Israel


Intr-unul din locurile cel mai putin verosimile se afla una dintre cele mai neobisnuite galerii de arta pe care le-am vizitat. Kibbutzul Beeri este situat in sudul Israelului, nu departe de Netivot si Shderot, langa fasia Gaza, zona care se afla in stiri mai mult cand sunt violente, atacuri cu rachete, actiuni ale armatei israeliene in Gaza. Este si o zona de agricultura intensiva, si care la acest sfarsit de iarna israeliana arata verde si inflorit, relativ desigur la peisajul si clima aride din cea mai mare parte a anului.

 

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Cateva indicatoare destul de modeste dar totusi vizibile te ghideaza spre casa care nu arata altfel decat multe dintre casele din jur si care se deosebeste doar prin firma – Galeria Beeri. Eu nu o cunosteam, dar acum stiu – galeria aceasta exista din 1986 si pana astazi au fost organizate aici peste 300 de expozitii – www.gallerybeeri.co.il. Acum Galeria Beeri este prima gazda israeliana a expoitiei Spiritul Sapantei rezultate din colaborarea dintre artisti israelieni si romani, expozitie realizata cu sprijinul ICR Tel Aviv.

 

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Banuiesc ca majoritatea cititorilor stiu multe despre Maramures si despre Sapanta, acest loc special celbru prin al sau Cimitir Vesel. Ceea ce probabil mai putini stiu si eu in orice caz nu cunosteam aceasta istorie este ca pana la al doilea razboi mondial peste un sfert din populatia satului era evreiasca (sursa - http://02varvara.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/sapanta-in-the-carpathians-a-merry-cemetery-and-a-peri-monastery/). O comunitate ca mii de alte comunitati din estul Europei distrusa de Holocaust. Majoritatea evreilor Sapantei au fost deportati in 1944 de jandarmii unguri colaboratori ai ocupantilor germani, putini s-au intors de la Auschwitz si cei intorsi nu au mai ramas in sat. Recomand oricui vine sa viziteze expozitia sa asculte video-ul cu Poemul lui Vasile - o lucrare impresionanta a unui poet popular local, care in stilul specific poeziei populare romanesti descrie istoria evreilor din Sapanta.

 

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Spiritul Sapantei este rezultatul muncii comune a doi artisti israelieni si a unui artist local roman, care au lucrat impreuna in sat in vara lui 2012. Expozitia a fost prima data deschisa in cladirea sinagogii din Bistrita. Mai sus ii puteti vedea pe cei doi artisti israelieni (Nora Stanciu si Haim Maor) reprezentati in stilul portretelor de Sapanta de catre artistul roman Dumitru Pop Tincu.

 

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Ce diferit si ce special arata scrisul in ebraica tesut pe stergarele specifice Maramuresului! Oare evreii Sapantei de acum un secol vor fi avut si folosit stergare asemanatoare?

 

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Portretele lui Dumitru Pop Tincu creaza intr-un fel modelul de referinta al expozitiei. Artistul continua traditia portretisticii din faimosul Cimitir vesel cu subiecte inspirate printre altele din ciclurile vietii si din momentele esentiale care marcheaza viata oamenilor din sat.

 

 

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Haim Manor da replica artistului roman prin picturi pe lemn, care redau in acelasi stil pseudo-naiv persoane si personaje din lumea satului.

 

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Lucrarile Norei Stanciu sunt mai mari in dimensiuni si mai elaborate. Una dintre ele suprapune motivul pictural cu cel al broderiilor, alta arta-mestesug specifica zonei. A doua preia motivele ale culturii ‘elevate’ intr-o inramare specifica artei populare.

Expozitia este deschisa la Beeri pana la mijlocul lui martie, dupa cate am inteles in continuuare va fi prezentata si in alte locuri in Israel si o recomand celor interesati – si ca valoare documentara, si emotionala, dar si pentru o intalnire mai putin obisnuita intre spatii culturale indepartate geografic, dar cu multe apropieri culturale.

