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Marching in pain: Images from Tel Aviv's post-riot protest

A reflection on last night’s protests against racism, with photos by Sasha Y. Kimel

The demonstration following Wednesday night’s race riots was the mellowest I’ve seen here in years. Several hundred of concerned Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and marched to symbols of the political system that produced the incitement: the Knesset in Jerusalem, the headquarters of the Likud party in Tel Aviv. No confrontations with police were reported.

This should not be taken as a sign that liberal Israelis view the events as trivial. Many of my friends and myself were so shocked and depressed at Wednesday’s news, that we found expressing our feelings difficult. I did not manage to write anything on the subject, neither in Hebrew nor in English, neither an op-ed nor a song.

The demonstration was to take place in the Tikva neighborhood itself, but was moved from there so as to prevent further violence. Activists also feared being taken for enemies of south Tel Aviv’s Jewish residents, neglected for decades, whose plight is now being used by cynical politicians, and preferred to clearly target those politicians themselves. Determined but exhausted, we took to the streets solemnly.

To many of us, the broken windows, looting and attacks on African passersby carried a clear memory of atrocities committed against Jews in Europe, and the internet was overflowing with references to pogroms and to Kristallnacht. It comes as no suprise then, that the resulting protest march felt somewhat more like a memorial event than a demo.

A night has passed since. As I write these words, violence tolerated by the government and incited by right-wing politicians is raging again, as it does daily. Right now, fields around the village of Madama, near Nablus, are burning, having been set on fire by Jewish settlers from nearby Yitzhar. The area is under Israeli control, but the Israelis do not supply villages with adequate fire control and the villagers must struggle to extinguish the fire themselves.

The Israeli right, which permits settler violence and which incites the residents of South Tel Aviv to violence, is now more powerful and more extreme than ever before. The few of us left untouched by its constant fear-mongering and unconvinced by its tribal demagogy, try daily to extinguish the various fires with our buckets of faith, hope and love. We know that they are buckets, and there’s no need to pretend otherwise.

Our one hope is that a revival of the wildly popular “social justice” protests of the previous summer will rekindle, providing us with actual fire hoses. This time around, we must be sure to aim those hoses directly at the government and (now enhanced) right-wing coalition. We must be sure to point out the connection between the different forms of government-sanctioned violence and tie them to the issues of corruption and the hijacked economy.

An anti-democratic, neglectful and racist establishment is hard at work to demoralize us. We are still strong, but we need for a sea-change to come soon, before things deteriorate further. How can we bring it about, in a city of broken glass? This is the question that haunts us.

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    1. caden

      Can’t the 972 columnists write one column without defaulting to the Israel is the new Nazi Germany argument. Is it a template that your given?. Btw I thought Yuval was moving to Europe. I suggest Greece, that’s a utopian situation if I ever saw one.

      Reply to Comment
    2. “Right now, fields around the village of Madama, near Nablus, are burning, having been set on fire by Jewish settlers from nearby Yitzhar.”
      .
      The settlers didn’t wait for Shabbat this time. That’s foolish of them; it’s a clever tactic, setting fires on Shabbat and pretending they couldn’t possibly have done it because they’re observant Jews.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Tahel Ilan

      @caden –
      I can’t for the life of me figure out why people complain about the nazi mentioning thing.

      most of us using those parallels have family from europe, heard the stories first hand, and have studied it in school for at least 12 years.

      now, if your name sounded like anything jewish/israeli i still wouldn’t care what u have to say. but since it doesn’t, i care even less.

      Reply to Comment
    4. @caden, I’m not moving anywhere in the foreseeable future. I was discussing the option in a post. I find that being cynical in the face of tragedy is a childish way of not confronting the issue at hand, and he who doesn’t confront state sanctioned violence, supports it.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Bronxman

      Mr. Ben Ami, thanks for an article that shows there are still pockets of decency in Israel and people who know the difference between right and wrong.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Caden, you are absolutely right. It’s offensive that writers here make comparisons to the Third Reich and call Israel’s political climate fascist.

      In fascism, the trains and buses run on time, the police are well-trained and uncorrupt, the whores & children are terrified and polite and in general, the machinery of society is brutally efficient — a condition very alien to anyone living here.

