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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Viva La Revolutione de Aliyah!

Garins (literally "core" or "seed" groups making Aliyah together) are back in style. There are several being put together in the NYC area and a successful Garin from Montreal that settled in Be'er Sheva just released a documentary about their Aliyah journey.

Check it out (click here)

Much of it is in French, with English subtitles.

Viva La Revolutione de Aliyah!

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Aliyah L'Regel

[Har Habayit]

It's Aliyah L'Regel season again! Sukkot is one of the three holidays when all Jews are commanded to go up to Jerusalem and celebrate the holiday there. The culmination of this pilgrimage used to be the ascent to Har Habayit, to the Beit Hamikdash, where the Korban "Olat Reiah" was brought. We cannot do that today, but we can do so much more than we could in the not-too-distant past. We can go up to Jerusalem, and we can go up to Har Habayit, bringing the day closer when we can stand in the courtyard of the Third Temple.

In order to facilitate these important mitzvot, Kumah is introducting the Har Habayit Visitors Guide. It contains some important halachic and practical guidelines for ascending Har Habayit. In the future, we will add pictures and write-ups from different people's visits. Kumah encourages every Jew who is able to go up to Har Habayit this Chol Hamoed. And of course, write to us or post here and let us know about the experience.

Also, you can read my article, Three Times A Year, about this mitzva, and some ideas to facilitate it.

You can also celebrate this Aliyah Revolution with a Kumah Aliyah Revolution T-shirt! As a special offer for the holiday, if you order a shirt by Hoshana Rabba, shipping is free!

Chag Sameach!
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Thursday, September 23, 2004

May G-d hear our prayers this Yom Kippur!

"My beloved is like a gazelle or a young hart: Behold, He stands behind our wall, He looks in at the windows, He peers through the lattice."
- Shir ha Shirim (Song of Songs 2:9)

The picture is of Lisa and Jeremy Goldman's windows, in their new home in the town of Eshchar, facing Carmiel, in the Galil.
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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Media Propaganda Machine At Work

I know. I know. Why are these Kumah people all obsessed with Madonna?

Well this really isn't about Madonna at all. (Or should we call her Esther?) It's about how the worldwide media manipulates the public's perception of living in Israel. So on Sunday Madonna remarked basically - and I'm reading between the lines here - how she too was fooled into believing Israel is a dangerous war zone. But she now knows after seeing Israel without looking though the adulterated lenses of Reuters "that it is no more dangerous to be here than it is to be in New York."

So what's the now exposed Reuters to do? Report on how Madonna has figured it out? Report on how they have been lying to the world for who knows how long? Wouldn't it be easier to just quote Madonna out of context? Twist her words around so it sounds like she is actually saying, "Reuters is right on the money when they tell you you're nuts to come here!" Well, you be the judge.

This is how Reuters reports it:

Pop star Madonna (news - web sites) speaks at the Kabbalah International Conference in Tel Aviv September 19, 2004. Madonna was hesitant to visit Israel because of news reports about violence but found the biggest danger was 'a few very naughty Paparazzi.' 'To be perfectly honest I was a bit hesitant to come here after seeing so many news reports about terrorist attacks and reading countless travel safety warnings,' she said. (Pool/Reuters)

Is it just me or didn't they leave out the most important part of her statement?

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Monday, September 20, 2004

Just Like New York


Madonna said she was hesitant to come to Israel "after seeing so many news reports about terror attacks" and reading State Department travel warnings.

"I realize now that it is no more dangerous to be here than it is to be in New York," she told the gathering of more than 1,000 people.

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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Calling All Aliyah Blogs!

Years ago, when we started this site, we had the idea to chronicle people's Aliyah experiences, in a section called On Our Way Home. The section was successful, but it always remained small. Fortunately, the internet has developed blogs, allowing many recent olim to chronicle their Aliyah experiences online. Aliyah blogs help spread the word that Aliyah is possible, and a great experience, and that real people are doing it.

