!?” “All the better”, Nasser answered.

“Yesterday morning”, he says, his voice sounding as routine as if we are still talking about the puzzle, “during a brief pause in the snowfall, farmers of Qawawis near Susya, and farmers from Yatta whose lands lie close to Qawawis, went out to check the water situation in the water holes of their plots. The holes were filled with water. Then they noticed 42 olive trees, 32 years old, lying sawed near Qawawis on the side of the grove next to Havat Yair settlement, and some 200 one-to-seven-year old olive trees uprooted and broken near Qawawis across the road.” Thus Nasser. I remain silent.

The water in their holes was given them by God. The sawed-down trees they discovered were destroyed by men. With and without a saw. Thus I say to myself after we are done with our telephone conversation which was not at all meant to touch on this subject. One more banal story. Another abnormal episode that becomes normal in a reality where even the complaint about evil-doing comes like falling summer rain.

When the crimes pile up, they become invisible.

When the suffering becomes unbearable no one

Hears the cries any more.

They too fall like summer rain. (Bertolt Brecht)

This attack will not make waves in the media. The attack in France, too, will soon enough fall away like summer rain. They both belong to the blindness of their perpetrators.

And God? He is present in the waterholes. The God of small things…











Yasmin (Ikhlas) Jebara at the Harp Festival

Yasmin (Ikhlas) Jebara participated in the workshops of Israel’s second harp festival that took place in Jaffa last week.


Yasmin was invited to the festival by her devoted harp teacher Sunita Staneslow who was among the festival’s organizers. For the story of Yasmin’s connections with Sunita and the harp, which started through the music center in Salem.


During her four days sojourn in Jaffa last week Yasmin was interviewed to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. For the interview (in Hebrew).


After her return to her Village near Nablus, Yasmin wrote the following thank you letter to the people who facilitated her visit in the festival and host her in their apartments in Tel-Aviv. In the letter she also speaks a bit about her feelings during the visit.

Ehud on behalf of the Villages Group

A thank-you letter

From the depth of my heart I write this thank-you letter

If my feelings had spoken they would have said something better

The simple words that I utter

Just present the modest thank-you letter

For some people whom I consider

Very special to me they are like the gold glitter

For those who have the good manner

Buma Sunita Fred Ehud Tamara Dani Silvia Avital and Michael and others

My feelings my emotions if they spoke they would say something better

My visit I will not forget

In spite of the fact that the army was reluctant to give me the permit

Buma and Ehud and Sunita persisted and insisted to get me the permit

My visit I cannot forget

It was really perfect

I was fascinated by the sea sound

And it left in my heart a big effect

I enjoyed the houses of the hosts and I felt that I did not leave my home even for a moment

I did not feel bored even for a second

The time was quickly spent

The harp festival was for me a great event

Thanks for whom my happiness and joy create

Even for short moments

When I was in the harp festival and on the shore

I said I will be famous for sure

I have felt at rest

With all this great care that you have given me I felt that I am the best

I never felt that I am a guest

But I felt that I am one of your family members

I specially thank Buma and Sunita who on my face drew a smile

Even for a short while

If I would write about my visit I would write more than one file

Thanks Buma Sunita Fred Ehud Tamara you have given my life it’s real style

These modest words are my gift

I will not forget you any more

You are in my heart for ever

(Photos courtesy of Buma Inbar)

Yasmin in the harp festival 1

Yasmin in the Harp Festival 2

Yasmin in the Harp Festival 3

Appeal on behalf of Salem’s Music Centre

Dear friends and supporters,

The opening of the new school year in September also marked the reopening of Salem’s Music Centre for children. During the last year or so, in which it has been closed, the Centre reorganized, attained an official recognition from the Palestinian Authority and moved from the local council building to a house it rented in the village. The Centre’s devoted visionary and initiator Jubier Shtayeh and the gifted teacher Amid Jamus – remain the core staff. Acknowledging these improvements and the attainment of a better organizational footing, the Villages Group reaffirms its commitment to this important institution (see attached photos from our recent visit in the centre).

Music education is increasingly prevalent in the urban sector of the Palestinian society. Unfortunately, this much needed form of education is still absent, to a large extent, in Palestinian rural communities. Salem’s Music Center is a rare and unique exception to this rule. It was conceived and is nurtured not through the efforts of well-established and well-known NGOs or patrons, but thanks to devoted grassroots field work of Palestinians and Israelis, as well as donations from individuals worldwide.

We are appealing to you to join us in this endeavor of peace and empowerment and to enable a new generation of children in the village of Salem to obtain the gift of music education.

Please watch the following short video from 2009 to learn more about our motivation for initiating and sustaining the music centre in Salem. The need to keep Salem’s Music Centre going is as relevant and pressing today as it was five years ago:

Here is the Centre’s annual budget (click to enlarge):

Buudget Salem

You can now donate to the project by using your credit card on PayPal.