      Reply to Comment
    7. caden

      I saw this all the time when I was a kid in NY. Limousine liberals sitting in judgment of people who don’t have a lot except their community and their religion. And then you add in a bunch of Europeans who are only sorry we weren’t finished off in 1945. Its infuriating

      Reply to Comment
    8. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      “To many of us, the broken windows, looting and attacks on African passersby carried a clear memory of atrocities committed against Jews in Europe….”
       
      Surprise, surprise. Israel is compared to Nazi Germany for a change. The sentimentalist’s favorite story. To some of us, a better comparison is to anti-Jewish riots by Arabs in 20th-century Palestine. The spark to the violence in Palestine, like in south Tel Aviv and unlike in Nazi Germany, was recent, ongoing mass migration.

      Reply to Comment
    9. But there was recent (post-WW1) and ongoing mass migration of ‘Ostjuden’ into Germany and Austria, and the established German Jewish community was so worried by it that it made huge efforts and spent very substantial sums trying to move the ‘Ostjuden’ on to Britain and the US.

      Reply to Comment
    10. max

      I’m reminded of an 11-years old UK kid killing a 15-years old refugee; of years of murders of refugees in Germany; of burning refugee houses in France and re-locating the gypsies; of murders of journalists covering refugee problems in Russia…
      I’m pushing aside the news coming from daily murders of refugees in Africa, of the very reasons these ugly scenes were triggered; of the refugee murders in Indonesia…
      And to people here these riots remind of Nazi Germany… lucky tea salon liberals, you should travel the world a bit to learn what ugliness means

      Reply to Comment
    11. Jack

      Max,
      I think its your denial that holds you back.
      A mob attacking blacks just because they are blacks, and that violently, destroying shops etc in the name of nationalism very well reminds us of all of a specific incident that lead to chaos in Germany. Then I also assume people didnt expect what to come…

      Reply to Comment
    12. noam

      @Max, You must open your eyes, my friend. I agree, the Israeli republic is in a different place than the Weimar republic was at it’s end. I don’t believe we’re on the verge of state-sponsored genocide.

      BUT –

      You are diminishing what is happening here. It IS nothing comparable to fringe extreme right activity in Germany or France, which is always and entirely condemned by the entire legislative sphere.
      MKs of LIKUD, AND OUR MINISTER OF INTERIOR say that these people are “spreading diseases”, and that “lefties” and volunteer-based NGOs are causing this flood of refugees because they are “against Israel”. These things are being said. If you understand Hebrew, you can haer them every day on the radio. Do you understand this? Perhaps some crazy neo-Nazis do similar things in Germany, but are they ever inspired to do so by ministers in government?

      When is the last time MAINSTREAM politicians in Germany/France/UK actively incited to physical VIOLENCE against migrant communities and “leftists”? This is not about being pro/con migration, Max. This is not another political debate.
      I don’t know where you’re from or whether you live in Israel, but this is a reflection of something much darker letting loose in our society. If you don’t see this, you are paralyzed by denial. I can understand where you’re coming from, but you’re not seeing things for what they are. Germany, France or the UK are not comparable. Perhaps present-day Hungary is, but is that not alarming?

      Reply to Comment
    13. Elisabeth

      Aaron, I am somehow surprised to see that you have some understanding for the background of the Hebron massacre and other anti-Jewish riots in the nineteen twenties. When I pointed out the similarities with what is happening now in another thread, I thought you completely rejected the idea.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Elisabeth

      Thank you Noam, you said it perfectly.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Woody

      “Activists also feared being taken for enemies of south Tel Aviv’s Jewish residents, neglected for decades, whose plight is now being used by cynical politicians, and preferred to clearly target those politicians themselves.”

      This was our thinking as things were merely getting “bad”. After the continual neighborhood attacks and hatred came the firebombings. Still, even I thought this was an opportunity to address the shared issues both the refugee and South Tel Aviv community have with the government (I’m a resident of Neve Sha’anan). I didn’t want to give the residents the impression that we are enemies.

