By Shani Sorko-Ram Ferguson
Growing up in a pioneer movement in an Israeli community of Jewish believers in Yeshua, I remember overhearing conversations in my house about religious and secular Jews who had come to their own conclusion that Yeshua was the Messiah. Some had supernatural experiences with God, and some had simply read the Law and the Prophets in Scripture and had their eyes opened. But the one thing that always stood out to me was the fear they expressed about their family or community finding out.
As a child, I couldn’t comprehend the frustration of being fired from your job, evicted from your rental or banished from a country to which you had recently immigrated, simply because you believed differently than the status-quo.
Even today, other than the obvious spiritual fight we are in, I don’t understand why people get so upset about other people’s beliefs. If I want to believe in the tooth-fairy, then I should be able to. And if Yeshua is no god, then His name should pose as much threat to those who reject Him as the tooth-fairy’s sister.
As I am confident in the truth of my knowledge of God, I never feel threatened by anyone claiming a different belief. And having grown up in an environment where even the nicest people think I am a bit odd, perhaps I am immune to the sting of being hated. Indeed, I would wish with all my heart that others would experience the depths of God through Yeshua, but it is this burning desire in my heart and in the hearts of many believers that religious Jews consider to be “missionary activity.”
Interestingly enough, the most aggressive “missionary activity” comes directly from various sects of Orthodox Jews around the country. They set up booths on street corners and walk up and down rows of cars stopped at traffic lights encouraging every passerby, whether Jew or non-Jew, adult or minor, to engage in their various religious activities and take up their religious lifestyle.
In fact, in a recent interview on Israel’s mainstream news, secular Israelis were reeling over the recent move of dozens of religious families into their neighborhoods. They stated that as soon as the religious people moved into their neighborhood, they began subjecting them to their “outreaches,” which included explaining why the existence of the State of Israel which was founded by non-Orthodox pioneers was delaying the coming of the Messiah.
Ultra-Orthodox neighbors soon begin demanding that the seculars adhere to their social rules, such as closing streets from traffic on the Sabbath. When challenged as to how they would feel if seculars went into religious neighborhoods and blasted tango music on the Sabbath, the rabbi basically explained that they were simply trying to spread the blessings of their Jewish beliefs. (Too bad they don’t apply that argument to Messianic Jews.)
For some reason, religious Jews and those of other major religions of the world seem to be gripped with the fear that without total control their society will not adhere to their beliefs. And perhaps the biggest threat to people who believe they serve as God’s representatives for a society is when there are others in society who can reach God directly. Therefore, the teacher and facilitator of such a possibility must be discredited. And thus, there is an obsession with Yeshua.
It seems reminiscent of the Pharisees who were enraged by Him, but couldn’t help but follow Him around and listen to Him speak. And even after He was dead and buried, they continued to pester the authorities to guard His corpse.
And though other individuals (such as Bar-Kochba in the second century) were exposed as false Messiahs, today Israel has named streets after them. Yet the name of Yeshua is not even properly listed in the Hebrew Dictionary.
But Yeshua said, “If you are hated by the world, keep in mind that I was hated by the world before you. If you were of the world, you would be loved by the world, but because you are not of the world... you are hated by the world.” (John 15:18-19)
From left: Shira Sorko-Ram, Freda Lindsay,
Shani Ferguson with Illit
In light of what Yeshua said, my husband Kobi and I are flattered to be worthy of making it onto the top article of the homepage of a website dedicated to maligning followers of Yeshua. The article, which named a long list of Messianic Jews and Christians who have supported Israel and the salvation of the Jews, was titled “The Anti-Semitic Messianic Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree.” It referred to my grandfather, Gordon Lindsay, continued with my parents Ari and Shira Sorko-Ram and culminated with yours truly, a third generation follower of Yeshua. Their analysis of us:
“The Lindsay-Sorko-Ram-Ferguson clan does not represent a few bad apples on the mutant Messianic tree. They are at the core of the tree and it appears to be quite rotten - all the way down to its very evangelical “Christian Zionist” roots…”
The site describes me as being “committed to destroying Jewish souls and discrediting Torah Judaism” and gives me the longest title I have ever had bestowed on me - “Evangelical- Israeli missionary Shani Sorko-Ram Ferguson” (say that three times real fast).
The writer somehow concluded that my criticism of some activities of Orthodox Jews makes me a hater of all Jews (including myself, I guess).
Overall, it seems they were offended that I would challenge what they have come to accept as absolute truth - rabbinical authority.
