Either way, infection rates are still high in the occupied territories and vaccination rates are low — and that has limited the number of Palestinian Christians granted permission to enter Jerusalem for Easter this year. A spokesperson for the Israeli government declined to reveal the final number.

“Without permits, we cannot come,” said the Rev. Jamal Khader, the Roman Catholic parish priest in Ramallah. “It’s a sign of the continuous presence of occupation and the limitations on movement.”

But Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection still provide spiritual nourishment for a despondent population, said Father Khader, who is allowed to enter Jerusalem through his work with the church.

“We identify with the sufferings of Christ on Good Friday,” he said.

“Then,” he added, “we find some hope on Easter Sunday.”

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Palestinian Militant Will Challenge Abbas’s Party in Election

JERUSALEM — A popular Palestinian militant broke with the political party that controls the Palestinian Authority late Wednesday, escalating a power struggle and dimming the party’s hopes of retaining a monopoly on power in parliamentary elections.

The militant, Marwan Barghouti, 61, was long a revered figure in Fatah, the secular party that runs the Palestinian Authority and was co-founded by Yasir Arafat, the former Palestinian leader. Though serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison for five counts of murder, Mr. Barghouti commands considerable respect among many party cadres and is considered a potential future candidate for Palestinian president.

On Wednesday night, Fatah members acting on his behalf broke with the party, forming a separate electoral slate that will compete against Fatah in the elections in May and posing a direct challenge to Fatah’s 85-year-old leader, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority.

Mr. Barghouti’s faction joined forces with another longtime protagonist of Palestinian politics, Nasser al-Kidwa, a nephew of Mr. Arafat and a former Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, who split from Fatah this year.

before withdrawing and supporting Mr. Abbas. He had been a leader of the Palestinian uprisings in late 1980s and early 2000s, and was convicted in 2004 for involvement in the killings of five Israelis.

He was sentenced to five life terms and campaigned for office from his jail cell.

Fatah’s supporters will now be forced to choose among three Fatah-linked factions — the official party, the Barghouti-al-Kidwa alliance, and a third splinter group led by an exiled former security chief, Muhammad Dahlan.

Members of Mr. Barghouti’s alliance said they had created the new faction to revitalize Palestinian politics, which has increasingly become a one-man show centered around Mr. Abbas, who has ruled by decree for more than a decade.

“The Palestinian political system can no longer only be reformed,” said Hani al-Masri, a member of the new alliance, at a news briefing on Wednesday night. “It needs deep change.”

A Fatah official dismissed the group as “turncoats.”

“Even with our prophet Mohammed, there were turncoats,” said Jibril Rajoub, the secretary-general of the Fatah Central Committee, at a separate press briefing outside in Ramallah, West Bank. “Fatah is strong and sticking together.”

Mr. Abbas has canceled elections in the past, and some believe he may seek to do so again in the coming weeks.

But at this point, a cancellation would be “very expensive, politically,” said Ghassan Khatib, a Ramallah-based political analyst and a former minister under Mr. Abbas. “There is a high political price for that.”

Mr. Abbas’s best hope would be for the Israeli authorities to intervene in the elections, Mr. Khatib said. Hamas has already accused Israel of arresting some of its leaders and warning them not to participate in the election, which Israel denies. And Palestinian officials say that the Israeli government has yet to respond to a request to allow voting in East Jerusalem.

This dynamic that could give Mr. Abbas a pretext to cancel the vote.

Mr. Abbas “needs an excuse that can justify such a decision,” Mr. Khatib said.

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How Israel Delivered the World’s Fastest Vaccine Rollout

TEL AVIV—In the world’s fastest coronavirus vaccine rollout to date, Israel has given at least one shot to nearly 60% of its residents, a feat propelled by an ample supply of doses and an uncommon healthcare system that combines competition with tax-funded universal coverage.

Israel, a small, wealthy nation with a young population, was uniquely qualified to confront the pandemic: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had secured enough vaccine stocks by paying more, as well as by offering access to Israelis’ personal health data to gauge the vaccine’s effectiveness. Its healthcare system had the means to quickly deliver the shots into the arms of Israelis.