      We are their enemies. If you aren’t aware of this, walk down the street of your won neighborhood and imagine a crowd seeing you and yelling “LEFTIST” then converging on you to spit, swear, and beat. I’m sure you have read the reports of Haggai and others who were attacked, I simply stood in the middle of the crowd and kept my mouth shut. I had left Shapira with only about 50 residents, half of whom didn’t want to continue marching. We then, reluctantly it seemed, joined the raucous fascists up on Kibbutz Galyout. The people bussed in by Ben Ari and riled up by the other fascists were occupying the street. Yes, they are opportunists who are taking over South Tel Aviv and manipulating the situation. However, they also make principled stands that are attractive and resolute – they have won the neighborhood residents to their project.

      Now, this is no longer about the “situation” we thought we could address collectively. It is about Ben Ari and his fascists who have made their stab into Tel Aviv. The fact that their speeches and rhetoric was all over the place – leftists, Palestinians, security, Gaza, and everything else in addition to the refugee issue – proves that this is no longer about the neighborhood. We were stupid and naive. We let them get a foothold because few of us showed up to say “no, racism is wrong”. Few of us showed up to physically defend our neighborhood when it was attacked. Few of us got beyond the “well, the residents are also victims” view. It’s true and interesting that they’re victims, but it is not where things are at now. Due to hem-hawing, the issue is now the fascists invading Tel Aviv.

      Why would we “address the politicians themselves” when they already have massive popular support, media backing, and, as it appears, street militia to carry out their goals? The activists weren’t going to vote for Likud or National Union before this incident. The politicians don’t care about silent and solemn protestors (except Lapid, who wants to co-opt you, while sending refugees to the camps nonetheless). What we need to do now is to FIGHT BACK. We didn’t start this, but the fascists have come to our doorsteps. It’s time people got into confrontations and started to make reasoned/principled stands. After all, the Left doesn’t appear to have much that is attractive or growing any sort of movement here. We certainly can’t rely on the liberals in this city, as they are living in different areas and in a different class. It’s time to stop flinching at the fascists – they’ve come all the way to Tel Aviv and people are still trying to see the “complexity” of the situation?

      Reply to Comment
    16. Todd Edelman

      Did any Palestinians participate in this post-riot protest?

      Reply to Comment
    17. the other joe

      OK, look let us just say it isn’t like Nazi Germany for the sake of an easy life. Which regime would you like to be compared to?

      Reply to Comment
    18. caden

      How about your country, where is that Joe?

      Reply to Comment
    19. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      Elisabeth, what I objected to was your taking my thought-experiment as a straight historical reference. It wasn’t, despite the very important similarities. I drew parallels between various migrations covered by +972: Africans into south Tel Aviv, Zionists into Palestine, haredim into Beit Shemesh, Lisa Goldman into Jaffa.
       
      Rowan, I’m aware of the interwar Jewish immigration into Germany, but I don’t think that was mainly what sparked the anti-Semitism of the 1930s. I don’t claim to know the history, but my impression is that it was more Jewish economic and financial control and Jewish contributions to the alleged degradation of German culture. We’re hearing about Kristallnacht here; was Kristallnacht directed specifically at the Ostjuden?

      Reply to Comment
    20. Now that’s a really good question, Aaron. Would that other fascist trolls asked such good questions. The answer is this: because of the well-meaning but self-interested efforts of the assimilated (Reform) Jewish bourgeoisie to help the Ostjuden, the idea arose that the assimilation of the former was really but a ruse: that their real loyalties were Jewish rather than German, despite what were in fact perfectly sincere protestations on their part that this was not the case; and that by secretly favouring the Ostjuden, the assimilated bourgeois Jews were diabolically undermining etc.

      Reply to Comment
    21. max

      @RB, a good question is one to which you have an answer. You have a conspiracy-based answer to all questions apart from those that require knowledge of facts. Your current theory is no different.
      .
      @Noam, I guess we have a similar view about some MKs, and it’s a sorry state… but I think – hope? – that they don’t represent mainstream thinking, despite the coalition structure. I read very different statements from other – though more ‘right wing’ – members of the coalition, which I (prefer to?) consider mainstream.
      .
      Altogether, the best way of ensuring that you shout to tell “I’m here, I’m good” and not “let’s fix it” is to move from “of all people we should be more empathetic” to “you are like a Nazi”. It’s as simple, and many in 972mag only want to make noise, not change things

      Reply to Comment
    22. the other joe

      On behalf of my team, I’m happy to condemn the use of the Nazi language as long as the defenders of Zionism reject the label for people who disagree with them. Fair enough?

