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Two Weeks in Israel, March 2018

Pauline

Forums Admin
Trip Plan
March 12 - 26
7 nights - Jerusalem, Colony Suites - Levant
Pickup car (Hertz)
2 nights - Ein Gedi Hotel
4 nights - Haifa, Carmel Home Mount Seaview
1 night - Tel Aviv, Melody Hotel

---------------------------------------------
We’ve arrived! We took a taxi from the airport to the German Colony neighborhood of Jerusalem, driving through dry, rocky, terraced hills with olive trees, with large modern concrete cities in the distance. As we got closer to Jerusalem the highway had tall concrete walls on either side to separate it from the Palestinian Territories. Once we were into the city it was crowded and busy. We drove past The Knesset, the government buildings, then descended into the very charming German Colony neighborhood where we have rented an apartment for a week.

The apartment is comfortable and nice, on the ground floor of an older building set back from Emek Refayim St, which is busy with people, shops and restaurants. We had takeout Asian food for dinner. Steve is having fun reading the Hebrew signs.

The drive to the airport hotel last night was horrible, in thick traffic, even at a standstill for some time because of an accident, and took 4 hours instead of 3. Plus it was raining. We were up at 5:30 this morning for an 8am flight, so are exhausted. We flew premium economy which was good.

19296D51-C00B-4972-B309-05A70479D277.jpeg

Emek Refayim St, with lights in the trees.
 
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Pauline

Forums Admin
Today was our getting settled day. We had coffee and bagel for breakfast at the Bagel Cafe across the street. Then we did some grocery shopping. There is an excellent natural foods store a couple of blocks away. Better than what we have in Bridport.

Lunch at “home” then we headed towards the Old City. We walked on the Train Line Park, a lovely walking and bike trail (well separated), that goes to First Station, the old train station turned into a pretty center of restaurants, and with another very good natural foods store. It was 15 mins walking to First Station, then another 25 to the Old City.

Our first view of it from a park on a hill was outstanding. Huge stone walls, built in the 16th century to replace older ones, surround the Old City. We followed pathways through the park and made our way to the Old City.

We saw a dozen tour buses on the road around the city walls and as we got closer there were more and more people. We reached Jaffa Gate and it was crowded. The tourist office there was pretty useless. We got a map, were told how to get to the central bus station to get the pass we have to have to ride the bus, and told there was no bus information in English.

Our plan had been to just see Jaffa Gate because we have a private guide booked for tomorrow to show us the Old City, but there we were on the edge and we decided to just walk across to see the Western Wall. Huge mistake. Within minutes we were in narrow lanes lined with shops, packed with tourists (mostly Americans), and got lost. After what felt like forever we saw a sign for the Western Wall viewing area, went there and were finally out if the narrow covered lanes, with sunshine and fresh air and a beautiful view.

With much difficulty we found our way back mostly avoiding the covered lanes. At least now we will really appreciate the guide tomorrow!

We couldn’t take a bus (no pass and you can no longer buy tickets onboard, didn’t know which bus to take) so we walked back but went on the main roads and got to see the YMCA (in a fanmous building) and the King David Hotel. Plus the Hertz office where we pick up our rental car next week and attempt to drive out of the city in thick traffic.

We had a late afternoon tea and coffee at First Station then hoofed it home. It was 6pm by the time we got back and getting cold. The weather is similar to Santa Fe (where we lived for 20 years). Big blue skies, bright sun, warm days but cold nights. Today was in the upper 60s F and felt beautifully warm. We had such a horrible winter in Dorset and it is so nice to get some bright sun.

Things seem shockingly expensive but probably are really similar to the UK and since 3.4 shekels is 1USD, but you don’t get that rate. So With the official rate, 34 shekels is $10. Breakfast, coffee and a toasted bagel, was 38 shekels, over $10. I bought a can of Illy ground coffee, 50 shekels, which is about $14.50, pretty expensive. Our apartment was priced in USD, $950 for the week, electricity extra.

Speaking of our apartment, they went out of their way to get fragrance-free sheets and towels for us! So is the apartment in Haifa.

So far I love it here!






