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Useful Notes: Israel

Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two thousands years
To be a free people in our own land
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
— Refrain of "Hatikvah", "The Hope", national anthem of Israel

Note: This page discusses the modern incarnation of Israel. For ancient Israel, see The Bible.

The undisputed world champion in geopolitical buzz per square kilometer of dirt (now that the Cold war is over at least).

Israel, also known as the State of Israel (Hebrew: מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל‎, Medīnat Yisrā'el; Arabic: دولة إِسرائيل‎, Dawlat Isrāʼīl) is a Middle Eastern country whose population consists primarily of Jews and secondarily of native Arabs who are descendants of the families that remained after the 1948 Nakba (the "Catastrophe" in Arabic), although other ethnic communities are also present.

In terms of the modern Jewish history in the area, there has been a small (and shrinking) Jewish presence in the area that is modern-day Israel (centered around the Four Holy Cities: Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias) since the various Biblical upheavals that destroyed several Jewish kingdoms (Babylonians, Assyrians, Romans, etc.) and scattered its population across Europe, Asia, and Africa. However in the mid 19th century, after centuries of antisemetic persecution and pogroms throughout Europe (but particularly the Russian Empire) a Jewish movement steadily evolved, with the aim of ensuring the Jewish people would have a homeland where they could be protected from the antisemtic violence and discrimination.

This idea of finally solving "the Jewish question" was met with significant support by politicians and intellectuals in the more "liberal" (relatively speaking) western nations such as Britain, where both members of the aristocracy and government officials (including future British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who himself was of Jewish descent) spoke in support of the idea, and aided in the early planning of a possible mass migration of Jews to Palestine, which was then under the ownership of the Ottoman Empire, and thus a slow trickle of Jewish immigration to Palestine began.

In 1897, the early cause for providing the Jews with a homeland coalesced into the Zionist Movement, led by the World Zionist Council which had been founded by Jewish intellectuals Theodor Herzl and Nathan Birnbaum, partly in response to the infamous Dreyfus Affair, with the official aim of peacefully settling Palestine with Jewish refugees (though there was briefly considered a possible settlement in Uganda weirdly enough) as well as to keep the Jewish traditions, culture, and language alive (the language, Hebrew, was dead as a language of every day speech, and was revitalized with the founding of the Zionist state). However, as they were unable to get the permission of the Ottoman empire to do this on a large scale, they were initially able to only continue and support the small scale immigration.

However, the situation in Europe would only get worse, with the aforementioned Dreyfus affair being eclipsed by Russia's brutal new government sponsored pogroms in 1903, during which the Russian secret police created the infamous The Protocols of the Elders of Zion which seized upon the Zionist movement as "proof" that the Jews were secretly planning to take over the world. A charge that continues to this day in antisemitic circles and nations around the world, and indeed is taught as fact in the schools of several nations.

World War I changed all of this. By 1918, the Ottoman Turkish empire had lost control of its territory in Palestine to the French (who had a mandate over what is now Syria and Lebanon) and Palestine to the British who took control as mandated by the League of Nations. It should be mentioned here that even while WWI still was being fought the British and French reached the secret Sykes–Picot Agreement where they would divide the Middle East as loot between themselves. Abandoning earlier support promising Arabs in the region recognition of Arab independence. Note the secret part meant the British in particular were essentially lying through their their teeth to the same Arabs they had encouraged to revolt against the Ottoman Empire.

Perhaps more importantly for Zionists was a declaration by the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour in 1917, known as the Balfour Declaration, which promised to allow larger scale Jewish settlement in Palestine. This was a major breakthrough for the Zionist movement, as not only had a previously hostile ruler of Palestine been removed, but the nation which supplanted it was both Liberal towards the Jews (relatively speaking) and had also promised to let them settle, so long as it was peaceful and that the native Palestinian Arabs were respected. All in all it seemed that things were looking pretty good.

Unsuprisingly things were not that simple.