The country’s four health-management organizations used centralized data-keeping, technology and the cradle-to-grave ties between Israelis and their doctors to speed up the vaccination drive, targeting residents nationwide with text messages, emails and phone calls. The efficiencies of Israel’s HMOs have been honed by years of competing for patients—and for the tax revenue gained by adding each new member—as they try to outdo each other in quality and availability of care.

“It’s really a unique structure,” said economist Moshe Bar Siman Tov, who oversaw Israel’s coronavirus response last year. “I’m not sure it’s possible to duplicate it. It’s a mixture of socialist fundamentals and entrepreneurial spirit.”

Israel’s bars and restaurants reopened last week to vaccinated people, prompting street parties in Tel Aviv, and the country is now looking ahead to a broader economic rebound.

Crowds of masked people passing through Carmel Market in Tel Aviv.

Photo: Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg News

The tiered “green passport” system has drawn protests by some who don’t want to get inoculated. But, in a country where anyone can get a jab on the spot, this strategy has been broadly accepted. Mr. Netanyahu, who is up for re-election Tuesday, is campaigning largely on the vaccination drive’s success.

Agam Rafaeli-Farhadian, 33 years old, received his first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in January. “I got the text and was like, ‘Whoa, this is cool,’ ” he said, adding that it took 30 seconds to sign up and five minutes to get each of his two shots.

While Israel’s vaccination rate is the world’s highest, its HMOs are still struggling to overcome reluctance in some population groups. Health officials say full herd immunity will require inoculating 80% of the population, a number that includes children under 16, for whom no approved vaccine exists so far.

Meanwhile, vaccinating as many remaining adults as possible will be key to avoiding more lockdowns and not overloading health systems. Trying to reach that goal, the HMOs are working with Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency response services, to set up pop-up vaccination points on busy streets, at workplaces and in night-life districts.

Unlike Israel’s healthcare providers, many of Europe’s national health services buckled under the wave of coronavirus infections last year, and European Union nations are still struggling with the vaccine rollout. The U.S., after initial difficulties, is rapidly gaining speed. The U.K., which has the fastest vaccination rollout among large countries, has an inoculation rate that is a third of Israel’s.

Since the start of the pandemic, 6,057 people or 700 per million have died from Covid-19 in Israel. In the U.S., the latest number is 536,914 people or 1,625 per million. In the U.K., the death rate was 1,857 per million.

Many in Israel credit its hybrid healthcare model with providing high-level care that kept the death toll low. Israel’s relative youth—the average age is 30—has also blunted the pandemic’s severity. Most of the coronavirus deaths world-wide have been among older people.

Another advantage: Israelis agree to share personal information with government-supervised systems, part of a cohesive social compact forged in a country where men and women must serve in the army and where military conflicts break out every few years. Patient data allowed Israel’s four HMOs to monitor individuals who contracted the virus and to intervene early as the disease progressed.

Amanda Lounsbury, a 33-year-old environmental researcher in Tel Aviv, tested positive in January. Right away, she started receiving daily calls from her HMO’s family doctors and nurses. The provider sent her a pulse oximeter to check her blood oxygen level and report the reading during their calls, a standard practice.

“I felt very much not alone,” said Ms. Lounsbury, who is originally from Connecticut. She has since made a full recovery.

Supply side

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech agreed to supply their vaccine to Israel ahead of other nations, in part, because the country’s assent to share medical data would provide them insights for future research. Privacy experts say the agreement shows how far Israel lags behind European nations in protecting confidential personal data.

An Israeli woman gets a coronavirus vaccine shot at the Kupat Holim Meuhedet clinic in Jerusalem.

Photo: menahem kahana/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

“We’re all very, very happy about the results of the vaccine efficiency research, but you need to take a very, very careful look at the process,” said Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem-based, nonpartisan think tank. “Israel is a kind of lab for the world. It’s frightening. We need to have stricter rules in terms of asking for consent.”