If you are an oleh or olah, or in the process of becoming one, and you have a blog, please send us an email to arise at kumah dot org, and we will link to your blog on the box on the side called Aliyah Blogs. If you don't have a blog, and would like to start one, check out Blogger, which is the service we use to maintain the Kumah blog.
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By The Book

The following article was written by Sara Levy for "The Kosher Spirit."
It can be found here. Simple put, this is a excellent piece and a must read. One would be wise to take some advice from David Ben-Gurion on how we should view the Jewish State.

By The Book
By Sara Levy

In 1936, the British government created a commission, headed by Viscount Peel, to study the conflict between Jews and Arabs in the protectorate of Palestine. The commission was to submit its proposals to King George. On the witness stand was a Tanach (Bible), a Koran, and a Christian Bible. Each witness taking the stand was required to take an oath, swearing on his or her holy book.

One of the last witnesses to testify before the commission was the chairman of the Jewish Agency, David Ben-Gurion. At the conclusion of his testimony, the following exchange took place between Ben-Gurion and Lord Peel.

Lord Peel: Where were you born?

Ben-Gurion: In Plonsk.

Lord Peel: Where is Plonsk?

Ben-Gurion: In Poland.

Lord Peel: That is very strange. All the Arab witnesses who appeared before this commission-Nusseibah, Nasabiba, al-Tal, and al-Husseini-were born here in Palestine. And almost all of the Jewish witnesses who appeared before us were not born here. You say that this is your home, but someone else lives here now-the Arabs. There is an international law which states that if somebody contests the right of someone who is holding on to property, he must submit documentary proof of ownership (or, as it was called in the Ottoman Empire, a kushan) that the property belongs to him even though he was not born there.

Ben-Gurion lifted the Bible and said, "Lord Peel, surely we have a kushan, this is our kushan-the Bible. The British are a nation that respects the Bible. Is our historical right, as stated in the Bible, less authentic than a document penned by some clerk in some land registry office? This is an everlasting document in which it is written: 'To your children I have given this land.' G-d promised this land to our Father Abraham and to his descendants. There is no doubt that we are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

The Jewish people have been scattered to the four corners of the earth, like chaff in the wind. We have faced centuries of persecution and seen the rise and fall of great empires. As the world has shifted around us, one constant has remained: We are a nation with our eyes turned toward the Land of Israel. Our thrice-daily prayers are directed east, toward Jerusalem. We have never forgotten our birthright, the Promised Land.

For over two millennia, conquerors have risen and fallen, but none has managed to make the Holy Land flourish and bloom. Instead, Israel has been a land awaiting her people, like a mother yearning for her children's return.

How do we know that Israel is still ours? In Genesis (12:5-7) we read:
[Abraham and his family] came to the land of Canaan. And Abraham traveled in the land until the place of Shechem, and the Canaanites were yet in the land. And G-d appeared to Abraham and said: 'To your seed I will give this land,' and he built there an altar to G-d who appeared to him.

Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. Genesis (17:19-21) specifically mentions which son should inherit the land:
G-d said, 'But Sarah your wife will give birth to you a son, and you will call him Isaac, and I will sustain My covenant with him-an everlasting covenant-to his seed after him. And to Ishmael...I will give him to be a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, who Sarah will bear at this time next year.'

So why do we struggle today over the ownership of Israel? Why do we feel compelled to split up our eternal inheritance? Because we treat Israel as a secular state, created by mere mortals, rather than our birthright, granted us by G-d's promise. But arguing that Israel is a Jewish state because it was made so in 1948 by the nations of the world is not sufficient to silence the claims of the Arabs, the Vatican, the European Union, and the U.N. Instead, let us use the Bible as our proof. According to the Bible, the Land of Israel has always been ours, including Gaza, Judea, and Samaria.