 

 

 

This is maybe one of the most unusual texts about a theater performance that I have ever written. It is not only about Shakespeare’s masterpiece, not only about the staging (and I have great references to compare with, starting with Laurence Olivier’s 1955 version in film or the classical staging in the 60s with the Romanian actor George Vraca on stage), but also about the atmosphere of the performance. The play is now staged at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv, together with Richard II which I wrote about a few weeks ago. Both kings are played by the same actor, Itay Tiran, the uncontested star of the younger generation of Israeli theater actors and both performances are directed by Arthur Kogan. 

 

source http://www.calcalist.co.il/consumer/articles/0,7340,L-3575873,00.html

 

The performance today in Tel Aviv had two parts of classical Shakespearean theater and one surrealistic interlude. Seconds after the first part ended with the crowning of king Richard one of the actors returned to stage and announced ‘Do not go to any other place, stay here, this is the safest place’. The Hebrew word he used has a double meaning of defended place and bomb shelter. Many of the spectators laughed at the joke, but some other opened their smartphones to learn that we were experiencing the second rocket attack alarm on Tel Aviv from Gaza in the last 24 hours. That hall of the Golda complex, two levels under the ground is really also the bomb shelter for the whole theater, the sound of the alarm sirens does not get there, but the theater staff is trained to direct people to that hall in case of an alarm. At the end of the break we were told that in case of another alarm the performance will be interrupted, and the people with seats in the balconies are asked to descend to the safer stalls level.

 

(video source cameritv)

 

There was no second alarm, and the second part as the whole performance was one of the best I have seen in the last few years on the scene of an Israeli theater. It’s much better than the pairing Richard II performance which I saw first, it’s a colorful and complex staging, with well drawn characters, which makes a good service to the Shakespearean text (well translated into Hebrew) and brings to life the bloody drama of power and human vice, of glory and moral decay. Itay Tiran is at his best, but so are also Eli Gorenstein (Sir James Tyrell as a professional killer and a lover of classical and opera music descended from Kubrick), Ruti Asersai, Elena Yaralova, Dudu Niv.

The play ends with the monologue of the Earl of Richmond which is to become Henri VII and start the dynasty of the Tudors:

Enrich the time to come with smooth-faced peace,
With smiling plenty and fair prosperous days!
Abate the edge of traitors, gracious Lord,
That would reduce these bloody days again,
And make poor England weep in streams of blood!
Let them not live to taste this land’s increase
That would with treason wound this fair land’s peace!
Now civil wounds are stopp’d, peace lives again:
That she may long live here, God say amen!

The word England was translated to Hebrew as Eretz. And suddenly the words written by Shakespeare more than 400 years ago seemed so true and so actual. Almost like a prayer. Some of the actors and many people in the audience had tears in their eyes.

 

Below are a few pictures taken this morning during a short tour in Tel Aviv and Yaffo.

 

 

Beit Tamar is the name of the building that stands at the intersection of the streets Chelouche and Shabazi in the Neve Tzedek area of Tel Aviv – restored by somebody who liked a good laugh.

 

 

My profession almost never leaves me, so I learned a new meaning of the acronym WWW ….

 

 

… as well as a new place where open source is being largely used.

 

 

Good news! The rock of Andromeda is in our hands!

 

 

Yes, there is a lighthouse in Yaffo.

 

 

There is also a church at the end of the tunnel …

 

 

… and there is a new and beautiful fountain also (or at least I do not remember having seen it before).

 

I discover each time I am here the beauty and fascination of Jerusalem, this place unique on Earth for its combination of faith and history, of landscape, people and emotions. The weekend Liliana and me spent here was a quiet interlude in a busy period with many challenges. Jerusalem welcomed us with fresh air and a cool night (well, cool at least relative to the humid heat of the seashore area where we live) which we used for a guided tour on the ramparts of the old city.  We had already met the guide in one of the previous tours, a young Jerusalemite architect, passionate about his city, its history and people named Noam.The tour took us on the fortified walls of the old city which are not that old actually as they were built in the 17th century during the reign of sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The portion of the walls we walked was the one between the Jaffa and Sion gates, then on the way back we strolled inside the Jewish Quarter and stopped in a few of its more significant places.

I will focus my rendering of the night tour around two of the pictures I took, quite significant for the complex and complicated history of this place.