Israel’s healthcare system is mandatory. All residents pay up to 4.8% of their income in health taxes, part of their overall tax bill. Residents can switch their HMO provider, though only 1% to 2% actually do each year.

“There is no competition over money, because everybody pays the same.” said Ehud Davidson, chief executive of Clalit, the largest Israeli HMO. Many medical services are free with the occasional copay.

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What can other countries learn from Israel’s experience with the vaccination rollout? Join the conversation below.

Clalit and the three other HMOs, all of them not-for-profit entities, are reimbursed by the state according to a formula based partly on the number of members, their ages and where they live. Providers that lose patients to rivals also lose revenue. To retain members, the HMOs have an incentive to provide better levels of service and easier access to doctors, clinics and diagnostic facilities.

“We based our conversations with Pfizer on the very existence of Israel’s HMOs,” Israel Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said. “We were able to say to Pfizer, ‘If we get the vaccine quickly, we will run such a massive operation and such a quick one, the whole world will be talking about the Pfizer vaccine.’ ” Israel has almost exclusively relied on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

During the peak of the pandemic, hospitals in Italy, the U.K. and parts of the U.S. were overrun and had to ration access to lifesaving treatments. Israel escaped those shortages, even though it had similar or higher infection rates and significantly fewer hospital beds per 1,000 people. Some of this can be explained by the relative youth of Israel’s population. But with one of the world’s highest life expectancies, there are many Israeli’s in their 80s and 90s.

“There was enough equipment, ventilators, monitors and drugs,” said Mr. Davidson of Clalit. “There was never a situation of collapse in any Israeli hospital, and every patient received maximum treatment.”

Cradle to grave

Israel’s healthcare reform of 1995 required the country’s four HMOs to accept everyone and to provide similar medical services, regardless of either pre-existing conditions or affiliation with labor unions or political parties. Clalit accounted for 63% of the market at the time and has since seen its share dented by rivals, particularly Maccabi, now the second-largest.

A medic of Israel’s Maccabi health-management organization collects a swab sample at a mobile-testing station for Covid-19.

Photo: ahmad gharabli/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

In Israel’s system, family doctors affiliated with an HMOs each supervise between 1,000 and 1,500 residents, developing lifelong connections.

“In healthcare, Israeli citizens are very traditional. When they have a relationship with a doctor, they have it from birth to death,” said Sigal Regev Rosenberg, chief executive of the Meuhedet HMO, with 1.2 million members.

All four HMOs operate their own networks, in addition to providing coverage for independent and state-owned hospitals and, if care is unavailable in Israel, for treatment in specialized facilities overseas.

While all of Israel’s 9 million Jewish and Arab citizens have the same basic healthcare coverage, the quality of service is higher in affluent secular Jewish communities, such as in Tel Aviv, compared with poorer ultra-Orthodox Jewish and Arab neighborhoods.

Dr. Osama Tanous, a pediatrician in Haifa who is currently at Emory University on a fellowship, said the system, with its roots in the Jewish settlement movement in the early 20th century under Ottoman and British rule, never adjusted to the needs of Israel’s 1.6 million Arab citizens. As a result, Israel’s Arabs have worse outcomes than Israel’s Jews in parameters that include heart disease, diabetes and neonatal health.

Unlike Israel’s Arab citizens, the 5.1 million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip aren’t covered by the Israeli healthcare system. The exception are some 340,000 Palestinians, who are not citizens of Israel, living in annexed East Jerusalem.

The 1993 Oslo agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization that established the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza transferred the Israeli-run health infrastructure there under the Palestinian ministry of health, which provides far more limited services. In Gaza, where the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in 2007, a United Nations agency has become the most important healthcare provider.

Palestinians who work in Israel stand in line for a Covid-19 vaccine shot at the Tarkumiya crossing between the West Bank and Israel.

