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Now that 881 items have been decluttered from my small apartment, and almost every piece of furniture has at least one empty shelf or drawer, it's time to begin Minimalism Phase 2. This involves moving stuff around in order to free up a whole piece of furniture or more.

However, before we begin, a loose end - that pesky renamed 1000 Clutter Challenge. 881 clutters is 119 too few. So today I found 29 more items to return, donate, gift, or chuck. I wrote last time that I struggled to find 30 and 31 things for the end of the Minimalism Game but a funny thing has happened. The clearer the apartment, the easier it is to get rid of more stuff. The less you have, it seems, the less you want. Anything superfluous suddenly sticks out like a sore thumb.

Here's what I found today....

To donate - 1 pair of new crocks (given to me and never worn), 2 flannel fitted sheets, 3 ornaments, 1 pile of Grace After Meals booklets, 1 rattan side table, 2 cake tins, 3 small games, 2 pairs of shoe shaper thingies.

To gift - 2 puzzles and a 1 big tub of Geo-shapes.

To return - 4 wooden puzzle toys that we no longer play with.

To chuck - 1 ten year old and obsolete printer, 1 bowl with a chip, 2 items of clothing with holes in them, 1 bag of sachets of creams and lotions collected over the years and way past their expiry dates, 1 old director's chair with a ripped seat, 1 bag of material I was going to use to recover the director's chair but I know I never will. (And if I did recover it I could probably sell it for £20 but the relief of not having it sitting there to do is worth more to me atm.)

So that's 910 clutters decluttered since last October. #1000 Clutters Challenge.
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The school wheat field ready for harvesting.
Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. From entertainment to politics to war to harvesting to love. It's been a turbulent week. 

1
Eurovision
Last Saturday night Israel won the Eurovision Song Contest for the fourth time in the history of the event. The singer, Netta Barzilai, is an example of how you don't have to be stick thin to be successful. She's a lovely person - modest, kind, and unspoilt by all the glitz. I hated the song at first but all my pupils at school and my DD at home are playing it and singing it constantly. I admit it's growing on me. I can't argue with the song's message.

2
Embassy
The US Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to the capital city of Jerusalem. It's positioned within the Green Line - the pre-1967 borders - so it doesn't touch or any way alter East Jerusalem which can still be the capital of Palestine in the future, if that's what is wanted. All the two state solutions are about Palestine being all the land allotted to it in the 1947 UN vote for partition (i.e. before Israel took it over in the 1967 Six Day War). So it's only a provocative move if you want the whole of Jerusalem to be Palestinian and not a shared city.

3
Defense
This week my friends who live near the border with Gaza, again within the Green Line of course, were safe because the IDF stopped thousands of terrorists crossing the border with the express purpose of murdering Israelis. And yes I am happy that 53 of the 60 who died were Hamas activists who will not be able to try again.

-1
Suffering
I'm also angry at the parents of an eight month old baby with a serious heart condition, who took their child to the front lines of a war zone where they knew there would be violence and tear gas - as  there has been on every Friday for the past few months. I am sorry that the other six casualties and the many others who were wounded, did not heed the IDF warning leaflets to stay away, that were dropped over Gaza at the beginning of the week. But most of all, I'm sorry that the Gazans have to live under Hamas because the Israel Arabs that I know do not want to live like this. I suspect that most Gazans would also choose to live and prosper rather than wage war and suffer.

Partially harvested. Each class harvested a patch. 
4
The Wheat Harvest
This weekend it's the festival of Shavuot. We celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai and also the wheat harvest. My school is very agricultural as it's a kibbutz school so we do actually have a small wheat field for educational purposes. This week we harvested the wheat. Each class did a small section. They threshed the seeds out of the chaff, they ground it to make coarse flour, and they cooked with it. We use the straw to .... something ... with the animals (I'm not an animal person so I don't go there), and also to build mud walls strengthened with straw. I learned loads.

5
Love and Gratitude
Today hundreds of Israelis filled their cars with food and other supplies for the holiday and drove down to the border areas with Gaza to feed our boys on the front line. It's not just the food of course, it's the outpouring of love and support after a difficult week. It's acknowledgement that they are in a shit situation and they do it to keep the rest of us safe.