Today, elected officials in the Knesset would barter away pieces of the land that G-d has given us in order to stop the bloodshed. But the bloodshed will only turn into a river as the terrorists move closer. To save lives, we must retain every inch of the Holy Land. Concessions by the Israeli government to terrorists send a message that we are wavering in our claim to the Land of Israel. This is our land, our heritage, given to us by G-d's own grace. We must stand strong before G-d as His Chosen People. Only then, will the resolve of our enemies weaken.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

CNN on the "Aliyah Revolution" (Yes, they used those words)

One of the classic moments of 5764:

CNN uses the term "Aliyah Revolution (Click to view segment)"

("Israeli government officials are calling it an 'Aliyah Revolution'," says the reporter)

Jews of the Exile: This year in Jerusalem. Seriously. Fo' real. I'll see you at the airport, with the big ram's horn in tow.

Shana Tova U'Metuka. How sweet it is to witness the ingathering.

(Thanks to Nefesh b'Nefesh for catching the CNN segment and displaying it on their new, super-useful web-site. May blessings pour forth like rivers in the Negev upon the staff and organizers of NbN, 5764's Aliyah Revolution 'Organization of the Year')
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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Shanna Tova from your Friends at Kumah

May this year be an Aliyah for all of us!



Alex and Tmima

Yishai and Ezra
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Monday, September 13, 2004

Exclusive: Ultra-Radical Militant Right-Wing Hard-Core Hardliner Settler Opposes Expulsion From Home


Noam Namir, a twelve-year-old girl from the threatened community of N'vei Dekalim, elicited prolonged cheers and applause when she addressed Prime Minister Sharon: "How could you threaten to throw me out of my home in Israel, after my grandmother was expelled from her home in Poland, my grandfather was thrown out of Spain, and my father was exiled from the Sinai town of Yamit? I don't know how any Jewish soldier or police officer could bring themselves to throw my family and me out of our house! How will they be able to listen to such an order?"

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Friday, September 10, 2004

Armed to Defend Our Homeland

This AP photo was taken near Kibbutz Mefalsim yesterday. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
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Monday, September 06, 2004

$ A Friendly Kumah Reminder $

Don't forget to give charity this Rosh Hashanah season! Charity is one of the major ways in which we endear Hashem toward us, engendering forgiveness in His heart, and it's one of the greatest ways in which we can emulate G-d. This is a little write-up on the best way to give charity, which you can find at

Maimonides' Eight Levels of Charity
(Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, 10:7-14)
There are eight levels of charity, each greater than the next.
[1] The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support a fellow Jew by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others...
[2] A lesser level of charity than this is to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from who he received. For this is performing a mitzvah solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the "anonymous fund" that was in the Holy Temple [in Jerusalem]. There the righteous gave in secret, and the good poor profited in secret. Giving to a charity fund is similar to this mode of charity, though one should not contribute to a charity fund unless one knows that the person appointed over the fund is trustworthy and wise and a proper administrator, like Rabbi Hananya ben Teradyon.
[3] A lesser level of charity than this is when one knows to whom one gives, but the recipient does not know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to walk about in secret and put coins in the doors of the poor. It is worthy and truly good to do this if those who are responsible for distributing charity are not trustworthy.
[4] A lesser level of charity than this is when one does not know to whom one gives, but the poor person does know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to tie coins into their robes and throw them behind their backs, and the poor would come up and pick the coins out of their robes so that they would not be ashamed.
[5] A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person directly into his hand, but gives before being asked.
[6] A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person after being asked.
[7] A lesser level than this is when one gives inadequately, but gives gladly and with a smile.
[8] A lesser level than this is when one gives unwillingly.

Not only is giving charity a halachic requirement (you MUST give 10% of all of your income to charity), it is a segulah for a good life ("charity saves from death")

If you are looking for a list of good charities to donate to, please contact shalom at

Of course, the Aliyah Revolution could always use a push. Donations to Kumah will be accepted with gratitude and excitement, as we are always seeking the means to bring the nation Home.