 

The start of our tour was at the Jaffa Gate. The tower gate and the plaza at the entry of the Old City is marked by ceramic tiles signs created in the 20th century by Armenian ceramists. I wrote about this tradition in a previous blog story about a tour that was dedicated to the Armenian presence in Jerusalem. Look at the two signs. The upper one (‘Jaffa Gate’)  is from the 20s or the 30s of the previous century, during the British Mandate. You can see that the first language is English, as the mandatory laws demanded. The lower sign (the name of the square) has a more complex story. If you look with attention you can see it has two frames. Actually it’s been made in two stages, about 20 years apart. First was the sign written only in Arabic and English which was made during the Jordanian rule over the Old City, in the period Jerusalem was divided and no Jewish presence was allowed in the Old City. Then, after 1967, when the city was unified again under Israeli rule the Hebrew name of the square was added on the upper side of the sign. The same Armenian ceramist made the two parts of the sign.

 

Here is another picture made on the roof of one of the most famous buildings with Biblical significance in the Old City of Jerusalem. In the building below according to the tradition no other than King David is laid to rest. Jews, believers or not, come to pray and pay respect to one of the greatest kings in the history of nation, a saint and a prophet for the other religions. Psalms are being read here all day, all days of the year. The church watch tower belongs to the Dormition Church built at the beginning of the 20th century because it is on the same place that Mother Mary is said to have risen to heaven, and the Last Supper took place. The mosque structures built atop the roof mark the fact that King David of the Jews is also Nabi Dawud, a prophet in the Muslim faith. The symbols of the three religions superpose and interleave with an amazing density on this small and disputed territory.

Here are a few more snapshots from the Thursday night tour.

 

 

The Tower of David (actually built during King Herod) and the new complex of Mamilla.

 

The Abbey of Dormition appears at the end of a narrow street.

 

A portion of what is left of the Cardo – heart of the city in the Byzantine period.

 

Entry Gate of the Beit-El yeshiva.

 

 

Old City of Jerusalem, close to midnight.

 

 

 

 

 

If elections were hold today in Israel a political party that never existed and a politician who was born only in the imagination of TV script writers and comical series directors would have good chances to exceed the minimal percentage and enter the Israeli Knesset. The name of the party is The Central Liberal Party (Hebrew acronym is MeLeL) and the politician’s name Ruby Polishuk. The Israeli electorate would not view something exceptionally new in MeLeL which is largely inspired from the liberal-secular Shinui party which about one decade ago increased dramatically it’s presence in the Israeli Knesset up to 15 mandates and entered Ariel Sharon’s government under the leadership of maverick and contested journalist Tommy Lapid, just to implode and disappear from the political scene three years later due mainly to internal conflicts. They would neither get too impressed by the idea of a mediocre politician, all but unknown to the wider public getting into the position of the minister of Social Progress, a ministry with a great name and no budget, as social progressing the weak layers of the society is a great idea in electoral slogans, but not one that gets any attention when elections are over. After all one third of the members of the Israeli Knesseth are ministers or vice-ministers, and a real Mrs. Polishuk was a MK, fact that seems to have been unknown even to the authors of the series. Polishuk is BTW a game of words with multiple meanings in Hebrew, the most obvious being the combination between politics and the Mid-Eastern open market (‘shuk’) the place of all bargains and tricks under the hot sun of the Levant.

 

source http://www.facebook.com/RubyPolishuk

 

While the first season of the series mainly followed the process where the new minister installed as a puppet and cover-up by handlers Humi Schalit (media personality Amnot Dankner in a combination of parody and homage to Tommy Lapid) and Kozo Avital (Guy Loel as the cynical media master in tune with all the political tricks and image manipulation) build the persona of the minister of the ministry with great goals and no budget, the second season that just ended takes a more serious tone and builds the portrait of the politician with a human dimension that was hard to guess previously. To a great extent this is due to the excellent acting of Sasson Gabai, one of the lead Israeli actors, but also to the smart and sensitive writing and gradual building of the character. In a country where every move of the politicians is under the permanent scrutiny of the media, with the tiny dimensions and huge contrasts of Israel it is just natural that the weaknesses of the politicians are our own weaknesses, and the tricks they play at national level are an extension of the tricks of survival that each of us play in the day-to-day life. Gabai’s Polishuk represents the corruption and lack of principles we put on the account of the politicians who lead us, but he also one of us in his mistakes. So seem to be many of the other characters around and those who followed the two seasons of the series until now may have started to care for the single mother and divorced office manager Solly Barzel (Hanna Azoulay Hasfari), for the young, ambitious and always gaffing communication manager Tkuma (Shir Gadani), for the neglected wife Monique or for other members of the staff of the minister. There is something of us in many of those and this helps us identify them as some among us.