So there you have it. A roller-coaster of a week. I'm joining Michelle's linky on Mummy from the Heart. 

I'm exhausted from all the facebook activity and trying to explain what's going on here after the BBC and other media channels unfairly reported that Israel massacred 60 peaceful and unarmed civilian demonstrators. There was nothing peaceful, they were mostly not civilians, and they were armed. I'm done with explaining so I won't be accepting any challenging comments on this post. Just so as you know, I'm up for discussion on facebook but my blog is my home. 
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This is the end of The Minimalist game. There are never more than 31 days in a month so we're done. The Minimalst Game total is 412 items removed from the house. And the renamed 1000 Clutters Challenge has reached 881. I will go on to find those remaining 119 clutters and I've already decided that they will be cds and dvds which I'll find some way to store digitally.

Day 30
3 cables with obsolete connectors, 1 bag of old telephone wires, 1 door knob, 1 telephone wall socket, 2 telephone double sockets, 2 books that I like the idea of but I know I'll never read, 3 more kitchen utensils, 1 broken head-torch, 2 tubes of cleansing lotion, 1 pile of rubbish from the key dish, 3 toy d.i.y. tools, some 15 amp fuse wire from when I rented a flat with a 1950s fuse box, and 9 items of clothing grom my wardrobe.

After taking the photo I decided to keep the telephone wall socket as I might be changing the position of the phone in the salon. Thus, day 31 actually has 32 items to compensate for the wall socket. 

Day 31
The Eagle of the Ninth - I read it in school, I read it again recently, and I blogged about it. It is extremely unlikely that I will ever want to read it again.

2 other pamphlets from exhibitions, 4 books of plays from the days when we had play readings, and 5 60p mini-books from Penguin Books' 60th birthday.

4 old and dried up thingies that you hang in your wardrobe to deter moths, 2 more items of clothing, and 14 hangers.

So am I now a minimalist? I don't feel like a minimalist. However, I do feel that I'm not hoarding a load of things I don't need. I've kept some ornaments and sentimental things. DD's room is not included as, though I try to keep the clutter at bay, she's not interested in getting rid of much. 

I have loads more space in my cupboards. In fact, almost every piece of furniture has an empty shelf or drawer - sometimes more than one. What's needed now is a thorough tidy with the aim of consolidating stuff to free up one whole piece of superfluous furniture. I already know which pieces I'd like to get rid of. And of course there is still that dream of a capsule wardrobe.... Maybe this summer.


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One big Reason 2B Cheerful again this week, DD's art class participated in the Art Class Finale at the Israel Museum.

First some background. It had been one of those days. It was raining and chilly in the morning so I left the house in my winter boots and with an umbrella. By midday it was over 30 degrees under a heavy gray sky. I finish teaching at 12 but I stayed for an extra hour to organize the new English Library. At 1.15 I dragged myself away from a job half done to go to the Income Tax Office. I got off the tram a stop too early and had to trek half a km in the heat. When I got there I found that it closes at 1pm. I went into town to buy sandals. Then I made my way to the Israel Museum for DD's event.

Our class found a shady spot for instructions.
The Art Class is a group of 15 children from 4th to 6th Grade who love art. They meet once a week after school for an hour and a half and they have trips to the Israel Museum as well as painting and drawing lessons. They try to choose those with some talent as well but the main thing is supposed to be a passion for art. (DD has both, in my humble Mum opinion.)

The class met us at the Museum. As we walked up towards the sculpture garden, I kept seeing people I knew. It's popular here today, I thought. It wasn't until we got to the top that I realized the scale of the event. Who knew that Art Class is a school-wide initiative including about 45 schools from all over Jerusalem? I certainly didn't. There were 1000 people there! I suddenly heard, "Teacher Rachel! What are you doing here?" It was children from my school. Had I known, I would have stayed to finish the library and come with them straight from school.