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Thursday, September 02, 2004

Kumah greets latest NefeshBNefesh Aliyah arrivals - at 3:30AM!

From IsraelNationalNews

Yet another group of North American Jews has made Aliyah (immigration to Israel), with their plane touching down at Ben-Gurion Airport in the wee hours of Thursday morning. The new olim (immigrants) numbered about 85, and were the last group of the summer sponsored by the Nefesh B'Nefesh organization.

The Nefesh crew: Dudy Starck, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, Motti Salzberg

Although the new Israelis arrived at 3:15 AM, scores of friends, family and Aliyah activists showed up at the airport to welcome them home to Israel. This was the fourth large group of North American olim to have arrived this summer. Over 1,500 North American Jews have made Aliyah with the help of grants from Nefesh B'Nefesh this summer alone ­ the same number as were assisted by Nefesh B'Nefesh in the previous two years combined.

Three previous chartered flights full of olim, one in July and two in August, were treated to a festive ceremony attended by government officials, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Today's olim did not expect a grand reception, but were still greeted by well-wishers and pro-Aliyah activists with banners, drums and guitars.

A new Israeli, a Jew in Israel

A contingent from the grassroots Aliyah movement Kumah-Americans Return to Zion were on hand, holding banners and distributing bumper stickers reading "Aliyah Revolution." As the new olim came out into the arrivals hall, Kumah members blew shofars, symbolizing the fulfillment of the daily prayer, "Sound the great ram's horn for our freedom, and raise the banner to gather our exiles and speedily gather us together from the four corners of the Earth to our Land."

Seminary girls support the movement

Naomi and Aaron Gassman were two of the first olim to pass through customs and enter the hall. They were greeted by a crowd singing the popular tune, "The children have returned to their borders." The couple was married one month ago in Los Angeles, and is moving to the Gush Etzion town of Efrat, just south of Jerusalem. "Is this not the best one month anniversary ever?" said Aaron, beaming after dancing with well-wishers.

Israeli cabdrivers are wise to the Revolution

Ellie Silverberg and Caty Hill, students studying in a Jerusalem seminary, said they had heard that another group of North American immigrants was arriving and "knew we had to come to the airport to greet them... We heard that there would not be a big organized reception, so we wanted to make sure there were people there to properly welcome them home," said Silverberg, who lives in Teaneck, New Jersey but hopes to make Aliyah herself in the near future.

Mmmm... Israel

Beth Furst, a new immigrant from Denver, Colorado, told's Ezra HaLevi that through her Aliyah, she knows she is finally fulfilling the will of her distant relative Ber Borochov, a famous Zionist of the turn of the previous century. Borochov was an ardent advocate of settling pre-state Israel, and led the faction within the Socialist Zionist party, Poalei Zion, that refused to accept Uganda as a substitute for the Land of Israel. "Ever since I visited here 20 years ago, I've yearned to come back," said Furst. "Why it took so long, I can't say."

When ye arrive in the Land
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Sabras, Cucumbers, and Horseback Riding

Akiva Werber, the Head of the Jewish Agency's Immigration and Absorption Department's Division for English-speaking Countries (say that three times fast), once told me a parable about Israelis.

He said Israelis are like the Sabra fruit, all hard and prickly on the outside but all soft-and mushy (and full of substance) on the inside. Then he continued. I seem to recall he was quoting his daughter. She said, on the other hand, in other developed countries people are more like cucumbers. Why cucumbers? Because they're all shiny and nice looking on the outside, but inside there really isn't all that much too them. (No offence to cucumber lovers).

Why do I bring this up? Well, there is a picture that is rapidly circulating around the blogsphere. I've been debating whether or not to post it here - but as it's likely you have already seen it anyway I'll just describe it instead.