 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Our internet connection is slow. I can’t tether to my phone because we don’t get 3G or 4G in the apartment. And I did not bring our Surface PC because I was nervous about bringing anything through Israeli security, so I am tapping this out on my iPad. I didn’t even bring my usual kitchen stuff which was a big mistake because the knives in the apartment are useless. We did get to travel lighter than usual - one 21 inch suitcase and one 25 inch.
 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
I am so glad that you are having a nice time ---- and the weather!

The Jaffa Gate ---- Yes, not really a tourist office, although I am not sure I have ever been there to try it. I think it's much better to enter the Old City through the Dung Gate or the Zion Gate if you are heading for the Western Wall and surroundings. The Jaffa Gate is good for the Arab shuk, where I haven't been in ages but is interesting to see at least once. Most probably you are meeting your guide tomorrow somewhere at the Mamilla Mall near the Jaffa gate, but I may be wrong.

For buses: The procedures just changed last week, I know. Our friend "Shuffaluff" has all the information, and maybe your guide Madeleine can direct you to one of the few places that you can buy the Rav Kav card I know that one of them is on Jaffa Road about halfway between Zion Square and Machane Yehuda...
And I use an app called "Moovit" to figure out what bus to take from where I am to where I need to go. Google Maps may also work.

Can't wait to read about your tour of the Old City...
 

Valerie

100+ Posts
How exciting! Photo of those narrow covered lanes! (We got stuck once in a crowd in the super-narrow streets of Naples and it kinda freaked me out, even though I'm usually not claustrophobic.)

the knives in the apartment are useless.
That is always my biggest peeve in rentals; I usually end up buying a new cheap knife or two and leaving them behind, just to avoid a week of dullness frustration!

This is so cool to follow along!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Today was our tour of the Old City. We started at 10 and ended at 4, which was enough time walking around the Old City. It was sunny and warm, and we forgot to bring our hats. We walked to the Old City (35 minutes) so we would start with a good walk because we knew we would be doing the tourist shuffle all day.

We started at the Jaffa Gate and went to the roof of the Citadel for good views of the Old City and beyond. We could see the hills in Jordan. Then we went to the Armenian Quarter where we saw their main church from the outside. You can only go in at specific times. You cannot walk through their neighborhood.

From there into the Jewish Quarter. This section was purposely destroyed in the war of 1948 when all Jews were removed by Jordan. In the war of 1967 Israel got control back and rebuilt the whole quarter. We watched a short film about the Jewish resistance in the 1948 war.

During this reconstruction many ancient Roman sites were uncovered. Now you can see the main Roman road and remaining columns (the Cardo). It was all very interesting.

We saw groups of Jewish school children playing ball outside a school. I don’t know why but I found that really touching, these young boys in religious dress, runnng around kicking a ball. When we were at the citadel we were surrounded by a group of Arab school children with their teacher trying get them to be quiet.

We went down to the Western Wall, to a part of the wall beside them main part where we could touch it without the crowds of religious Jews. This area is being excavated and they are finding a lot of Roman remains. Herod built a lot of things here that have been covered up for a long time. We had to go through an airport style security to get into the Western Wall area.

Next into the Muslim Quarter where we went to a place for a view of the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount. You can go up to Temple Mount but only through the entrance near the Western Wall. It is open at specific times and there are long lines. Non-Muslims cannot go into the Dome of the Rock but can walk around it on Temple Mount. There are several exits and our guide took us to one where we could walk as far as the security guard let us and see the Dome of the Rock, which is beautiful, covered in tile and capped in gold.

Into the narrow streets lined with shops of all kinds. Candies, pastries, fruit and vegetables, regular supermarket type shops, clothes - everything. Stands selling fresh juices - orange, pomegranate. Coffee shops selling thick Arabic coffee. Piles of raw almonds that are in season now. Spice shops with piles of spices.

We had lunch in a small hole in the wall place where we had falafels, hummus, pita, and salad things. The best falafel I’ve had. 30 shekels for the 3 of us. Very reasonable for such good food.

On to the Christian Quarter. It was more crowded here and I was starting to fade. We went into the main Christian site, the Church of the Sepulchre. The stations of the cross run through the Old City and the last 5 are in this church. It is amazing to think these are the real stations, this was where Christ walked, where he was crucified and buried.