We were so proud of ourselves.
I have to admit that among our little group of mothers. none of us were into it. We were hot, wearing winter clothes, after a long day, the end of a long week, etc... We were told that the event was outside (i.e. no chairs and no coffee). And it was due to go on until 7pm. We half joked about bunking off and taking the kids for ice-cream instead. We'd had some warning that it was going to be hands-on art with children and parents. I imagined a sort of stations thing where you go round and do a bit of craft work at various tables. Along with 1000 people. We were so not into it. Reader, we were wrong!

Each school was given a wooden grid, 20 wooden squares, a picture cut into 20 squares, and boxes of pastel oil crayons. Each child and parent pair took one of the squares and had to replicate their bit of the painting onto the wood. At that stage we had no idea what the finished painting looked like, only that they were all paintings from the Israel Museum Collection.

It was so exciting to see it coming together.
DD and I found a bit of wall to work on. We started off arguing of course - "You need to draw a grid on the wood and on the picture." "No you don't, you just draw it!" "Yes you do!" I drew the grids. "You're doing it too small, you need to look at the grids." "You're not helping me!" "OK, I'll help you but we need to just outline the nose and mouth so we know where they go." "No, you don't do that!" "Yes you do!" I drew the outline of the nose and mouth. "You're doing it wrong!" "Ok, I'm not helping you anymore. You do it by yourself." "You need to help me." "But you keep shouting at me!"

Coming together with Moriya
In the end we had only a short time left to finish and DD had only done a fraction of it. She'd spent a lot of time mixing colours as we didn't have the exact shades we needed. So I dived in to help. We worked fast and furious together. I covered vast areas in the base colours and she went over in various other colours to create the different hues. Then DD showed me how to blend the edges together with your finger and also smooth out the crayon lines. We were a team. She ran to her friends to borrow a brown, a white, a darker green.... I smoothed and smudged and filled in the gaps. I am no artist by any means but by the end I was so proud of our painting.

We took it to the main board where the teacher, Moriya, was starting to put it all together. It was magic! And amazing how it really did all fit together. Apart from being a bit wonky around the chin, but that actually added to the authenticity of the project - doncha think?

The more original than the original.
All the 45 finished paintings were brought together for a closing ceremony. We loved doing ours - Sonia Delaunay-Terk's Finnish Woman - but I suddenly wanted to do all of them. I wish I'd been able to photograph more of them to show you as they were all spectacular.

The original.












Our finished painting will be brought to the school and displayed. I'm hoping there will be an exhibition of all the paintings together, at the museum, or maybe a photo-booklet. We would certainly go and see it or buy the book. I'm already looking forward to next year.


On a clear day you can see forever
 Here are some of the others...




I'm joining the R2BC linky over at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.
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I'm stretching the rules a bit as my days now have no connection to the days of any month. However, in my game I'm up to days 27 to 29. With these hauls (or reverse hauls) The Minimalist Game total is 351 and the 500 Clutters Challenge score is 820. (Now revised to the 1000 Clutters Challenge.)

Day 27
Day 27
I went back to the towels and sheets. One bath towel and three small hand towels going out. We only have two bathrooms so I've kept four hand towels - two in use and two to switch when they go in the wash. Any more small hand towels are superfluous (not including the separate set for the kitchen). I still have too many bath and beach towels but this is a process.

In the sheet department we have nine old pillow slips. If you remember, this is the second time I've gone through sheets and towels. Like I said, it's a process.

On the right is DD's winter coat that's too small and too heavy for one week in London per winter. I promised her that the next winter coat will be lighter and with room to wear with sweater underneath when it's really cold. For the rest of the time in a Jerusalem winter you don't need a such heavy winter coat.

On top of the coat is a jacket with a broken zip. And on the right of the picture is an old bath robe of mine that I never use. In between we have 10 items from the beauty cabinet - old nail polishes, make up and some hair accessories. Next to them, a Jewish Spiderman skull cap that my nephews gave to DD when she was little. (Girls don't usually wear them but she wanted to as they were all wearing theirs. When I was little I had one that my Grandpa gave me for the same reason.)

Lastly, the bag. What is in the bag? I have two food processors. One I bought myself and have only ever used the knife blade to chop and mix. The other was given to me by a friend and I use the blender attachment on it. I've kept the bowl and the knife blade for the second processor as a back-up. In the bag are a whole range of graters, kneaders, juicers, and goodness know what. I don't even know how they work. This could have been about 20 items but I'm not looking for shortcuts here - it's one bag.