So apparently at their wedding, a nice Jewish couple from Los Angeles, in what has got to be considered one of the greatest "shticks" (stunts) of all time, rode out on horseback after they were introduced at the first dance. Indeed from looking at the wedding pictures they posted online, the entire affair seems to have been quite as extravagant. And it's no secret, even if you haven't heard the "Wedding Song" on Abie Rotenberg's "Journeys II" album, that many Jewish American weddings tend to be more on the, shall we say, "shiny and good-looking" side.

Looking at those pictures got me thinking a bit about the pictures (posted right here at Kumah) of Yishai and Malkah's wedding in Chevron. Sure there weren't hundreds of fancy chandeliers hanging from the ceiling or polished brass hand railings. And there weren't any ponies either. But they were at Ma'arat Ha'Machpela! They were with our Fathers and Mothers!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe all this "horsing around" at Jewish weddings should serve as a wake-up call. Where are we now? Where are we headed? What is our goal as Jews?

What is really important?
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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Soldiers with the weapon of the future

Why I'm Moving to Israel
From Fox News

By Erica Chernofsky

When I tell people I spent the last year of my life studying abroad in Israel, they usually look at me funny and respond politely.

When I tell them I'm planning to move there permanently in August, the flabbergasted look on their face demands an explanation.

I'm a 21-year-old student at NYU majoring in journalism. I have blonde hair and blue eyes and a boyfriend. I come from the average American family, and look like the average American girl. So why am I leaving the land of opportunity to live, permanently, in a land ravaged by war?

A rabbi once told me that when God took Abraham to Canaan and showed him the land, promising it to Abraham's future generations, He also showed him every Jew that was ever to be born. The rabbi went on to explain that, according to the legend, when a Jew stands in the exact spot where thousands of years ago Abraham first beheld him, he becomes intimately and eternally bound to the land.

Like many Jews, I had been to this land, now called Israel, numerous times, to see the holy sights and visit the home of my forefathers. And while I felt a connection, and perhaps had the feeling of "coming home" that many Jews boast of, I never viewed the country as anything more than a place of religious and historical significance to visit every once in a while.

But two summers ago, when I visited Israel with my family, something was different. I suddenly felt a visceral need to identify with the people and the culture, and so I decided to spend a year abroad studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The only explanation, albeit fantastical, that I can offer is that perhaps that summer I stood in the very place where Abraham first regarded me, so many years ago, and my soul anchored itself in the sacred soil.

I was overcome with the realization that there was a country whose land had been promised to me, where millions of my people lived, yet their lives were so different from mine. I wanted to see that land and that life, learn about it, be part of it.

Mmmm.... Aliyah!

I quickly became part of life in Israel. I got used to having my bag checked every time I went into a store or restaurant, I got used to seeing my Israeli soldier friends walking around with huge M-16s on their shoulders. I mastered haggling with the taxi drivers. Taxis, not buses that was the rule my parents, and many of my friends' parents, issued before we left. With all the suicide bombings on buses, it just isn't worth the risk. And though I don't travel on buses, I'll admit I still feel frightened walking by a bus, or sitting at a red light in a taxi with a bus in the next lane. It's just too hard to get the television images of blown-up buses out of my head.

Two weeks after I arrived, I was lucky enough to land an internship at The Jerusalem Post, which was an invaluable opportunity for me as a young journalist. There, I was thrown right into the thick of things, with no choice but to learn quickly. On my very first day, I wrote an article that appeared in the newspaper, and while it wasn't front-page news, it was my debut into the world of journalism.

The internship was my first step into the "real world." The Post staff treated me like a full-fledged reporter, giving me assignments and deadlines and sending me around the country to gather information. It was great training, and it was often fun.

But, living in Jerusalem was also often very stressful.