 

source http://www.ynet.co.il/PicServer2/02022009/1999655/2_gd.jpg

 

I will not tell too much about the end of the season which is IMO simply genial, human and painful, open and making us want to see a third season come true. As with real life drama mixes into the comical thread which was dominant for most of the two seasons.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrZPPZeSn0w

(video source TheIsraeliNetwork)

 

What comes next? I do not know yet if there will be a next season of ‘Polishuk’ – as a viewer I certainly wish it. Israeli viewers cannot miss making the parallel with the wonderful British comical series ‘Yes. Minister!’ which a few seasons later became ‘Yes, Prime Minister!’. In real life the liberal center melted and disappeared in Israel, and the nationalist and religious extremes are nowadays dominant. A Prime-Minister Polishuk would be almost pure fantasy relative to the reality of today’s politics, but maybe a fantasy worth enough for the Israeli voters to make a party that does not exist and a politician which was never born exceed the minimal representation percentage in the elections.

 

 

I am no fan of ceremonies and speeches. The one yesterday was however one that I would not miss as the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzlya celebrated its 2010-2011 graduates. And two of the speeches at the rather long ceremony said things that really interested me and I will share them here.

Professor Uriel Reichman spoke about the history of the college that he founded in 1994. It’s a private college and no funding comes from the state budget. (for full disclosure the taxes we paid were approximately the double we would have paid in a state university). 1400 students graduated this year in one of the six schools specialized in law, computer sciences, business, economics, government and diplomacy, psychology. About a quarter of them come from other countries and more than half of those in the generation that graduated this year chose to make alyah and build their life in Israel. Approximately ten percent of the students who are coming from weaker economic families benefit from scholarships covering their studies. Combining the theoretic studies with the practical applications, encouraging free and independent thinking, creativity and personal initiative the college is today the best or among the best in all the fields it educates the students. I would add that the fact that the college is located in Herzlya transformed the city in many ways – some good, other like the increase in the cost of lodging not that good – but certainly they inject energy in the life of this northern neighbor of Tel Aviv.

The second speaker who impressed me was the head of the students union. I was expecting one of these speeches full of thanks for the professors, memories of the good time spent together and promises to meet in 10, 20 and 50 years. These were not completely absent, but there was also something else. The guy, towards his 30s, a man who like many other learned, worked, and went to the army service during his studies had his first daughter born a few weeks ago in the very hour when Israel transits from Memorial Day to Independence Day. He shared with the audience the feelings and wishes for his daughter – the dream to see her grow in a Jewish and democratic country, a homeland where any Jew can come at any time he decides to return and live in his country and where non-Jewish citizens can live their lives in full and equal rights, a country with recognized and safe borders, a country that is proud of what its citizens have achieved and standing in deeds by its moral principles, a country inspired by its history and tradition but where any man and woman can walk, dress and behave as they wish without interfering or imposing on the way other walk, dress and behave. A beautiful dream yet to become true that the graduates of this year will need to wok hard and sometimes fight to achieve.

And yes, I am the proud father of a BA graduate in Computer Sciences. Congratulations, son!