Day 28
Day 28
Two more towels. I got these out to take to the beach with us last week. And I didn't want to take them because I didn't like the colours. If you can't even take them to the beach for the kids to use, then they have no business in your house. Also in this pile are two old face cloths and a pillow slip that I missed yesterday.

Three old and too small sunhats of DD's. A pair of white tights that she wore once - possibly. A pile of nine items of clothing from my wardrobe that I will never wear again.

Finally a bag of 10 toiletry items - creams, lotions and potions. I was keeping them because they were in their gift boxes but the truth is that I don't use masks and scrubs. I tried an anti-aging callogen cream a couple of weeks a go and my skin broke out. This may or may not have had something to do with the expirey date being 2013.

Day 29
Day 29
Today I really struggled. I was wandering around the flat looking for things to get rid of. The stained t-shirt was easy, it's not my colour anyway. Two old bras about 35 years too small. Four belts - yes one of them still has the label on it. Four kitchen utensils - wash up more often instead of having three of everything. 10 teaching English books - can you believe I'm still weeding these out? Five dvds - slowly picking out the movies we don't love. A double cd of the complete Nomi Shemer (a famous Israeli singer). An old glasses case and a glass soap dish - who uses bars of soap these days?

Add that up and you'll find it comes to 29. But it wasn't easy.

I still have some pockets of clutter that I can go through for Day 30. In an ideal world I'd do that capsule wardrobe that I yearn for but I'm waiting to be an ideal shape before I can part with much more from the wardrobe. And I'd also like to get rid of about 100 cds and 50 dvds by upgrading to a digital streaming system - Netflix and Spotify or something similar, but I'm not ready to make that jump just yet. Perhaps over the summer.
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I don't know who is trying to sabotage Meghan Markle and set her up for failure but whoever, or whatever, they are doing a good job of manipulatively destroying her personality outfit by outfit. I saw Germaine Greer on the TV programme This Morning and immediately knew what she was talking about. I have been thinking the same for weeks.

You only have to Google Meghan Markle Images to see the difference between how she dressed before the engagement, when she presumably chose her own clothes, and how she is being dressed now.

Every outfit since the engagement has been dowdy. Heavy material in boring neutral colours. Too much material making her look like an old dowager rather than a young blushing bride. Most outfits are ankle length at the bottom and over the collar bone at the top. She is swamped in an effort, it seems, to erase any suggestion of a nice figure - or any figure. I am absolutely certain that Meghan would never have chosen these outfits for herself.

In contrast, Kate is dressed in light outfits showing off her youth and great figure. Bright colours, wonderful designs to just above the knees so we can see her shapely legs, and soft playful designs that many women of all ages would be happy to emulate.

I didn't just take Germaine Greer's word for it, I went to Google Images to see the full range. Look at Meghan Markle Images and then look at Meghan and Harry Images. Do you see it? It's as if Elizabeth Hurley morphed into the Queen Mother. I was more than shocked. This has to be a deliberate and manipulative ploy.

There is no reason why Meghan Markle shouldn't be a shining model of British fashion. She has the looks, the polish and the figure. Money is no object. Any designer would give their right arm to have the opportunity to dress Meghan to show off their clothes. She would do them proud, if only she were allowed. It's not like she's unaware of fashion - just look at the way she dressed before.

Someone is controlling Meghan Markle's wardrobe in a way that does her a major disservice. Someone is deliberately making her look the worst she can look without being blatant about it. They choose expensive couture so you can't say they're treating her like Cinderella in rags. No, they are waging a far more devastating and subtle campaign to crush Meghan Markle outfit by outfit.