The past half century of Jewish interest in the area has perturbed many Palestinians, who believed this was the precursor to a full on Jewish takeover of their land. This fear had only been compounded by the growth of the Zionist movement and the threat Arab nationalists perceived this to be to their homeland, families and children. The Zionist plan of colonizing Palestine with large numbers of mostly European Jews in the 1920s caused serious concern amongst the Palestinians. Compounding the problems with Zionist colonization, was a (well justified) sense of betrayal felt by many Palestinians over the fact the British promised them independence during WWI yet now seemed to be betraying them in favor of the Jews.

In 1920 anti Jewish rioting broke out in Jerusalem, in response to the Jewish immigrants, during which enraged Palestinians attacked Jewish areas in Jerusalem, causing massive devastation to Jewish property and murdering several Jews. The Haganah was formed, who would later become the core of the IDF, in response to these riots and the feeling amongst the Jewish community that the British mandate authorities were taking insufficient action to prevent them.

These tensions irritated Britain, which had had plenty of experience of just how hellish religious and political sectarianism could get in Ireland, India, and other Imperial territories, and thus desired any Jewish immigration to be as low key and slow as possible, as to not alienate Muslim allies and partners, nor cause a major civil war related headache in the territory.

Eventually, tensions grew even worse and were exacerbated by economic and social problems, causing a full blown war to break out in the 1936 Arab uprising, Britain crushed the rebellion, though massive distrust and bitterness still festered. The British authorities began to put limits on Jewish immigration.

During the 1930s however, a new threat to the Jews emerged in the form of a new political movement known as Fascism which was sweeping central Europe, with Antisemitism being almost always a key component in this movement, and more significant was the appearance of a bizarrely mustachioed Austrian Corporal who had come to power in Germany. Due to this increasingly terrifying political reality for Jews in Europe, many of the wealthier ones fled to Palestine.

You can probably guess what happened next.

World War II and the Holocaust resulted in the murder of two thirds of the Jews in Europe, and the utter extermination of nearly every Jewish community which had sheltered Ashkenazi Jews for centuries. Now Zionism, once seen as a pointless pipe dream by many European Jews, now seemed to be an utmost necessity to survival.

During the War, Britain had persisted in trying to keep tensions to a minimum by minimizing the influx of Jews to Palestine, especially now that this had become a major ideological issue for many soon-to-be Muslim states, states which, being only recently made colonies of Allied powers, could easily be persuaded to make common cause with the Axis should they be provoked. However, this then caused active Jewish resistance to British rule, either by way of illegally bringing more Jews into Palestine, or actively attacking British soldiers and officials (with some like the Lehi having started attacking British soldiers and bases during UsefulNotes/WW2, even attempting to ally with Hitler to drive the British out) This developed into a rather brutal guerrilla war, with the expected atrocities committed by both Jewish insurgency and British retaliations, further dividing the Jewish immigrants and Britain.

However, by this point Britain's empire was being steadily disassembled, and Arab oil was vital to Britain and its interests, so Britain continued trying to keep some semblance of balance between the Palestinians and the Jews while drawing up plans for British withdrawal and not wanting to get involved in any resulting war. They also made passionate moral arguments (with varying degrees of sincerity) against the mass immigration - surely, they said, if the Jews left Europe, then the anti-semitic argument that they could not co exist with Gentiles was as good as granted? The British were also extremely annoyed by other nations essentially dumping their refugees on the British Empire - President Truman, for instance, issued only 100,000 visas for European Jews, whilst encouraging 300,000 to go to Palestine. This resulted in many Jews escaping Europe to either be interned or even forcibly deported after attempting to illegally enter Palestine. Needless to say, this was a PR nightmare for Britain, and resulted in the UN stepping in to effectively order Britain to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and a Palestinian state, a demand now supported by both the US and the Soviet Union.