Calvery was on the outskirts of the city during this time but since then this church was built over it. There were long lines to touch the rock where he was crucified and also to see the tomb. We did not do this but were able to see the rock and then saw other tombs right behind the one they think he was in. Even for a lapsed Catholic this was pretty emotional.

We ended having a cup of mint tea in a rug shop (why? did our guide think we wanted to buy rugs?). The tea was good and we chatted with the shop owner who is friends with our guide. This was the only sour note in a very good day with our guide.

We were back at Jaffa Gate. She normally does a longer tour but we only wanted 6 hours. My foot is still hurting and I can only take so much of these crowds.

We left our guide and had a leisurely walk back, stopping for fresh pomegranate juice along the way. This is what you do with pomegranates - juice them!

I feel overwhelmed by what we saw. This was our first time hiring a guide and it was worth it for this. It is difficult to find your way around and things are hidden away.

We walked almost 7 miles today.








 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
Today was our tour of the Old City. We started at 10 and ended at 4, which was enough time walking around the Old City. It was sunny and warm, and we forgot to bring our hats. We walked to the Old City (35 minutes) so we would start with a good walk because we knew we would be doing the tourist shuffle all day.

We started at the Jaffa Gate and went to the roof of the Citadel for good views of the Old City and beyond. We could see the hills in Jordan. Then we went to the Armenian Quarter where we saw their main church from the outside. You can only go in at specific times. You cannot walk through their neighborhood.

From there into the Jewish Quarter. This section was purposely destroyed in the war of 1948 when all Jews were removed by Jordan. In the war of 1967 Israel got control back and rebuilt the whole quarter. We watched a short film about the Jewish resistance in the 1948 war.

During this reconstruction many ancient Roman sites were uncovered. Now you can see the main Roman road and remaining columns (the Cardo). It was all very interesting.

We saw groups of Jewish school children playing ball outside a school. I don’t know why but I found that really touching, these young boys in religious dress, runnng around kicking a ball. When we were at the citadel we were surrounded by a group of Arab school children with their teacher trying get them to be quiet.

We went down to the Western Wall, to a part of the wall beside them main part where we could touch it without the crowds of religious Jews. This area is being excavated and they are finding a lot of Roman remains. Herod built a lot of things here that have been covered up for a long time. We had to go through an airport style security to get into the Western Wall area.

Next into the Muslim Quarter where we went to a place for a view of the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount. You can go up to Temple Mount but only through the entrance near the Western Wall. It is open at specific times and there are long lines. Non-Muslims cannot go into the Dome of the Rock but can walk around it on Temple Mount. There are several exits and our guide took us to one where we could walk as far as the security guard let us and see the Dome of the Rock, which is beautiful, covered in tile and capped in gold.

Into the narrow streets lined with shops of all kinds. Candies, pastries, fruit and vegetables, regular supermarket type shops, clothes - everything. Stands selling fresh juices - orange, pomegranate. Coffee shops selling thick Arabic coffee. Piles of raw almonds that are in season now. Spice shops with piles of spices.

We had lunch in a small hole in the wall place where we had falafels, hummus, pita, and salad things. The best falafel I’ve had. 30 shekels for the 3 of us. Very reasonable for such good food.

On to the Christian Quarter. It was more crowded here and I was starting to fade. We went into the main Christian site, the Church of the Sepulchre. The stations of the cross run through the Old City and the last 5 are in this church. It is amazing to think these are the real stations, this was where Christ walked, where he was crucified and buried.

Calvery was on the outskirts of the city during this time but since then this church was built over it. There were long lines to touch the rock where he was crucified and also to see the tomb. We did not do this but were able to see the rock and then saw other tombs right behind the one they think he was in. Even for a lapsed Catholic this was pretty emotional.

We ended having a cup of mint tea in a rug shop (why? did our guide think we wanted to buy rugs?). The tea was good and we chatted with the shop owner who is friends with our guide. This was the only sour note in a very good day with our guide.

We were back at Jaffa Gate. She normally does a longer tour but we only wanted 6 hours. My foot is still hurting and I can only take so much of these crowds.

We left our guide and had a leisurely walk back, stopping for fresh pomegranate juice along the way. This is what you do with pomegranates - juice them!