I have no concrete motive. Maybe it's a test of her staying power. Maybe it's we the public who are being manipulated so that we shouldn't love her until we are permitted to do so. Or maybe they are really out to destroy her for her.... what? Her background? Her ethnicity? Her divorced status? Her Chutspah? Who knows. But something is going on here and I believe that the truth will out eventually.
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70 Years!
It's been three weeks since I last wrote a Reasons 2B Cheerful post. Last week was canceled because or the tragedy that happened in Israel. Since then I meant to blog every day. I wrote lists of blog posts and assigned one to each day in my diary. And then I came home from work every day and didn't blog. I don't even know why. I just lost my mojo. Anyway, it's back and so am I. And this is why I'm only blogging about Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) three weeks after the date. I apologise to Becky at Lakes Single Mum for missing two Reasons 2B Cheerful  posts while she was hosting. (This week R2BC is back with Michelle at Mummy from the Heart for the merry merry month of May.)

On Yom Ha'atzmaut eve we went up to the Jerusalem Promenade overlooking the Old City and watched the fireworks. It's ten minutes walk from where we live and we met loads of our friends there. It was a spectacular start to the 70 year celebrations.

Go-karting in the morning.
Then came the actual day. The thing about being single, not having a car, and living in a flat without a garden is that it makes Yom Ha'atzmaut very traumatic. When you have a garden you just invite a couple  of friends for a barbecue and you've got a party. If you have a car you can go out of town and have a picnic. If you are without either but you have a partner, you can go out for lunch together, have a glass of wine and call it a celebration. As a single there is always this frantic hustle to find a party or invite yourself to a barbecue. I admit that before DD, I sometimes just stayed home alone and didn't tell a soul. I enjoyed my own company, watched movies, read books and pottered about, but oh the shame if  anyone had found out.

When DD was small we'd get together with my singlemum friends and we'd picnic in a local park. However, our children are now all between 7 and 10. A picnic in the local park just doesn't do it for them anymore. We had to go bigger. Luckily the others all have cars.

Sunny on Thursday
Reader we had the most amazing time. We went to an adventure park in the morning where we went go-karting. Then we headed to the beach at Ashdod where the kids played in the sand while we watched the Airforce flyover and the Navy flotilla.

As Yom Ha'atzmaut was a Thursday and Friday is a half day at school, we took the day off (as did half the country) and made a long weekend of it. We stayed at a hotel right by the beach and spent the next two days alternating between the beach and the pool. The weather turned on us and it rained. But it was still warm so we swam in the pool in the rain. Same wet so no big deal. The sea was rough so we paddled while the foam slapped our legs. The sky was grey - I felt quite at home. And the children loved it.

And guess what? Yom Ha'atzmaut falls on a Thursday again next year. I think we already have a plan.

Rough and grey the next day was also fun and we had the beach to ourselves.

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I missed R2BC last week as we were away. We had a wonderful weekend and I meant to write about it as soon as we got back. But there was a lot of catching up to do and reports to write for each of my pupils for the parents' meetings on Tuesday. I had to organize DD staying over at our friend's house on Tuesday, she needed new sports shoes so that was one evening gone, I had to schedule my meeting with her teacher for another time as I had to be at my own school on the same evening as DD's parents' meeting. And there was other stuff that fell, punkt, in the middle of an already busy week.


The storm from my window. 
Finally, today I had a free morning and I meant to write two weeks' worth of reasons 2B cheerful in one post. But I just can't today.

Today ten 12th Grade teenagers from all over Israel, are being buried after a tragic trip to the desert. They were coming to the end of their high-school careers and had been accepted to a pre-army seminar for next year. It's like a gap year with serious learning and experiences towards adulthood and preparation for a more mature national service than had they gone straight into the army at age 18. The seminar organized a hike to the desert. All the seminars do it - it's a getting to know you, bonding thing. It's a highlight and greatly anticipated by the participants.

However, we had torrential rain and storms in Israel on Wednesday and Thursday. The Ministry of Education cancelled all trips. Even trips to places not in the countryside and not in danger of flooding were postponed to keep people off the roads as much as possible. In central Jerusalem some roads turned to rivers as the ground became saturated and the drains became full.

Despite warnings not to, this particular seminar decided to take the risk. They went to the desert anyway. A place where we all know that dramatic flash floods can occur without warning. Tons of gallons of water suddenly appear out of nowhere - gushing down the mountains and sweeping away everything in its path. We've all seen the video clips of instant Niagra Falls where just a minute previously the ground was dry and people could walk along the wadi floor.