But what can be expected when one comes against a hierarchy that has dictated the Jewish mindset for hundreds if not thousands of years?
Martin Luther confronted the religious hierarchy of Christianity in his day. Actually, Martin Luther is a tragic example of a reformer because in his latter years he turned into a staunch anti-Semite. And the venom spewed from his mouth could be compiled into a book titled, “Chicken Soup for the Nazi Soul.” In his earlier years, however, he was a brave and fearless reformer when he challenged the Catholic Church’s control over people’s lives. Needless to say he was vehemently opposed and excommunicated.
Yet here, hundreds of years later, his challenge helped birth the modern movement of Christian believers who relate directly to God for forgiveness of sin, read the Bible in their own language, and receive ultimate salvation by grace through faith. These are the Christians who have discovered God’s everlasting love for Israel.
An ultra-Orthodox Jew shouts at an Israeli policeman during a protest over a parking lot in Jerusalem.
THE APOSTLE PAUL
In reading the writings of the Ultra-Orthodox, I thought of the verses that described Paul before His supernatural revelation of Yeshua. “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2)
There were several points in this story that struck me: 1. The high priest (religious leader) was approving imprisonment of Jewish believers. 2. Paul was threatening to kill Jewish believers. 3. The believers, upon threat of imprisonment could not deny their relationship with God. 4. Paul thought he was on God’s mission to remove a perversion of Judaism. 5. As far-out as Paul was, one encounter with the God of Israel changed him forever. 6. I have often considered that God was able to move so powerfully on Paul because the believers were “praying for their enemies.”
So why do Orthodox Jews get so paranoid when the subject of Yeshua comes up? On one hand, it is legitimate for these people to fear that exposing flaws in the Jewish culture will somehow make Christians want to kill the “Christ killers” as they did in the Middle Ages. But on the other hand, Orthodox Jews tell their children unmerited horror stories to make them fear Christians, much like Muslims tell their children stories to make them hate Jews. Thus Orthodox Jews grow up with an almost unshakeable irrational fear when it comes to anything relating to Yeshua. Fortunately, today’s evangelical Christians are not the ignorant Crusaders of the past who were simply unable to read the Bible themselves and relied on the testimony of corrupt church leaders.
If you have never read Dr. Michael Brown’s book, “Our Hands are Stained with Blood,” about the brutalities of so-called Christians of the Middle Ages, you may actually weep as you learn what has been done in the name of your and my Savior.
However, on our end, we know that our mention of their lost ways simply push us to pray for them with a deeper burden. And just as Yeshua didn’t react aggressively to the false accusations hurled at Him, believers should never take occasion because of the blindness of Jewish people by attacking them. In fact, Yeshua wept deeply for His people, and Paul said if his eternal damnation would guarantee that the Jewish people would be saved, he would take the punishment. Luckily, Yeshua already took the punishment, but Paul was trying to describe the depth of His burden for His people.
Unlike the “Church” of the Middle Ages, we know that only God can draw people to Yeshua, and any attempt to force a belief in Him on Jews or anyone else is worthless.
I can only hope that through our voice and the voices of others who are willing to put their reputation at stake, the Jewish people will eventually be able to decide for themselves as to whether they would prefer to know God through their rabbi, or know Him through their Messiah.
So what is there to fear? Slander and social humiliation? Death which has no hold? Or should our only fear be to face the Master on that day, knowing we could’ve done more to reunite His chosen people with Him?
Shani and Kobi reside in Jerusalem with their three children. Visit their website: www.yeshuaisrael.com
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Israel's Resolve to allow
Freedom of Religion
Tested by Ultra-Orthodox
by Shira Sorko-Ram
On July 24, 2009, the main Israeli English paper, The Jerusalem Post, featured a front page article - a very favorable one - about Messianic Jews.
Titled, “Serving in the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], ‘for the sake of God and Jesus,’” the paper went on to explain some “150 highly motivated believers will join the IDF this year. Many of them will serve in combat units.”
The journalist described a Messianic prearmy program called “Netsor” that leads soon-to-be soldiers through a week of mental and spiritual preparation for their army service.
The Jerusalem Post interviewed a Netzor class of 28 Messianic Jews. According to the Post, one of the Netsor candidates explained, “I am a soldier of God... I will do my best during my service in the IDF to serve God spiritually and physically. Not for the sake of state authorities but for the sake of God and Jesus.” This young man has been accepted into one of the elite combat units.
The Post goes on to explain that these soldiers are convinced they are walking in Yeshua’s footsteps, as they train “to become the next fighter pilots, reconnaissance soldiers, paratroopers, tank commanders and sailors.”