I feel overwhelmed by what we saw. This was our first time hiring a guide and it was worth it for this. It is difficult to find your way around and things are hidden away.

We walked almost 7 miles today.








I know this juice bar!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Today we did a walking tour from the Eyewitness Guidebook - A 90 Minute Walk Around West Jerusalem. It starts on Jaffa Road outside the Old City.

We are having a problem figuring out buses. You can only use them with a Rav Kav card (this started earlier this month). You cannot pay on the bus. And there are only a few places to buy this card, none close to us. We would have to go to the central bus station. Even with the card it isn’t easy to figure out the routes. The routes have numbers but the destination on the bus is in Hebrew. The tourist office could not give us a map of the bus routes. I thought we would get all this organised on Tuesday but we didn’t. So far we have been walking everywhere. It is 30 minutes from our apartment on a very nice route to get to the Old City or to the start of Jaffa Road. I think we will give up on buses since they stop running Friday afternoon for the Sabbath so it would only be Sunday we could use them. We leave Jerusalem Monday. I think we can use the cards in Haifa too, so we will have to deal with that there. Instead we will take taxis.

Today we decided to walk to the start of our walk and we took our time walking on the Train Track Park to First Station. We looked at the art installation along the walk (interesting mosaics) and at the beautiful houses. Then we looked at a few things in the area around the Montefiore windmill. Housing built in the late 1800s to try to get people to move out of the Old City. A stone tomb that might have been Herods.

The walk started up Jaffa Road, then went into some narrow lanes. The guidebook pointed out interesting historic buildings along the way. The vegetarian restaurant I had picked out for lunch, the Village Green, was on the route and we had a really good lunch there. We continued up to the Mahane Yehuda Market. This market is the best I have been too. Wonderful vegetables, fruit, spices, halvah, coffee shops, etc. We didn’t buy anything but we looked and looked. It was busy but not packed.

Then back down Jaffa Road. We cut it short to get back to Zion Square to have tea/coffee at Tmol Shilshom, a Cafe recommended by @ItalophileNJ , which features in season 2 of the Irsraeli TV drama we are watching. I had my new favourite tea - a handful of fresh mint in hot water with a tea bag. Steve had espresso.

It was around 3pm and we were tired but the drinks revived us so we walked home a different route to see more of the city. We walked past the American Consulate, with many armed guards outside. Made our way back to First Station and got a ew things at the Natural Foods Store because everything will close Friday afternoon for the Sabbath. Walked back along the Train Track Park. Had fresh pomegranate juice #2. Then home.

We got takeout Chinese food from a place down the road (we also did this the day we arrived) and realised we had eaten every meal out today, starting with breakfast at the Bagel Cafe because a water jug had leaked in the fridge and soaked the bread that was for breakfast. We hardly ever eat out in the UK so this was a major treat.

While waiting for our dinner to be ready we walked around and found the old cinema in this area, which also featured in the TV series (Srugim). We might go see a movie tomorrow.

We are both having a wonderful time and we love it here.









 

Pauline

Forums Admin
One of my Jewish friends emailed to say that what I wrote about the Western Wall was wrong. The area we went to, beside the main area, is for religious Jews. Orthodox Jews use the main Western Wall area, but conservative or reform Jews are making this other area their own. There was no one there when we were.

I don’t understand all the different ways of following the Jewish faith. We see many religious people in various styles of dress. I recognise the Orthodox from seeing them in New York but there are other variations that I don’t understand. I do like being in a Jewish country even if I am not Jewish. Steve is Jewish and I like seeing him here with people similar to him. He doesn’t feel like this is a “roots” trip for him but I feel that it is. If any of his Eastern European relations survived WWII, they could be here. With all the antisemitism in the UK and Europe, it feels safer here!

I also like the food rules. Our apartment is Kosher. We have one set of plates, cutlery and pots for dairy, another for meat. We even have different kitchen sponges! We do not eat meat but we don’t eat much dairy. The only dairy I brought in is butter for morning toast and I am careful with it. The meat section has better pots, but I can use them because I don’t cook with dairy.