      Reply to Comment
    23. caden

      Good enough Joe, except for Martillo who definitely qualifies. BTW, what country are you in, you still forgot to mention it.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Elisabeth

      “Elisabeth, what I objected to was your taking my thought-experiment as a straight historical reference”

      No no, I was not at all convinced that you did. In fact, it rather seemed to me that you did not realize the similarities before I pointed them out. I think it is important that people see these similarities. I have far too often seen the Hebron massacre cited as proof that Palestinians are full of irrational, irredeemable Jew hatred (“there was no occupation yet, and still they murdered innocent Jews” etc.), and that therefore a negotiated agreement with them is impossible. So I am glad if people can understand the anger of the people of Tel Aviv and connect it with the past.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Elisabeth

      PS: In case you wonder: I think the Hebron massacre was disgusting and gruesome and cannot be compared (apart from a kind of understanding of the background of it) with what happened in Tel Aviv.

      On a positive note: Just as there are now many Jewish Israeli’s who protect the Africans (such as the people who escorted the African children) there were also nineteen local Arab families who saved 435 Jews by hiding them in their houses.

      Reply to Comment
    26. max

      Elisabeth, it’s a bit far fetched, I think… The Jews lived in Hebron for centuries, actually with almost no break for thousands of years!
      So the closest you can get is their association of their long time neighbors with the Zionist new comers

      Reply to Comment
    27. Elisabeth

      From what I have read of the Hebron masscre, the people targeted were not the Jews who had lived there fore centuries but the new immigrants.

      But on a more general note: You agree that the anti-Jewish riots in the twenties were sparked by immigration, just as the riots recently were, and that people do not differ much from each other. That is the important thing: Do not vilify the Jews, do not vilify the Palestinans. Both happens far too often.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Elisabeth

      I thought I answered Aaron, while it was Max. Sorry (mixed you up).

      Reply to Comment
    29. Jack

      Funny the apologists for these attacks want to equate it with other riots – thus portray it as normal, that must mean that they think those riots in the 20s-30s were ok too, or is it the standard hypocrisy?
      Prejudice is never ok.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Mikesailor

      Aaron THT: Your ‘thought’ experiment is facetious to say the least, and intellectually dishonest at best. The African migrants are in Israel seeking asylum, which is far different than Jewish immigration to create a ‘state’ on another’s land in derogation of the rights of the indigenous inhabitants. As to Jewish immigrants moving into Arab lands, I seem to recall it was Arab ships which transported the Jews from Spain during the Inquisition, and that those Jews happily settled in Arab neighborhoods.
      The remarkable analogy to Kristallnacht is the language used by Israeli political leaders to ‘define’ this ‘Other’. They are a ‘cancer or ‘infiltrators’ to the Israeli political establishment, which must be excised. This incitement is directly lifted from the pages of history. How were the Jews defined by Nazi and Nazi-sympathizers during the 30’s? And as for the Hebron riots, I never heard where the political establishment promoted the massacre and then lauded it unlike Israeli Jews with the African riots. Of course, during Kristallnaccht, many Germans excused the actions of those ‘over-exuberant’ demonstrators whose actions merely ‘got out of hand’ but were essentially defending their culture’ from the dastardly outsider. So, what is your excuse? Or is it merely the same old tripe?

      Reply to Comment
    31. aristeides

      Aaron, I think that’s an excellent comparison. I wonder if the Israeli Jews will now have a new understanding and sympathy for the Palestinians facing floods of illegal foreign immigrants.

      Reply to Comment
    32. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      Aristeides, of course that’s one of the points I was making. Nearly everyone here has an ethnic ax to grind, you yourself more so than most others.
       
      How many +972 contributors show real sympathy, not just lip service, both to Arabs in the territories and to Jews in south Tel Aviv, as they resist the annihilation of their communities by migration (legal or otherwise, it doesn’t matter)? I count exactly one: Larry Derfner. At the other extreme, Mya Guarnieri has explicitly rejected sympathy with south Tel Aviv Jews on the grounds that they belong to the wrong ethnic group, other members of which have done bad things in the past. Her ethnic prejudice is admirably explicit, but I think most other contributors here share that anti-Jewish prejudice implicitly.
       