Photo: Sebastian Scheiner/Associated Press

The cash-strapped Palestinian Authority has been much slower than Israel in organizing a vaccination campaign, which will mostly rely on the Covax program led by the World Health Organization. Criticized by human-rights groups for neglecting to share with the Palestinians, Israel recently donated about 5,000 vaccine doses to healthcare workers in the West Bank. Last week, it began vaccinating some 120,000 Palestinians who work in Israel and the Jewish settlements in Israeli-run sites at border crossings and industrial areas inside the settlements. Covax doses also began arriving this week.

The United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, shipped some 20,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine to the Gaza Strip, as part of its world-wide vaccine diplomacy campaign.

Israel’s swift vaccine rollout figures prominently in Mr. Netanyahu’s re-election campaign. He showed up to receive the first shipment of vaccines at the Tel Aviv airport and got inoculated during a prime-time TV broadcast. In recent weeks, he has hosted the leaders of Austria, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Hungary to share Israel’s vaccination experience.

Mr. Netanyahu, who faces a trial on corruption charges that he denies, is running to retain power in Israel’s fourth national election in two years after a previous coalition collapsed. His final campaign poster, released ahead of the vote, shows him standing with two thumbs up, surrounded by flying confetti; above, a motto proclaims: “Back to Life.”

A woman getting a Covid-19 vaccination at a temporary Clalit clinic, set up on a basketball court in Petah Tikva, Israel.

Photo: ammar awad/Reuters

Write to Felicia Schwartz at felicia.schwartz@wsj.com Yaroslav Trofimov at yaroslav.trofimov@wsj.com

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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Travel Workers Despair a Year Lost to Covid-19

In 2020, governments across the world closed borders, airlines grounded flights, hotels shuttered and cruises were canceled or postponed.

The measures imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus decimated the livelihoods of millions of travel and hospitality workers, whose jobs depend on tourism. Efforts by governments to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic and stimulate the recovery of the travel industry have fallen short, especially in developing countries where many workers have received little or no support.

In the United States alone, more than four million travel jobs were lost in 2020, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Across the globe, between 100 to 120 million more direct tourism jobs are gone or at risk, the World Tourism Organization has warned.

The cruise and aviation sectors were hit particularly hard. After cruise ships were grounded last March, every one percent of cruisers lost resulted in a reduction of 9,100 industry-related jobs, the Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s trade group, found. Each day of the suspension caused direct and indirect industry losses of 2,500 jobs. The downturn in air traffic last year resulted in a loss of around 4.8 million direct aviation jobs, a 43 percent drop from pre-pandemic levels, the Geneva-based Air Transport Action group said.

Six travel workers, from a cruise-ship worker in Manila to a tour bus driver in East Jerusalem, spoke with us about the challenges they and their families have faced over the past 12 months without work. In their own words, they shared how the prolonged shutdown and its uncertainty upended their lives. While they all feel they have survived the worst of the pandemic, many of them have accumulated significant debt and worry about their future job prospects. Most of them feel optimistic that travel will pick up soon following the global inoculation drive, but are concerned that it could take years for the industry to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

These interviews were edited and condensed for clarity.

the Philippines

After nearly 10 years working as a wine steward for Norwegian Cruise Line, I was repatriated to the Philippines last April, unsure when the coronavirus would be brought under control and I would be called back to work.

When we were still on board the cruise ship, they gave us severance pay, but when we came home, it suddenly stopped. I have been a seafarer for almost 24 years, and this is the first time I have not received any money for nearly one year. It is very, very challenging.

In my job, I was responsible for sales and inventory of beverages and assisting passengers to pick out wines to accompany their meals. I would earn around $2,000 a month, including tips, and sent my entire salary home to support my wife and four children, who are 26, 23, 16 and 12.

We were quite comfortable. We even had savings and used the money to start construction on a new home. But now we cannot even afford our electricity bills and we are drowning in debt.

We had to move out of our home in Manila last year because we could no longer afford the rent. Now we are living in the house we bought, which is still under construction. I had to buy cement to put it on the floor so that my children wouldn’t have to sleep on the mud and I put up tarp so that we would have a roof over our kitchen.