I too have arbitrary food rules, so I can accept the seemingly arbitrary Kosher rules. The food quality is very good. Good local fruit and vegetables. Easy access to natural foods like organic grains. If I eat in a dairy restaurant I know I won’t be served something with meat by mistake.
 

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Really enjoying your report, Pauline. Brings back memories of my trip 10 years ago. I was on my own and wandered about. Reading your report I kinda wished I had had a guide. I stayed at the gorgeous Y before it was renovated. It is an amazing city. I liked reading your thoughts about keeping kosher. I guess it would fit with your diet as you really wouldn't have to worry too much about the different plates
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
It is Friday, which in Israel is the start of the weekend. In our neighbourhood the cafes were packed and the stores busy. Everyone does their food shopping for tonight and Saturday because everything closes around 3pm Friday and doesn’t open until Saturday after sunset or Sunday. Religious Jews do their cooking on Friday because once the Sabbath starts at sunset, they cannot do any cooking or driving until after sunset on Saturday.

Today was our day to explore our area. In the morning we went to the small farmers market. It was hard to find because it is tucked in behind the community center at 12 Emek Refaim. We missed it, explored around some more, then found it. Lots of good looking produce.

Next we headed to the Grand Cafe, recommended by @ItalophileNJ (she knows this neighbourhood), on the other Main Street of the German Colony, Derech Beit Lehem, which run parallel to the street we are on, Emek Refaim. DBL is less busy and the houses along it are beautiful! We found a really good bakery/deli and got our Challah (sold everywhere on Friday) and some very nice vegan dips. Then coffee sitting outside in the sun.

We walked east into Talpiot, to the Haas Promenade for an outstanding view of old Jerusalem. We were on a hill looking across a valley to the Mount of Olives, Kidron Valley and the Old City. We could see Mount Zion outside the city walls. Also the YMCA and King David Hotel.

The Haas Promenade is one of the many parks you see around the city, named for the families who donated the money for them, mostly Americans and Canadians. We even saw a small park for Terry Fox from Canada, paid for by a Canadian family in his memory. Some are large parks, some are beautiful stone walkways like the Haas Promenade, some are fountains. All of these combined with normal city parks, makes Jerusalem much greener than I had imagined. Many streets and walkways are lines with large rosemary plants, also some lavender.

This part of town was once outside of the city, but the city has sprawled to meet it. There are several modern high rise apartment buildings in the area.

We went back to the German Colony and stopped at a falafel stand that I had read was vegan, but the guys there who didn’t speak much English said they didn’t know what vegetarian or vegan meant. The menu was in Hebrew and we were having trouble ordering but a woman who had just been served helped us order. We ended up with a round flat pita, spread with hummus, then salad and pickles, tnem about 6 falafel. A few French Fries on top, then it was rolled up. We took them home and they were very good.

In the afternoon we walked on the Train Track Park, but the opposite way we’ve been going, this time heading away from the center. The German Colony is an upscale area and once you get out, the art installations always the path stop and the surroundings get shabbier. Lots of people walking, running and biking on the path, but not so many that it makes it crowded. They path ends after going through an Arab neighbourhood. It takes less than an hour to walk the path from First Station to the end and it is easy, flat walking.

We headed out again around 5pm and found more people out on the street, all heading to the synagogue. Very loud music was in the air, possibly from the synagogue announcing that start of Shabbat (which I’ve probably spelled wrong). Steve was thrilled when a man walking past us wished him Shabbat Shalom, Happy Sabbath. Then when we walked past the synagogue without going in another older man gave us a very disappointed look.

We walked into the Katamon neighbourhood looking for places we see in that TV show, but did not find any.

Dinner at home tonigh because there are no other options.

Another wonderful day in this very interesting city.





 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
It is Friday, which in Israel is the start of the weekend. In our neighbourhood the cafes were packed and the stores busy. Everyone does their food shopping for tonight and Saturday because everything closes around 3pm Friday and doesn’t open until Saturday after sunset or Sunday. Religious Jews do their cooking on Friday because once the Sabbath starts at sunset, they cannot do any cooking or driving until after sunset on Saturday.

Today was our day to explore our area. In the morning we went to the small farmers market. It was hard to find because it is tucked in behind the community center at 12 Emek Refaim. We missed it, explored around some more, then found it. Lots of good looking produce.