The journalist then explained the beliefs of Messianic Jews, describing redemption through the Messiah and the prophetic promises of God towards Israel. All in all it was one of the most positive articles I’ve ever read in the Israeli press.
But would you believe? Exactly three working days later, in the exact same spot lower left quarter of the front page - appeared an article titled “Are Christian missionaries targeting the elderly?”
It then began to describe what to most Israelis would appear to be a horror story. I quote directly: “A Holocaust survivor who was suffering from dementia was deceived by those hired to help her, family members said, because they claim they converted her to their Messianic Christian religion.
“The two women who were hired to play music and speak with 94-yearold Sara told her daughter, Goldie Maxwell, weeks after Sara died that they were both Messianic Jews, that they had played and sung songs from the New Testament when Maxwell and her husband were not around, and that at the end of her life, Sara had a revelation and acknowledged Jesus as the messiah.”
The article claims that these women “recorded these statements in a document” which they gave to Maxwell after Sara’s death in March. According to the document, the caretaker of the elderly woman said they “chased away the demons that were trying to plague her and preventing her from receiving blessing.” Maxwell says she now recalls that her mother looked as if she were under great strain, even though she could not talk - meaning that she was unable to do anything about her tormentors who were deluging her with the New Testament.
This strange story clearly has the fingerprints all over it of the antifreedom of religion organization Yad L’achim, which, funded by the government and private ultra-Orthodox donors (and also innocent Christians) has organized itself into an army to fight the growing Messianic Jewish movement.
The article continues: “...Maxwell is speaking out. She is devastated by what happened to her mother, upset that it may be happening to others and scared that Messianic missionaries may use her mother’s story to advertise and proselytize.”
Of course, the story may be true. I myself don’t believe it for a minute. In all the years I have been in Israel, I have never heard of a Messianic Jewish believer entering into a home of a Holocaust victim and singing “Polish traditional songs,” but then, when the rest of the family was out of the house, attempting to “convert” a totally helpless women who could not speak a word and who suffered from dementia.
What is factual, however, is that this article is very damaging to the Messianic Jewish community. It is my belief that as the Messianic believers grow in numbers and strength, and the Israeli people observe the character and qualities of the followers of Yeshua as a whole, the persecution will become more shrill and acute by the haters of religious freedom in Israel.
STRONG PERSECUTION CONTINUES IN THE SOUTH
In the city of Arad in southern Israel, some of the most intense and persistent persecution is continuing at this moment. Literally all of the believers in that town suffer great hardship. There are large yeshivas (Talmudic schools) that are filled with thousands of young men. They are supported by taxpayers’ money and donations from ultra-Orthodox patrons in the U.S and other nations. Since they don’t work or serve in the army, they have plenty of time to torment followers of Yeshua.
Their main tactic is to irritate, aggravate and infuriate the believers in order to get some kind of reaction from them. For instance, one of the Messianic leaders in Arad told me that an ultra-Orthodox man stands in front of his house from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. every night. He just stands there, doing nothing, but by doing so the dogs throughout the neighborhood howl incessantly all night.
On Mondays at 5:00 a.m. this believer leaves his home for a prayer meeting. As he walks away from the house, the ultra-Orthodox (haredim in Hebrew) follow him, cursing and shouting at him at close range. The haredim stalk the believers, following and harassing them continuously whenever they leave their homes. They wave their hands in front of the believers’ faces, tormenting, screaming obscenities at them, and their children, hoping for a reaction they can film. Sadly, it is the same spirit and tactics the Nazis used in the beginning against Jews in Europe not so long ago.
PROTESTING AGAINST A CHESS CLUB
Ultra-Orthodox do not believe there should be a State
of Israel until the Messiah comes.
They consider themselves anti-Zionists,
and tend to isolate themselves in ghettos in Israel.
In 2002, Eddie and Lura Beckford started a chess club in Arad called the King’s Men Club and Bible Shop for pensioners. The haredim have done everything in their power to close down this outreach, including setting it on fire. Our humanitarian aid fund for believers, istandwithisrael.com, helped them rebuild it. It is full every day with elderly men, especially Russians, who play chess and read the Gospel literature available there.
On a regular basis, the haredim come to the club, cursing and swearing, screaming and blaspheming and in general causing pandemonium. After one violent demonstration, one of the chess players had a heart attack and died on the spot. The police never did a thing about it.