They went anyway. They took 25 of our finest youth and came home with only 15. The country is in mourning. Arrests have been made. Ten families have been torn apart forever. Forever heartbroken and no way back. I have no R2BC today.
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Last night the siren wailed and DD and I rushed out onto the balcony to stand in silence. There were a couple of cars stopped in the middle of the road with the drivers standing next to them, a few pedestrians stopped mid-step and a number of neighbours also on their balconies. The country stood still and so began Memorial Day for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror.

All shops were shut. Many people were at ceremonies and services last night. Today was a half-day in school and every school had it's own ceremony. There are no lessons, but rather a whole morning of activities about the day. I got a whatsApp last night telling me that I was to help Idit in 2nd Grade for the first three hours and then be with Nechama's 5th Grade boys for the last hour. No problem.

As we left the house I noticed another WhatsApp. I decided not to waste valuable time reading it at that moment -I'd read it on the bus. It said that Idit didn't need me so I could come in later but I must be there for Nechama at 11.15. Okey-Dokey, too late.

I went into the gym to see the 6th Grade boys' Memorial Presentation. They told the lives of different fallen soldiers. They acted out parts and showed interviews with their families.

One boy who spends quite a lot of time during my lessons driving me crazy, took the part of Adam Weiler, who was honoured this year by the Government along with his brother Gideon Weiler. Whilst taking his exams at Sussex University in 1967, Adam heard that war had broken out in Israel. He abandoned his exams and rushed to Heathrow Airport where he was told that no one was flying to Israel until further notice. He saw an ElAl plane on the tarmac and ran past the security guards to board the plane. Adam survived the Six Day War but was killed in action three years later. His younger brother Gideon fell in the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

It was very moving to watch my student pushing the security guards out the way and running to get on the plane. I suddenly had a surge of respect for this boy as I forgot, for one moment, that he was only playing the part in a presentation. And then I remembered that this 12 year old boy will be serving in the army in just six years time and doing whatever he has to do to keep me and DD safe. Israel's Memorial Day messes with your mind.

We had a group of soldiers join us for the ceremony after the presentation. Mt. Herzl, the military cemetery, is near our school. These soldiers were part of a platoon who had lost brothers in arms and were visiting the graves together, along with the families of the fallen soldiers. However, these particular soldiers are all Cohens. The Cohens are direct descendants through the male line, of the priests who served in the Temple until it was destroyed in 70 CE. They are forbidden from coming into contact with dead bodies so they don't enter cemeteries - ever. Despite this, they wanted to be at a ceremony. Their Commanding Officer happens to be Idit's son so he brought them to our ceremony, and they also watched the 6th Grade presentation before it.

It added something very special to have the soldiers in uniform at our ceremony. It felt like a real honour that they wanted to be with us. And it was great for the children to see them standing still and serious and only moving when their CO gave them permission to be at ease. I noticed that the whole school was better behaved than usual. We asked them to participate by reading a couple of the prayers.

Then the 11 O'clock siren sounded and we all stood in silence again. We lowered the flag to half-mast and sang Hatikva. We sang the school song (Soar, soar to great heights, you can soar, you have wings to carry you on the wind, don't be afraid, don't hold back, soar to great heights, you can soar) and a song to God for the safety of all our soldiers (God who blessed our fathers, please bless our soldiers, protect them and bring them home to us, safe and sound, please God bring them home).

I went into Nechama at 11.15 but she told me she only needed me for the last five minutes as she had to go early. I returned to the teachers' room where the teacher who sometimes gives me a ride home (a 10 minute ride instead of a 40 minute ride on the bus after waiting x minutes for the bus to arrive) was just leaving. I explained that despite having no duties all day, I had to stay to be with Nechama's class for the last five minutes of the day.

I went into Necahma again at 11.45 for the final 10 minutes. At 11.50 she told me I could go as she decided to stay until the end after all. I got the bus home.

Tonight and tomorrow we celebrate Independence Day. We are celebrating in a big way this year so I'll be offline until after the weekend. Happy Birthday Israel, 70 Years!
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