Despite extreme reluctance, Britain eventually agreed to the UN's demands, and in 1948 pulled out. Their fears of a war between the Jewish immigrants the Arab states already realized the Jewish insurgency rolling right into a Civil War before the British even withdrew. The day that Israel declared independence, based on the United Nations plan that was rejected by Palestinians and Arab states, war was declared by seven Arab states. Palestinians were expelled from the areas they lived in in accordance of Plan Dalet or ordered to leave by their leaders, depending on who you ask. By 1949 the war had finished in Israel's favor, but with massive tensions with the Arab world, and serious issues regarding the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees still simmering. To make things more complicated, 800,000–1,000,000 Jews either left willingly, what Zionist organizations termed aliyah, or were expelled from their homes in Arab countries. The majority of Israel's Jewish population are descended from these Jews and other Mizrachi, or "Oriental," Jewish populations that had arrived earlier. To make matters more complicated, there is still a substantial Arab minority in Israel, making up 10-15% of the population—and many of them are Christians, rather than Muslims, especially in cities that are significant to Christianity, such as Nazareth. While they are citizens of Israel, their status relative to Jewish citizens is subject of much Internet Backdraft.

Since then, the "Arab-Israeli Conflict" has continued without any significant improvement as all sides got increasingly more radical and aggressive due to the underlying religious and political tensions that had built up since the 1920s. To this day Israel remains at odds with most of its neighbours and the UN, despite the fact that the UN decision gave Israel a significant portion of mandate Palestine that Zionists were not in ownership of (see Plan Dalet). As an interesting aside, technically Israel has only ever successfully made peace with two Arab nations (Jordan and Egypt), and thus is still at war with at least five of them, making the "Arab-Israeli Conflict" one of the longest wars in history, although that's not the usual usage of that term.

Some of the main complaints against Israel lie in its continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, denying right of return to the Palestinian refugees mentioned above, building settlements that are illegal by international law note  and a variety of human rights violations on Palestinian civilians.

In short, it's a pretty messy situation all round.

We shall leave it at that.

It should also be noted that Israel has plenty of conflicts and issues that have nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli Conflict, or (like disputes between the government of Israel and Bedouin tribes in the Negev, or accusations by Israeli Arabs that they are treated like second-class citizens) are only tangentially related to it. In particular, there are increasing disagreements between secular and Ultra-Orthodox Jews, over the latter being excused from serving in the army and who often are supported by government allowances to allow them to study the Torah and the Talmud, and between religious but non-Orthodox Jews and the Israeli Rabbinate which only includes extremely Orthodox Jews, and who gets to decide who counts as a Jew for religious matters (although not for the Right of Return), and who sets the rules for the Kotel (aka the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism). There are also racial and ethnic tensions between Ashkenazi (aka "European," although many of them wouldn't identify like that), Sephardic and Mizrachi (aka "Middle Eastern," although it's more complicated than that), and Beta Israel (Ethiopian) Jews. Israel has a significant population of Filipinos and Chinese people who moved there for work; unfortunately, if they're fired their right to stay in the country is terminated and their children (even those born in Israel) are often not considered eligible for Israeli citizenship. Finally, Israel, as the most stable and tolerant nation in the region (not that that's saying much), has attracted a significant population of people who have fled mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, who the international community generally considers refugees but whom the Israeli government considers "economic infiltrators" (aka illegal immigrants), who are currently in limbo (Israel has allowed them to stay but not to work legally, and there have been increasing pushes to lock them up at a facility in the middle of the Negev desert).

On less inflammatory aspects; Israel is known for having one of the best education systems in Asia and for a thriving computer and science industry. It is one of the most economically and technologically advanced countries in the Middle East, despite having only been founded relatively recently. What definitely helped is the ton of aid it received and continues to receive from West Europe, especially but not limited to, from Germany, the United States, and others. Compounding this effect is the large influx of intellectuals from foreign nations, particularly those who fled Nazi persecution, the more recent surge of immigrants from former communist states (which, in contrast to Cold War-era propaganda, are very well educated), the studious nature of Jewish culture, and Israel's particular defense needs (the current Israeli high-tech boom was spurred by veterans of one fighter plane project).

Israel is a popular tourist destination, especially for Abrahamic religious tourists note , as it contains many holy sites. However, most Israeli business is conducted in Tel Aviv due to being safer and more politically stable than capital Jerusalem.

You might be familiar with the Desert Eagle, go-to massive pistol for all occasions. Israel is also noted for its unique culture, being a mix of Jewish traditions from Europe, the Middle East, the Americas, and Africa, as well as non-Jewish European, American, and Arab culturenote .