Simply press the button to make a donation:





Erella and Ehud on behalf of the Villages Group

Salem music center 44

Salem music center 33

Salem music center 22

Salem music center 11

House Demolitions in Umm al-Kheir

On Monday, October 27, Israeli Army and Police forces demolished dwellings in the western part of the Beduin-Palestinian village of Umm al-Kheir. This was the most massive operation of house demolition in the village since October 2008. 
The operation was aimed mostly at three houses that were built in the last two years (on the ruins of earlier demolitions). These houses were built for three young couples: Abd’alla and Ruqaya al-Hathelin and their four children (aged two months to seven years); Kheir’alla and Nura al-Hathelin and their baby girl, and Bilal and Iman al-Hathelin and their baby boy.
On top of that the Israeli occupation forces demolished the mobile home of Samikha (Miyaser) al-Hathelin and her seven children, which was donated to her by European agencies after her house was demolished twice in 2011 and 2012. Samikha’s tabun (traditional bread oven) was demolished as well, although it was not included in the demolition order. It should be mentioned that recently a family from the adjacent Israeli settlement Karmel appealed to court against the tabun claiming that its smoke interrupts their daily life.
In addition, the Israeli occupation forces demolished two temporary buildings that served as the storeroom and kitchen of Suliman and Malikha al-Hathelin. 
These last actions are part of an ongoing wave of house demolitions carried out by the Israeli Civil Administration and Army that seek to drive out the inhabitants of the western parts of Umm al Kheir that have been living there for more than sixty years. The main cause for these actions is the proximity of Um Al Kheir to Karmel, the Israeli settlement that was built some thirty years ago.   

We arrive and no one interrupts. There are no military forces at the crossroad, no Police, no Civil Administration. The demolishers demolished and went away. We arrive at the calamity – six houses are completely demolished, a tabun that smokes its remnants, furnitures, clothing, toys, kitchenware. And men, women and children, beaten by pain, dwell between rage and depression. Their shoulders – some leaning downwards and some protest; their eyes – some  weeping, some burned down, some blazing. Entire life trampled on by the swift movement of a bulldozer and retell the chronicle of heartlessness and wickedness foretold. This is not a demolition, it is demolition again. There is no more power left to draw power from the non-violent resistance. Maybe the strength will come back. But now an hour later – deep mourning. We are part of it; we stand by them, fully present, in order to give the helplessness its deserved respect. Respect for the trauma. We do not hasten to console. We do not hasten to offer solutions. Only to be here in order to make a way for the deadly pain. To cry. It is permitted to cry. 
And from her tears, sitting by a small fig tree that somehow survived the extermination, Malikha whispers: “they demolished houses, a tabun, the heart, but why did they have to ruin the small garden  I planted?” I touched her tenderly and kept silent. When I will come next time I will bring with me plants that will enable her old tired hands to touch the good earth again and to water it with her bitter tears of pain. Perhaps she would want to plant. Perhaps life will flourish once more….

Erella and Ehud on behalf of the Villlages Group

T.V. reports (in Arabic) and video documentation:








A Thank You Letter by Muhammad Suleiman Awad of Khirbet a-Duqaiqah


 Our Dear Friends,

These are hard times that we have been and are still going through.

The war, in and of itself, is so hard to bear. Hard to bear is also our helplessness about it, for all we can do is call our Gazan friends and check, daily, if they are still alive.

Hard to bear is the sense of loneliness of those who see the Tsunami trampling on, dripping with hatred, racism, calls for revenge and war mongering, the likes of which had not been seen in our streets, blind as they can sometimes be.

And in addition to all that, to awaken again to the scorching realization that reading the map correctly and alerting of the approaching danger – won’t make the slightest difference.


There are moments in which it is tempting to stand on the roof of the world’s wagon and shout: “Stop the train, we want to get off.”

Nevertheless, the sun shines every morning, illuminating the world.  And because the sun illuminates the world, we can also see its beauty and what needs to be done, if only since this is the natural role of the heart.

And in the words of the Canadian author and facilitator, Oria Mountain Dreamer, inspired by Indian wisdom:  “It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.”


So, we get up in the morning and do but a little of what needs to be done…

We did such little of what needs to be done when we connected between you and Muhammad, of the Bedouin village  Khirbet a-Duqaiqah, in the South Hebron Hills. This connection opened up a new horizon of opportunities for Muhammad, whose entire body is paralyzed. At the same time it opened, for us and for you, an opportunity to show goodwill and generosity against the alienation and ruthlessness that feed the ongoing horror that have struck again in great force during the last month.


Erella, Hamed, Danny, Nadav and Ehud, in the name of the Villages Group


Here is a translation of Muhammad’s thank you letter.


In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,

Prayer and peace be upon our master Muhammad,

God’s prayer and his favors be upon the chosen prophet.


I am sending this letter feeling calm and joyous. I am sending it from the bottom of my heart and in full gratitude towards the people who stood by me and helped me. I reckon the world is still in a good state and there are good people with humane feelings towards their fellow human beings.


And I go on and say:

Peace be upon you and God’s mercy and His blessings be upon you, you who stood by me, promised and fulfilled your promises.

And especially, I would like to mention Mrs. Erella, and Dr. Ehud, and Mr. Danny.

And I will never, in all my life, forget the dear brother Hamed Qawasmeh, and how he assisted me in my journey. I wish you full health and longevity.

And from the bottom of my heart I thank the people whom I don’t know personally, who made the purchase of the car financially possible. I cherish each and every one of you for your generosity.


I wish I could be available for you and return your favor, all that you made possible for me, but I am completely disabled and unable to move. I pray for your sake, that God will speed you in all your deeds  for humanity and for every person  in need, in every place you will reach. Also, I pray for all people from all religions, to feel each other’s needs, and for peace to prevail in our country, and for all of us to be friends, and to love and respect one another, and help one another, since life, if we calculate them in days and hours, are very short. So, why not be good people who feel each other’s needs? And when we leave this life, those who outlive us will remember us in our good deeds.


Thank you all for extending a helping hand and being true to your word. Thank you all.

And I have a request from you, my friends Erella, Ehud, Danny, Nadav and Hamed – please keep in touch and don’t stop visiting me.

I pray for your health with joy. Thank you.

  Muhammad Suleiman Awad


Muhammad and Erella Muhammad in the car Muhammad with Hamed and Erella Muhammad with the Villages Group's visitors Muhammad's car


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