We have been resourceful, but I don’t know how much longer we can live like this. We are behind on our mortgage payments and we have almost $5,000 in debt. I looked for work but there is nothing. My daughter works in a fast-food chain and my son does courier work, but that is only enough for our meals.

I cannot sleep at night worrying about the next day when the sun comes up. Will someone call to ask for the money? Will they come and take the house? How can I give anyone an honest answer when I don’t know how long before I can work again?


I used to spend most of my time crisscrossing Israel and the occupied West Bank, transporting tourists from around the world to centuries-old holy sites, open-air markets and seaside hotels.

But after the pandemic emerged in Israel and the occupied West Bank in early 2020, I lost my job. I am still without work and have racked up a significant amount of debt.

The pandemic has caused tremendous anxiety for me. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel because nobody can tell us when tourism will finally come back. Every time, we hear another estimate — one day they say it will return in the summer and the next day they say it will return in the fall.

I have managed to put food on the table for my wife and my son through monthly $1,160 welfare checks from the Israeli government and some support from my former employer, but I am still facing enormous financial challenges. My bank account is in deficit, my rent is in arrears by nine months, and I have a growing number of unpaid bills piling up.

For the past decade, I worked for a variety of tour bus companies, which paid me about $1,530 per month. I would work almost every day of the month during peak tourism seasons.

I have tried to find new employment but was only offered a job as a truck driver. Earlier this month, I sold my car for $3,050 to buy myself some breathing room.

My situation is better than the people I know in the West Bank, but it’s still very difficult because I’m always thinking about how I can make ends meet.

Despite the challenges, I still have hope I will eventually be able to return to my old job.

If I weren’t optimistic, I wouldn’t know what to do. If God wills, I’ll be back in the driver’s seat soon.

I was working as a housekeeper at two resorts in March when the borders shut down and immediately our managers sent us home. Since then, I have had no income or assistance and it is impossible to find any work.

The hotels that have opened in Jamaica are all operating at reduced capacity, so they are not employing as many people as they used to. In season, I would make around $250 a month cleaning 30 rooms a day. Now, housekeepers are cleaning five to 10 rooms at most and are making less money.

My eldest son is taking care of our family now. God bless him, he has managed to make some money selling electronic parts online. My husband passed away many years ago and my daughter is only 15 so we have a small family and manage to get by, but we desperately need the money I used to make.

We had to leave our two-bedroom home because we could not afford the rent. For months now we have been living in a small room in our friend’s house. We sleep on the floor on mattresses and have a small seating area where we watch television together. I do all the cooking and cleaning for both our families, which has been demanding, but it is all I can do in return for a roof over our heads.

I want so much more for my children. I want them to finish university and get good, respected jobs. They deserve so much more than this and it breaks my heart that I cannot do more for them in this moment.

The hardest part is not knowing when I will be able to work again and provide for my family. It could be a very long time before the hotels are full again and it is very competitive to get other housekeeping work, especially in private residences.

I went for a few trials last June when things opened up, but it was backbreaking work with too much attitude from the residence owners. In the resorts there is a daily routine that I am used to, and when I finish my work I go home without a headache.

Maybe I didn’t appreciate my work so much then, but I would do anything to go back there now. As soon as I am given the vaccination I will go from hotel to hotel until one of them takes me in.


My last safari was in February last year. We almost did not finish the tour because our European clients had to rush back home before their countries went into lockdown.

I was working every day — around 15 days as a guide on the field and 15 days doing logistics in Kampala. When everything suddenly stopped, I lost all my income and unfortunately, the government did not give us any help. We were on our own.

It has been a very very hard time for safari guides. Most of us have had to sell our property, land or vehicles just to survive. It is only by God’s grace that some of us are still surviving after all this time.

I got a small job washing cars. As a safari guide, I made around $800 a month, and now I make $100. I have a wife and three children aged 18, 12 and 8, and right now our main target is to be able to eat food. If we get food for a day, then we thank God.

We were renting a house with three bedrooms, one sitting room, and a kitchen for about $150 per month, but around May I had to move my family to a smaller house, which is around $75 per month. Now we have two bedrooms, a living room and the kitchen is outside.