Although Israel definitely sits on the Asian continent, it participates in a fair number of European institutions for varying reasons. Israel can participate in the Eurovision Song Contest because it is within the European Broadcasting Area (along with most of North Africa and some of Central Asia), it participates in the European Football Championship, and it is a member of the Western European and Others group in the United Nations. This is all partly because Europeans consider it culturally European and partly because the aforementioned tensions with the Arab world making it unlikely to say the least that Israel would be allowed in their equivalent.

Prominent artists:

Useful Notes
  • Arab-Israeli Conflict
  • Israelis with Infrared Missiles (The Israeli Defense Force, the national military of Israel)
  • Israeli Political System — Israel has a Westminister-style parliamentary democracy with universal suffrage and—significantly—a party-list direct-proportional system based on that of The Netherlands, with a very low threshold. This explains why their government often seems crazy: coalitions can live or die if as little as 2.5% of the vote swings to one party instead of another.
    • There have been calls to raise the threshold, but also objections to doing it—mostly by members of the three current Arab parties and their allies who worry they wouldn't be able to make it in unless they combined, which, given that their ideologies have no similarities aside from the fact that all three are non-Zionist—Hadash is Communist/Socialist, Balad is secular Arab nationalist, and the UAL is Islamist, is unfeasible.
  • The Common Law — Another legacy of the Mandate period, Israel follows the same general legal system as the UK, the US, and the members of The Commonwealth of Nations. The exception is personal law (mostly marriage, divorce, and inheritance), where Israel follows the Ottoman tradition of allowing the laws of the person's religion to apply.note note  It is also one of only three countries in the world (the others are New Zealand and the UK) with an uncodified constitution.
  • Law of Return — Anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent (who has not converted away from Judaism) or who has converted to Judaism has the right to immigrate to Israel, be naturalized, and become a full citizen.
  • Jerusalem