When the ultra-Orthodox harass, they often have one of their colleagues film the event. If a believer tries to defend himself, he will find himself on youtube - only, of course, the part of the video that shows the Messianic believer.
UNDER HOUSE ARREST
Eddie Beckford is an ex-Marine who finally became so annoyed that he punched an ultra-Orthodox (for which he is more than sorry). That was all they needed. They took the case to the police - and the police have put Eddie under house arrest for a year and a half. That’s right. A year and a half without being brought to trial.
Now get this. Eddie and Laura left their house with the judge’s approval to visit a doctor on April 22 of this year. The haredim, who as we said have much time on their hands, continue to stalk the believers. They saw the Beckford’s car leave and went to the police to tell them that Eddie and Laura had left their home against court instructions.
So on the way back to their home, the police stopped the Beckfords, making them 20 minutes late getting home. Meanwhile, the police, alerted by the haredim, went to their home and found them gone past their curfew.
So a couple of months later, the police showed up at their door and arrested Eddie for not being at home on time on April 22. After explaining the situation to the police, he was released after his wife signed a pledge to pay $500. That is after the Beckfords have already signed a $9,000 bond if he “escapes.”
Despite their house arrest, they, as did Paul in prison, have used the time to share the Good News with friends who come to visit them. They have especially been given the opportunity to minister to Bedouin whose religion is a form of Islam.
Not far away in Beersheva, Howard Bass, leader of Nahalat Yeshua (Yeshua’s Inheritance) has decided to take to court a fierce attack against their congregation when 500 haredim mobbed their Saturday morning service, trashing the inside of their building for three hours. The believers were hit and knocked about while the police stood by watching, but doing nothing.
The case has been accepted by a judge and the next hearing will be on November 23. However, it is worth starting to pray now, as this is an important case because either these people who hate the Messianic Jews will continue to have a free hand at harassing the believers in Arad, Beersheva and surrounding areas, or the courts will stand up in justice on the side of freedom of religion and human rights.
The anti-religious freedom organization Yad L’achim is growing by leaps and bounds and structuring itself in every major town and area in the country. Especially, since the ultra-Orthodox Shas party and the other Orthodox parties are squarely in the seat of power with access to hundreds of millions of shekels, Yad L’achim is becoming much more aggressive and organized - taking on semi-governmental status.
They gather information on every believer possible and publically claim they have spies in all the congregations.
PROTESTING AGAINST A PARKING LOT
Cartoon on www.jewishisrael.com portrays Messianic Jews duping
elderly Israelis into believing in Yeshua.
As Paul the Apostle said, “They have a zeal for God, but without knowledge.” The ultra-Orthodox have lost their way and are without a compass. Trying to be holy, they flail at the wind. For the past few months, the haredim have been violently demonstrating every Sabbath in Jerusalem. For what? The city wanted to keep open a large parking lot on the Sabbath so visitors to the Old City of Jerusalem would have a place to park nearby. As it is now, hundreds of cars park alongside the streets, causing terrible traffic jams throughout that part of the city.
The haredim were determined the parking lot would not be open for parking. And mobs of hundreds and even thousands have blocked off large areas near the Old City over this parking lot week after week.
The mayor is determined to open the parking lot and the haredim are determined it will not be open as it will “desecrate the Sabbath.” As of now, the weekly protests continue with throwing rocks at the police, burning garbage containers and vandalizing the areas - all for the purpose of maintaining the Sabbath peace.
RIOTING AGAINST PROSECUTING ULTRA-ORTHODOX CRIMINALS
Lately there has been a spate of a variety of crimes which has rocked the ultra-Orthodox community. An especially difficult tragedy concerns a woman who seems to be mentally ill and who was starving her three year old. The child was brought to the hospital weighing only about 16 pounds. When the hospital finally realized what she was doing (through cameras they saw her disconnecting the feeding tube from the boy) they arrested her.
Again, thousands of haredim took to the streets with violent demonstrations, not because the child had been abused, but claiming the woman had been framed by police. This story is not over as there is a good chance the woman will be tried and jailed. That would almost certainly give rioting haredim another reason for violent protests.
No matter what crime has been committed, the ultra-Orthodox do not want one of their own to be prosecuted, and will do whatever they can to keep the laws of the State of “Zionist” Israel from being enforced in their communities (unless they themselves are using the courts and government institutions for such purposes as against Messianic Jews).
AGAINST THE STATE OF ISRAEL
Their reasoning is that because Israel is a secular state, it was born in sin and cannot be legitimate until the Messiah comes and the nation is ruled by Talmudic law! Thus they see themselves as anti-Zionists, meaning anti-modern State of Israel.