My biggest problem now is sending the kids back to school. They go to a private school and my son is in his final year so I cannot pull him out. I am fighting tooth and nail so that he can finish and go to university. I sold two small pieces of land and borrowed some money, which I will have to pay back in the near future.

There are days where I feel running mad. Where I can’t think anymore, but then I think of people who are in a worse position than me and I feel grateful. I always have hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

If the vaccine has success, I have hope that a few tourists will start traveling and maybe we can get a few safaris in June or July. It will not be the same, but it is something and that is where our hope lies.


The first blow to my career came before the pandemic, in September 2019, when the Thomas Cook group collapsed. That was my first commercial pilot role and I had worked for them for 11 years before I lost my job.

Thankfully, the industry was quite buoyant at that time and I managed to get a job in January last year with a small company called Titan Airways that specializes in V.I.P. charter work and high-end travel.

Then the pandemic hit in March. They realized there was no money coming in for the foreseeable future, so they let me go. In the aviation industry, it is common for the last one to join to be the first one to leave.

I couldn’t believe it. I have a partner, two small children and a mortgage. I knew I wasn’t going to get another flying job with the way the travel industry was, so I had to look for something that would bring in any sort of income. In May, I managed to get a job as a delivery driver for Ocado, the U.K. online supermarket.

I took an 80 percent pay cut from my pilot job. We had to go through our finances and shave off everything that wasn’t a necessity like private health care, subscriptions, gym memberships. It has been a really trying time to live on one salary, which is effectively minimum wage. The numbers don’t always match up on a monthly basis in terms of what comes in and what goes out, even after selling my car and taking other measures to save money.

I’ve also started a specialty coffee company called Altitude Coffee London. It’s heavily themed in aviation, which is obviously my background. I built it myself with my dad, who had a commercial property that we turned it into a production factory for roasting specialty grade coffee, which we sell to consumers online.

I have a few people come in and help, but it’s basically just me roasting the coffee, packing it up and getting it out to customers when I’m not delivering for Ocado. The reception so far has been really positive, but obviously we have some way to go to establish ourselves in the market, which is highly competitive.

I’ll definitely go back to flying when jobs become available, but I think it will be a while for people like me who have been made redundant. We’re probably looking at 2022 or 2023. Flying is something that is ingrained in you forever and there’s not really any other experience you can liken it to. Everyday going to work and seeing a blue sky and beautiful scenery and chatting away to someone who is as passionate about the job as you are for eight to 10 hours.


My wife, Erika Cornali, and I have both been full-time tour guides in Venice for 11 years, and like 90 percent of tour guides in Italy, we are self employed. Until the pandemic, the job was very rewarding and allowed us to settle down. We bought a house that we love, and thankfully we do not have to pay a mortgage anymore.

Venice has a deep history in tourism. It has been in the Grand Tour since the 1600s and 1700s. Our association of tour guides in Venice dates back to the end of the 1970s. So, for a city that is so deeply involved in the tourism sector, this pandemic has been a big shock and it’s still a dramatic situation.

I keep an Excel spreadsheet of my services and when I look at 2019, I see that I gave 290 tours all year round. In 2020, I gave just 55.

We are lucky because we have some savings, so I am not worried about tomorrow, but I am worried about what happens after tomorrow. I know we can manage until the end of this year with this crisis, but we have two children, and we need to think about their future.

It seems that things will come back slowly, which is worrying because there will not be as much work to go around. We are used to millions of tourists each year, thousands on a daily basis, but now you see very little activity, and tour guides find themselves in a desperate situation some of them going to the train station holding up signs.

It has also been tough on the mental condition. If you are used to working everyday of your life, sometimes twice or three jobs per day, and then suddenly you find yourself with nothing to do. You need something for your mind, not only for your pocket.

I know life will go back to what it was eventually, just as it did after the London and Paris terrorist attacks, but how long will this crisis last we just don’t know. I worry for Venice, because our local population is already in decline and with no economic activity, more people will be forced to leave.

Adam Rasgon contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

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