Israel presents examples of:
  • All Jews Are Ashkenazi: Averted, obviously, for the population as a whole (most Israeli Jews are actually Mizrahi or Sephardic, descendants of immigrants and/or refugees from Arab countries or North Africa, plus the Jews who've been living in Israel since Roman times), but played somewhat straight in Israeli politics. As of 2013 there has not been a single non-Ashkenazi Prime Minister. There have been Sephardic and Mizrahi Presidents, but the President of Israel is just a ceremonial figurehead.
    • Israel is also the home to some of the smaller Jewish cultural groups who are now rarely seen anywhere else, most notably the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews), almost all of whom have mass-immigrated to Israel, and the B'nei Menashe and Cochin Jews (Indian Jews), who are immigrating in a fairly steady stream. More recently, a number of Chinese Jews, descended from those who settled in Kaifeng area in 12th-13th centuries, have joined immigrants to Israel.
  • Always Chaotic Evil / Always Lawful Good - Try to find any media on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that don't present one side as Always Chaotic Evil and the other as Always Lawful Good.
  • Badass Boast: "We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead." Also arguably the first time that international diplomacy has been conducted via Twitter (this was part of a brief exchange between the official IDF and Hamas Twitter accounts).
    • Subverted often when the IDF tries to make an effective one of these and winds up making one that is either narmy and quickly becomes memetic.
  • Badass Israeli: Their military is a lot stronger than you might expect for a country of their size.
  • Base Breaker: Israel's right to exist is one of the biggest ones in geopolitics.
  • Canon Discontinuity- Maps without Israel in them are available in schools the Arab World. A strong contender for most audacious Canon Discontinuity in the history of ever.
    • Meanwhile, pro-Israeli writers have been known to refer to the "Jordyptians" note  rather than the "Palestinians."
  • Cultural Posturing — Israelis and Israel supporters love to tout the nation as a bastion of civilization in a "barbaric" Arab region (fortunately, the boasting is usually about Israel’s supposed status as ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’). Opponents see it as a holdout of western Imperialism. And that's all we'll say about that.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle — The Six Day War. Take a look at the statistics. Consider the geography. This evidently should have ended in about six days, but in the other direction.
    • Of course, vigilance and modern technology are responsible: in modern war, air power is all-important. Knock out the enemy's air power while it's still on the ground, and...
  • Defeat Means Friendship — With Jordan and Egypt. Or at least "Defeat means a begrudging mutual acceptance that it would be best if we just settled whatever it takes for us to stop shooting at each other for the time being".
  • Godwin's Law
    • It might soon become illegal to invoke this trope in Israel.
    • In a variation, people critical of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians often compare the Jewish state to South Africa under apartheid. Of course, this is just as big of a Berserk Button for Israel supporters as comparing something to Hitler is. How apt of a comparison Israel is with apartheid-era South Africa is a source of Internet Backdraft, along with everything else related to the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
    • Both sides are extremely guilty with this. with Israel liking to compare its enemies, especially Iran, to the Nazis, and to warn about second Holocaust around the corner, using the mantra "never again". Critics of Israel comparing the country's policy to that of Nazi Germany, and the Naqba to the Holocaust.
  • Grey and Grey Morality - all over the freakin' place. STRONG Internet Backdraft warning if you ever try to sort this out.
  • Have You Seen My God?
  • Elephant in the Room: The Arab-Israeli Conflict.
  • Enemy Mine - Desperate for any support in the face of an ongoing campaign against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, pro-Israel lobbies have resorted to allying themselves with sects of evangelical Christians in America who believe that when all the Jews are in Israel, and the Palestinians are not, Jesus will return and throw all the unbelievers in the lake of fire.
    • Israeli lobbies have also resorted to seeking validation from groups as diverse as Northern Irish Loyalists, who also portray themselves as an outpost of Western civilisation under siege from a disaffected tribal grouping of the wrong religion, who unnacountably hate them and are prepared to use terrorist violence against them. A regular commentator on the partisan Israel Insider web site belonged to an extremist Loyalist grouping with links to the National Front and Column 88 - two neo-Nazi groups not hitherto renowned for love for Israel or pro-Jewish sentiment. This was repeatedly pointed out to II's management, who nevertheless allowed the opinion pieces to remain on their website. Ironically, at the time Israel's president was an Irish-born Jew.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity / Villain with Good Publicity - A lot of the buzz surrounding the Arab-Israeli Conflict pertains to exactly which of these Israel is, if any or both. News coverage would have you believe that the Israeli government doesn't give two figs what the rest of the world thinks about its behavior, but within the Israeli public and media at least a popular sport is obsessing over exactly this.
  • Issue Drift - Every piece of fiction generated in Israel has GOT to be about some ISSUE (difficulties of immigrants, Arab Israeli conflict angst, the spreading of poverty, the spreading of crime, it just goes on and on...). The prime directive seems to be, "something is wrong with this country, and we will now pick at it for maximum pain", and this is what all TV shows are about and what all the books are about, always. There is pretty much no such thing as Israeli-written fantasy or Israeli-written science fiction, or at least not any that has garnered any serious following.
    • That’s just the exported stuff, and not even all of that (In Treatment is Israeli, you know, and so are several other television programmes bought by US cable companies).