Next we headed to the Grand Cafe, recommended by @ItalophileNJ (she knows this neighbourhood), on the other Main Street of the German Colony, Derech Beit Lehem, which run parallel to the street we are on, Emek Refaim. DBL is less busy and the houses along it are beautiful! We found a really good bakery/deli and got our Challah (sold everywhere on Friday) and some very nice vegan dips. Then coffee sitting outside in the sun.

We walked east into Talpiot, to the Haas Promenade for an outstanding view of old Jerusalem. We were on a hill looking across a valley to the Mount of Olives, Kidron Valley and the Old City. We could see Mount Zion outside the city walls. Also the YMCA and King David Hotel.

The Haas Promenade is one of the many parks you see around the city, named for the families who donated the money for them, mostly Americans and Canadians. We even saw a small park for Terry Fox from Canada, paid for by a Canadian family in his memory. Some are large parks, some are beautiful stone walkways like the Haas Promenade, some are fountains. All of these combined with normal city parks, makes Jerusalem much greener than I had imagined. Many streets and walkways are lines with large rosemary plants, also some lavender.

This part of town was once outside of the city, but the city has sprawled to meet it. There are several modern high rise apartment buildings in the area.

We went back to the German Colony and stopped at a falafel stand that I had read was vegan, but the guys there who didn’t speak much English said they didn’t know what vegetarian or vegan meant. The menu was in Hebrew and we were having trouble ordering but a woman who had just been served helped us order. We ended up with a round flat pita, spread with hummus, then salad and pickles, tnem about 6 falafel. A few French Fries on top, then it was rolled up. We took them home and they were very good.

In the afternoon we walked on the Train Track Park, but the opposite way we’ve been going, this time heading away from the center. The German Colony is an upscale area and once you get out, the art installations always the path stop and the surroundings get shabbier. Lots of people walking, running and biking on the path, but not so many that it makes it crowded. They path ends after going through an Arab neighbourhood. It takes less than an hour to walk the path from First Station to the end and it is easy, flat walking.

We headed out again around 5pm and found more people out on the street, all heading to the synagogue. Very loud music was in the air, possibly from the synagogue announcing that start of Shabbat (which I’ve probably spelled wrong). Steve was thrilled when a man walking past us wished him Shabbat Shalom, Happy Sabbath. Then when we walked past the synagogue without going in another older man gave us a very disappointed look.

We walked into the Katamon neighbourhood looking for places we see in that TV show, but did not find any.

Dinner at home tonigh because there are no other options.

Another wonderful day in this very interesting city.





Another lovely description of your day, thanks, Pauline. And so glad you got to and enjoyed the Grand Cafe. Lovely for sitting outside in the food weather you are enjoying.

Also: At least a few of the restaurants in the First Station complex are not kosher and are open on Shabbat. The Cafe Landwer is one of them. Can’t remember the others.
It’s nice to be on the Boardwalk on Shabbat. Orthodox families walking with their kids, others walking too or just enjoying the bike path on a peaceful day off.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
If you're looking for something to do tomorrow, the Israel Museum, and the Bible Lands Museum are both open, and each is fascinating.
We have 2 days left and I think we are going to skip the museums. Tomorrow I want to see Mount of Olives and City of David. I want to see those huge graveyards. Maybe go back into the Old City to see the first few stations of the cross. Sunday we want to do the walking tour from Eyewitness of East Jerusalem. We’ve just run out of time! Plus we’ve kept a relaxed pace. I’ll try to work Israel Museum in one of those days because i know we would like it. But I also know we will be back!

And we are getting great weather. Sunny, mid 60sF and getting warmer. Meanwhile Dorset is getting snow this weekend.
 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
Pauline I don’t think you can see much if any of the City of David on Shabbat. I believe you mean the City of David excavations, tunnels, etc which are part of the National Park. I had thought you would have done this with your guide the first day but I now realize you did not.
I am not sure about accessing the Mount of Olives as I haven’t been there since 1969. At any rate, there are lots of warnings about as to tourists being hassled there, and safest route either going up or going down —— but maybe you’ve already checked this.

About to “unplug” myself now, and finish getting ready for Shabbat in sunny but very cold NJ.
 

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