      Similarly, mutatis mutandis, with commenters on the right. I haven’t seen them express much sympathy with, for instance, Arabs in east Jerusalem. Me, I try to make my own ethnic prejudices explicit to myself and to others – to be a fascist, racist troll – but it’s humanly impossible to do that all the time.

      Reply to Comment
    33. ” As I write these words, violence tolerated by the government and incited by right-wing politicians is raging again, as it does daily. Right now, fields around the village of Madama, near Nablus, are burning, having been set on fire by Jewish settlers from nearby Yitzhar. The area is under Israeli control, but the Israelis do not supply villages with adequate fire control and the villagers must struggle to extinguish the fire themselves.”
      .
      “The Israeli right, which permits settler violence and which incites the residents of South Tel Aviv to violence, is now more powerful and more extreme than ever before.”
      .
      If your eye offends us–pluck it out.
      .
      “The few of us left…try daily to extinguish the various fires with our buckets of faith, hope and love.”
      .
      “Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.”–M. K. Gandhi
      .
      “No one can draw a right angle, yet Euclid drew
      it up in imagination and gave the engineers a
      measuring rod by which the world progressed.” — M. K. Gandhi.
      .
      Aaron, you are no fascist, no troll. You are somebody opponents can speak with.

      Reply to Comment
    34. max

      ELISABETH “the people targeted were not the Jews who had lived there fore centuries but the new immigrants”
      False, bad source of info.
      “You agree that the anti-Jewish riots in the twenties were sparked by immigration”
      No, I wrote “the closest you can get”. In fact, the butchers from Hebron were incited to violence by rumors that Jews were massacring Arabs in Jerusalem and seizing control of Muslim holy places.
      90 years later, these rumors still incite to violence.
      .
      I understand that you want to draw a human-behavior line between the events, but it’s just not there

      Reply to Comment
    35. Elisabeth

      As I said, I thought I was answering Aaron, not you. As far as I have read, the people killed in Hebron were Ashenazi, i.e. immigrants. The indigenous Jews were not the target. If this is false, please cite sources.

      Reply to Comment
    36. aristeides

      Aaron – an ethnic ax? What ethnic is that?

      .
      I’m an American. We do have some things in common with Israel. We’re both a state of immigrants that displaced a native population by force of arms. We’re both a state targeted by continuing immigration, mainly from ethnic groups marginalized by our societies. In both states, this has caused political turmoil. we both have a history of racism.

      .
      The difference I see is that the US has taken up a position against racism and Israel embraces it. We know what lynch mobs look like, even if we haven’t seen them here in decades. In Israel, the elected officials are leading them.

      .
      That’s where I get my ax.

      Reply to Comment
    37. max

      ELISABETH, I think that it’s up to you, coming up with an unorthodox view, to reveal your sources… The Jews in Hebron – just over 700, so about 10% of them have been massacred – were part of the Old Yishuv, not a target for the mostly-secular Zionist settlers.
      You really should check your sources when they come up with ‘interesting’ revelations.

      Reply to Comment
    38. caden

      Max, Elizabeth is essentially saying that while she might have been willing to give long time residents a pass in Hebron 1929. Any new people got what was coming to them. Take her at her word.

      Reply to Comment
    39. Elisabeth

      From the Wikipedia article:
      “Most of those killed were Ashkenazi Jewish men, but there were also a dozen women and three children under the age of three. Seven of the victims were yeshiva students from the United States and Canada. “

      Reply to Comment
    40. Elisabeth

      From my earlier comment:
      “I think the Hebron massacre was disgusting and gruesome and cannot be compared (apart from a kind of understanding of the background of it) with what happened in Tel Aviv.”

      Reply to Comment
    41. Elisabeth

      (By the way Max, I would appreciate it if you would distance yourself from Caden and his sick accusations at my address.)