  • Last Words - The dying words of Joseph Trumpeldor, protecting the settlement of Tel-Hai, were "It is good to die for the sake of our land", according to eye witnesses (including the doctor that bandaged him before he died).
    • Later on this was heavily disputed, and it was claimed that those last words were a patriotic myth, and that Trumpeldor actually cursed in Russian, or died without saying anything at all. This too was eventually debunked, as the people who knew him testified that Trumpeldor was very mild mannered, and the worst he said was "l'azazel" (the Hebrew equivalent of 'damn') while getting shot. Also, his last words were very consistent with things he'd written in letters years earlier. The Russian curse myth, however, is still very popular, and you can't teach a class in Israel about Trumpeldor without someone bringing it up.
  • Peace Through Superior Firepower
  • Properly Paranoid - Spends a ridiculously disproportionate amount of its budget on its military for some odd reason.
    • Also, founded in a post-Holocaust world. For the first few decades, it was essentially an entire nation suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, fucking up the country's entire psyche in a myriad of interesting and terrifying ways that are still being studied vigorously.
  • Spell My Name with an S - There are a few conventions to write Hebrew into English, and there's no preferred method. One may find road signs with different English spellings than what a map will tell you. Fortunately, for the most part, place names (a town, city, moshav, etc.) tend to be consistent. Usually.
  • The Squadette - secular women, like most any other Jewish 18-year-old in Israel, get a compulsory drafting into the military where they spend a few years hanging around wearing olive-green uniforms and holding M-16 assault rifles. Though the majority of them probably fill support roles, it should be noted that some 'support roles' in the army are far, far removed from sitting in some air-conditioned office and filing paperwork. And then there are girl-only combat units. Legend has it that in the past they tried having mixed male and female combat units, but whenever the girls would get hurt the guys would drop everything to make sure they are all right to the detriment of whatever it was they were supposed to be doing instead. Of course, said legend is rather debunked but the mixed Caracal Battalion, a combat unit like any other.
    • That first try was during the 1948 War of Independence, when desperation was the main motivation to include women. There's a mixed-gender brigade or two that got put together in the last decade or so.
  • War Refugees: All over the place: Zionist organizations in Europe tried to help Jews fleeing during World War II get to Palestine, which was hampered by the British; after the War a significant amount of Holocaust survivors either did not want to go back to their former homes or could not go back (thanks to their non-Jewish neighbors using the Holocaust as an opportunity to take their property), and so they also moved to Palestine (again against the wishes of the British and the local Arab population), and after the first stage of the Arab-Israeli Conflict Israel received a huge influx of Jews from Middle Eastern countries who were either expelled or fleeing from retaliation. Additionally, the residents of the current Palestinian territories are mostly made up of Palestinians fleeing from what is now Israel, and unrelated to the Arab-Israeli Conflict or European or Arab antisemitism Israel is now host to a signficant population of refugees from Sudan (although with the establishment of South Sudan many of them have now been repatriated) and Eritrea (who are fleeing not from a war but from the Eritrean army), which Israel doesn't want to deal with or officially designate as refugees.
  • Western Terrorists - Prior to Israel's foundation (that is, during the British mandate over Israel), La Résistance-esque organizations Etzel and Lehi. Etzel specifically was led by about the nerdiest-looking guy ever, under whose command British officers were hung and civilian-filled hotels were blown up. He later shut Etzel down to make a political party out of it, became prime minister and signed the Camp David peace treaty with Egypt.
  • What an Idiot - Lord Balfour or British policy in general, for promising the land to three different groups, all three of which were either not that powerful, or in the case of France, had their own reasons for fighting the Kaiser.
  • What Could Have Been - In 1919, Prince Faisal (leader of the Arab Revolt) and Chaim Weizmann (leader of the British Zionist Organization) made an agreement that would likely have led to the Jews receiving a state with the blessing of the Arabs. Had the agreement not fallen through, it could have aborted the entire Arab-Israeli Conflict.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Quite possibly one of the most prominent modern examples, and naturally strongly in play on both sides and with both sides' allies, with both sides denying that the other's interpretation has much in the way of validity. To the extent that factual information and descriptors are more or less impossible to separate from whoever is writing's own stance on the issue. And that is all we will say about that.

Israel and Israelis in Fiction (Outside the context of the Arab-Israeli Conflict)
  • Moishe Sharoff, Israeli telecommunications mogul serves as one of the directors of Quantum in the rebooted James Bond series, appearing briefly in the Lake Constance Opera house.
  • Legion, the Israeli son of Professor X.
    • And Sabra, of the Israel Super Soldiers. (It's implied there are others, but they've never been seen.)
  • Ziva David, of NCIS. A Mossad agent who soon transfers to NCIS.
  • The Simpsons go to Israel in one episode, though there are very few countries they haven't been to at this point. Notable that Homer was able to get all religions in the holy land to agree on one thing: that they hated him.

The Israeli flag
The white and blue design of the flag was inspired by the tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl, specifically the version used by the Ashkenazi Jews from western Europe. At the center is the Magen David, a six-pointed star and for centuries the symbol of Jews worldwide.

IrelandImageSource/MapsItaly
IraqUsefulNotes/The Middle EastJordan
IraqUsefulNotes/AsiaJordan

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