I remember one night that was particularly nerve-racking. It was a Saturday night. My parents' plane had just taken off after a brief visit, and all my friends were on a weekend get-away hiking in the Golan. I was in my dorm at Hebrew University when I got a phone call from a friend in the Israeli army. He said he couldn't talk, but he wanted to warn me not to leave my dorm that night.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because we're on our way to Jerusalem right now to look for a terrorist who's on the loose, who according to intelligence is planning on blowing himself up in Jerusalem tonight."

I was terrified. I was all alone. I couldn't call my parents, and I was scared to leave my dorm. I had never before experienced such real fear and danger.

But in Israel, that sense of fear and danger is the norm. In Alaska, it's normal to wear snow boots all year round. In New York, that would be absurd. In Israel, the snow boots are simply bulletproof vests.

Life is about adjusting, and I'm still struggling with the adjustment.

When I told my best friend that I was going to Israel for a year, she couldn't believe it. She couldn't understand why I was going to spend a year of my life in a country filled with angry extremists who would jump at the chance to kill me.

Sinai Tor, Israeli singer, next to his home in Hebron

She was correct in that what we see on TV is scary images of the burned frames of blown-up buses or cafes, the Israeli military in the slums of the Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza.

But the majority of the cafes in Israel are modern, popular places where Israelis spend their evenings or lunch breaks, and many Palestinians are not the suffering, impoverished people we see on TV. Many live in mansions in developed Arab villages.

I explained all of this to my friend as best I could, but I didn't say what I was really thinking: Honestly, how safe is it to live anywhere these days? Today, terrorism is a global threat. How many New Yorkers were scared to go to work at the World Trade Center on that Tuesday morning in September 2001? But today, everybody is wary, everywhere in the world. The point is that we still go on living. Not just existing, but actually living. We can't live life scared to go around every corner, or none of us would ever leave the house.

It's no different in Israel. Living means putting the fear behind you.

Of course, managing the fear is a personal battle. On the one hand, no one wants to forget the 3-year-old child killed by a Palestinian rocket while he was walking to nursery school with his mother. On the other hand, we do want to forget. We want to move on and not dwell on all the sorrow and tragedy.

Yet while their survival requires Israelis to harden their hearts to the pain, to take a deep breath and push the grief out of their minds, doing so is slowly turning Israel into a very hardened country. I fear once I live there, I might harden with it; so while some may worry that I will lose my life, I worry more about losing my heart.

It is Israel's mostly futile effort to block out the pain of all the death that is causing them to lose the media war. The Palestinians bring the journalists and cameras into their homes, showcasing their anguish for the world.

Everyone can remember the last time they saw an Israeli bulldozer destroying a house, or an Israeli tank plowing through a Palestinian village. But rarely do we see the footage of the Israeli mothers, wives and children crying for lost relatives. We hear the names of the dead, but rarely do we see the victims who remain maimed and crippled. They do exist, but Israel avoids revealing its vulnerable side.

So instead, Israelis appear tough and military.

Oddly, once I arrived in Israel, I felt further from the war-torn country I was familiar with than when I was at home, watching suicide bombings and shootings on the news every day. There I was, living in what is technically considered East Jerusalem, and I was oblivious to the danger around me. Despite the terror, bombings and deaths, there is a living side to the country, and that's the Israel I became a part of.

And that's my answer to those who can't understand my decision to live in Israel, exactly what Israelis want the world to remember: People are actually living life there. It's not a third-world regime. It's not Afghanistan or Iraq. It's a modern democracy, just like the United States, trying to exterminate terrorism. The roads are paved, there are prestigious hospitals and universities and they even have The GAP and IKEA.

But none of that makes news, so we don't see it hence the flabbergasted looks when I say that after spending a year in Israel, I?m moving there permanently this summer.

So while perhaps it was my religious beliefs that led me to explore the country in the first place, it was the country itself, the people, the culture and the life, that kept me there.

Erica Chernofsky will graduate from NYU with a degree in journalism in January 2005, completing her last semester at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She was an intern with this summer, and moved to Israel earlier this month.

Rachel Fleisher in Hebron
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