It is a remarkable coincidence that ‘The Human Scale’ written and acted on stage by the Pulitzer winner journalist Lawrence Wright from The New Yorker and brought to stage by director Oskar Eustis for the New York Public Theater was brought to Israel (at the Cameri Theater) exactly during these days when the Middle East is going through fast changes and when maybe the fate of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, a prisoner of Hamas for almost five years may hopefully be favorable solved. Wright starts his text from the fate of this soldier, and broadens the perspective to a discussion of what has been happening in Gaza and Israel in the last decade, getting back even to earlier stages of the conflict that impacts the region and the whole world for such a long time.

source http://www.publictheater.org/component/option,com_shows/task,view/Itemid,141/id,1013

It is difficult to characterize ‘The Human Scale’ as a theater play, it is more like a multimedia-supported lecture in the origins of the conflict in the Middle East and its political and human dimensions. It is written for American audiences, and these certainly have a different degree of familiarity and a different perspective than the Israeli ones. It is no entertainment, and yet both in New York (see the chronicle in The New York Times) and in Tel Aviv the audiences gave up a regular theater evening to come and listen and see, be informed and provoked on a political subject. For me as a local attendee there were no news in the information that the play brought, yet there was no dull moment either on the stage for the whole evening and hearing the perspective of the conflict seen and told once from the outside was refreshing.

(video source ThePublicTheater)

Presenting the play for Israeli (and later for Palestinian) audiences involves risks that the author and organizers of the tour were certainly aware. Despite the good intentions and the wide experience of the journalist, simplifications and errors could not be avoided. I will not list the things that enervated me, because I am sure that almost any local participant at the performance found a few of his own, whatever part of the conflict he is. The devil is in the details, and the complex situation in the area has many details and many devils. Overall the message however passed, and the thinking process about the value of human life and about the mirroring of the enemy in the behavior of each one of the parties in this long and painful conflict was triggered. The play asked some of the right and painful questions. I did not expect to hear answers here.

If the intent of the authors was to ask painful questions and generate debate, one such opportunity could have happened when at the end of the play last evening the audience was invited to stay for a panel discussion followed by a Q & A. Invited to the panel were the author / lecturer / actor Lawrence Wright and the director Oskar Eustis, and also an Israeli human rights activist, and Israel Harel, a founder of the settlers Gush Emunim movement and once a head of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Unfortunately the moderator after letting the American guests say more or less what was expected from them to say, and the Israeli invitees on stage recite their gospels from the two sides of the Israeli political debate left too little time for the public and the real debate to happen, maybe becoming concerned when the questions from the audience became sharper and more direct than his own ones. True, the debate could have lasted the whole night and I am not sure that anybody would have moved one inch from his beliefs. The consolation is that such debates do not really need external catalyzers, as interesting as this event coming from New York because of the  different perspective, and they happen on daily basis in most of the Israeli press, media or in the street.

As the Memorial Day draws to its end and Israel enters the celebrations of Independence Day, the national anthem ‘Hatikvah’ (The Hope) marks as each year the moment of passage. I do not hide, it may be the song I love most of all songs on Earth. As last year, and maybe starting some kind of a tradition of mine, I was looking for special or funny versions of the song to post on my blog, when a discussion started on a virtual list by Andre – one of these friends that I owe the Internet having known them – drew my attention.

source http://www.ortav.com/sunshop/index.php?l=product_detail&p=397

Andre was referring to the weekly show ‘Mekablim Shabat’ (Welcoming Sabbath) which is presented by anchor Dov Elboim each Friday evening on Channel One of Israeli TV. This show which usually invites each week a different guest from various fields of religious, social, cultural life to discuss the weekly Torah portion, was dedicated this week to the national day, and had as guest Astrid Balzan, Ph.D. who wrote a book about the national anthem, a book whose title translates ‘HaTikvah – Past, Present and Future’.  I did not read the book (yet) but it seems like interesting reading. Dr. Balzan’s theory is that the melody, whose origin is usually traced back to the La Mantovana, a 17th-century Italian song, originally written by Giuseppino del Biado ca. 1600 with the text “Fuggi, fuggi, fuggi dal questo cielo” to enter the folklore of Eastern Europe and be later used by Smetana in his symphonic poem celebrating Bohemia, “Má vlast,” as “Vltava” (Die Moldau) and by Samuel Cohen for “HaTikvah” (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatikvah) actually originates in a melody used in prayers by Spanish Jews as early as the 14th century. The prayer is named ‘Birkhat hatal’ name that translates as ‘Blessing of the Dew’ which sounds quite poetic.