      Reply to Comment
    42. max

      Elisabeth, thanks – the article has an even stronger – though gruesome – support to your claims: “After the first victim was killed on Friday, 40 people assembled in Dan’s house, confident that because of his influence, no harm would come. On Saturday, the rioters approached the Rabbi and offered him a deal. If all the Ashkenazi yeshiva students were given over to the Arabs, the rioters would spare the lives of the Sephardi community.[29] Rabbi Slonim Dwek refused to turn over the students and was killed on the spot, along with one of his wives and 4-year-old son (another son, 3 years old, survived). In the end, twelve Sephardi Jews and 55 Ashkenazi Jews were murdered.”
      .
      Caden seems to have a binary view of the world, a view I don’t share. I also assume that his (NY? NJ?) rough background wasn’t very conductive to empathy; but he, not the “HR defenders” here, may be the one to help you if in need, without asking for your political views. Just a guess.
      .
      You mentioned that your family helped shelter Jews during the Holocaust – what’s the reason you’re engaged in – specifically? – these Israeli issues?

      Reply to Comment
    43. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      MikeSailor, you misunderstood my thought experiment. Maybe that was from reading Elisabeth’s comments: she insisted on tying it to history, while I meant it purely as a hypothetical question (despite obvious historical parallels). Hypothetically, assume a case of powerless Jewish migrants flooding into Arab neighborhoods exactly as in south Tel Aviv, and the Arabs reacting exactly as the Jews in south Tel Aviv. This may be hard to imagine, but it’s in no way nonsensical. Then ask yourself how the various +972 contributors and commenters would respond, including yourself. Think carefully and try to be self-critical.

      Reply to Comment
    44. The Scoot

      Caden,
      “Can’t the 972 columnists write one column without defaulting to the Israel is the new Nazi Germany argument.”

      Didn’t see anyone saying “Israel is Nazi Germany.” What I see is a comparison between one govermnent-sanctioned race riot, and another government-sanctioned race riot seventy-four years prior.

      The specific reference is due to the sad irony that the victims of the latter were the ancestors of those who perpetrated the former, in a nation that was invented to be a refuge.

      These riots don’t speak for Israel as a whole; but they speak well enough for the Right-wing of Israel’s government, and for people such as yourself who are defending the rioters.

      Reply to Comment
    45. Aaron, can’t you grasp that your ‘hypothesis’ is contrary to reality? No one except believers in parallel universes can imagine that Jewish refugees in the year 2012 c.e. are powerless, destitute, and unprotected.

      Reply to Comment
    46. max

      RB, it’s the 2nd time in the past couple of weeks where you write like a real Zionist – congratulations!

      Reply to Comment
    47. Aaron

      Rowan, if the hypothesis is possible in a parallel universe, then the hypothesis is possible. Go in that direction if it works for you. Remember: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to reveal to yourself your own ethnic prejudices regarding Africans, Arabs, and Jews. Warning: When you come back from your parallel universe, you might not be the same person you were when you left.

      Reply to Comment
    48. Elisabeth

      “Hypothetically, assume a case of powerless Jewish migrants flooding into Arab neighborhoods exactly as in south Tel Aviv, and the Arabs reacting exactly as the Jews in south Tel Aviv. This may be hard to imagine, but it’s in no way nonsensical. Then ask yourself how the various +972 contributors and commenters would respond, including yourself. Think carefully and try to be self-critical.”

      It is so clear Aarom that you assume that the “various +972 contributors and commenters” would not sympathyse with the opressed Jews in your parable.

      What is wrong with you?

      Reply to Comment
    49. Elisabeth

      Max, I will think about an answer to what you asked me. I have answered part of your questions in an earlier thread. As far as what exactly happened during the Nazi occupation and how it influenced my family and myself in our worldview, this somehow feels highly personal, even in a supposedly ‘anonymous’ formum like this.
      PS: I will run to anyone of the Human Rights defenders here (or the Jehova’s Witnesses for that matter, who have a rather good track record on that score) rather than Caden if I need protection.

      Reply to Comment
    50. AYLA

      Yuval–thank you for a heartfelt, moving piece, and for covering the response protest. Also for this: “I find that being cynical in the face of tragedy is a childish way of not confronting the issue at hand, and he who doesn’t confront state sanctioned violence, supports it.” Amen.

      Reply to Comment
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