Some details about dr. Balzan’s book can be found at http://www.ortav.com/sunshop/index.php?l=product_detail&p=397 and Dov Elboim’s show can be seen in the next few days at http://www.iba.org.il/media/?recorded=1 (in Hebrew).

(video source AntinouslsGod1)

Whatever the past was HaTikvah is still generating new versions and discoveries of older recordings, each with its own story. Here are two for this year’s anniversary. The first was sang in 1950 by Al Jolson. Born Asa Yoelson in what is today Lithuania, Jolson became in the 20s and 30s one of the top entertainers in the United States. He was not only a great comedian and musician, but also what we call today an engaged artist, fighting prejudice and racial discrimination, promoting jazz and African-American music and the African-American artists to the white audiences. He will of course be always remembered by many people for having played (with black make-up) and sang in 1927 in the first sound movie picture in history “The Jazz Singer”. This recording of HaTikvah may be one of his last, made in 1950, the year of his sudden death.

(video source stavc16)

Here is another version of HaTikvah, a very recent one. It’s a short excerpt of the much publicized concert that teenage star Justin Bieber gave in Tel Aviv less than one month ago. The performer is Dan Kanter – the guitarist playing with Justin Bieber, considered to be the man behind his music.

The anthem is alive. Israel and its people are alive.

Happy Birthday, Israel!

source http://www.aisrael.org/

This evening at 8PM Memorial Day begins in Israel. In what is one of the many unique characteristics of this unique country Memorial Day always precedes Independence Day. We cannot celebrate before we remember the heroes that had fallen for the Jewish people to have a country and the victims of terror attacks who died only because they were Jews who wanted to live in their country.

(video source rigokmachor)

Thanks to a friend whom I never met in person yet – Angela Furtuna – here is a beautiful song inspired by a prayer, a song dedicated to the young men and women who are taking the supreme risks in defending our country with the arms in their hands.

(video source nocommenttv)

Here are a few filmed sequences from another moment unique for Israel – the two minutes when the whole nation stands in honor for the memory of the fallen ones. It will happen again tomorrow at 11 in the morning. I am certain that my thoughts and my wishes will be the same as of any other Israelis – may the fallen heroes and victims of terror we are honoring be the last in the circle of hate and violence!

surce http://www.haaretz.com/

At the very moment I am writing these lines we are in the third day of the biggest ecological catastrophe in the history of modern Israel – a huge wildfire that is blazing through the north of the country, destroying property, wildlife and vegetation in one of the most beautiful natural areas in Israel.

the Janco-Dada Museum

Last night the fire reached the artists village of Ein Hod which was evacuated already a day ago of its inhabitants, as it was feared that the blaze will reach here. Unfortunately the fears were confirmed, and right now the firefighters are engaged in action in the village trying to stop the fire and save whatever is possible.

inside the Janco-Dada Museum

The artists village in Ein Hod is a unique place. It was created in 1953 by the Romanian Jewish painter Marcel Iancu (Janco) – co-founder of the Dadaism, one of the most famous avant-garde painters and well-known architects in Romania before World War II. After visiting the mandatory Palestine in 1938 and witnessing the rise to power of the fascist movement in Romania in 1940 with the pogroms and anti-Semitic laws that followed, Marcel Iancu left Romania and started a new life in Palestine, where the Jewish community was fighting for the creation of the Jewish homeland. He became one of the best known painters in the young old country, founded one of the principal currents of painting in Israeli art, and established the community of artists at Ein Hod in the village south of Haifa.

the main gallery

Ein Hod is a unique place and I’ve been there many times. A special museum is dedicated to the personality of Marcel Iancu, and also hosts important artistic exhibitions. Art galleries are permanently open, and each house is in itself a gallery, workplace, and collection for artists who came here to settle, live and create. I cannot imagine this place destroyed. I can only hope that as much as possible will be saved, and all that was destroyed will be built back and extended with a vengeance. Such a place of beauty and art should not disappear. It will not disappear.

Dona Rosa restaurant

About Ein Hod – the unique artists village in Israel – as it was and as it will be you can read at http://jancodada-museum.israel.net/

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