However, they do love receiving mammoth government stipends for their non-working families, their yeshivas (Talmudic schools) and all of their educational institutions.
Persecution is still very much an issue in Israel. From Galilee to the Negev desert in the south, Messianic believers must be alert to those who wish to harm them, who work to force them out of the Land and who desire to do everything in their power - legally or illegally - to delegitimize them and their faith in Yeshua.
But God is watching over Israel, positioning believers, young and old, in His Land to prepare for the Great Awakening He has promised.
So as Shani wrote in her article, we must pray for the salvation of these ultra-Orthodox communities. Just think what will happen when their zeal is accompanied with revelation of Yeshua.
All Israel will be saved!
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Arieh the Lion
Arieh arrived with his mother and brother from Belarus to the Promise Land at age seven. His mom had to do something quickly in order to earn a living for herself and her two boys, so she enrolled in a Hebrew language class. There she met a believer and joined a little Bible study in the suburbs of Tel Aviv.
Someone told her about Congregation Tiferet Yeshua and his Mom decided to attend. Arieh by that time was 11, and to say the least, was not interested in God at all. But he came to please his mother.
Arieh raps on the streets in a Katzir youth conference outreach
At 13 he had his Bar Mitzvah at the congregation, learned the portion of the Hebrew Scriptures he read on that important Shabbat (Sabbath), but he still was “religious” only on Shabbat. He knew there was a God, but couldn’t see why he needed to relate to Him.
The turning point for Arieh, as it is for many Israeli teenagers, was the national summer Katzir (Harvest) youth conference two years ago. There with 100 plus other young people, he began to seek God. Arieh was hungry. His mother’s prayers were being answered.
But back home he still found it hard to give himself wholly to the Lord. The world - his friends in school - were still pulling at him and Yeshua was not popular with any of his neighborhood buddies. He and his brother were alone, struggling with their faith.
Arieh explains: “At 15 I started listening to rap music on the Internet and came across Lacrea, a Christian rap group. I loved them - and listened to them for hours. I decided that I would be a rapper and write lyrics in my language - Hebrew.
A few lines from one of Arieh’s raps (translated
from Hebrew where the verses rhyme)
“I tried and tried, but zero... At my age there was nothing more important to me than rap. But I just couldn’t make it happen.
“Finally I decided to pray. I said, ‘God, if you really exist, give me the ability to write believing rap lyrics.’ Within a couple of days I wrote three songs.
That’s when I felt God had given me a talent. I knew then there was a God and I knew my Messiah had died for me. In short, I have given myself completely to God.”
Arieh has one more year of high school and then will be heading for the army. He is rapping in youth meetings, both at Congregation Tiferet Yeshua and in national events.
Apparently, God has many diverse ways to reach a soul with Everlasting Life. Arieh (whose name means “Lion” in Hebrew), had a revelation of his Savior which changed his life forever and he is determine to let everybody around him know about it! Arieh has become a role model for lots of other kids who are finding their way home to Heaven.
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Israel's Katzir (Harvest)
Summer National Youth Conference
The teens at the Katzir conference board a boat for a night ride on the Sea of Galilee.
Everybody knows that teenage years are not a bowl of honey. How much more in Israel where a Messianic Jewish student is most often the only believer in his or her school. Our own children suffered greatly in school because ours was the only believing family in town!
So the Katzir conferences, first begun by Souled Out Ministries from Chicago, have been lifelines to a great many Israeli young people over the years. Though the numbers are not great in comparison with other nations, we can only rejoice at the fruit that comes from Katzir every year. Many of Israel’s new generation of leaders were deeply changed at these conferences.
Remember that sad Scripture in the book of Jeremiah: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved!” Jeremiah 8:20.
Thank God, for the youth that attended Katzir this last summer, that’s one prophecy that no longer applies to them.
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Would your congregation, church, Bible Study, group, like to hear FIRST HAND from Ari?
Would you like to get a personal update about what is truly happening in Israel? Do you wish sometimes you could ask Ari a question about what’s going on in Israel?
You and your group/congregation can have a dialogue with Ari and find out what is truly happening-politically, spiritually, socially, economically, and of course, physically, in the Holy Land of Israel.
It’s a great opportunity to bring Israel right to your front door—with a SKYPE connection.
No international airfare, no hotel accommodations, no jet lag! Just Ari—up close and personal.
Give us a call today and let us help you make the connection with Ari and Shira! Your congregation will love it! Your network will love it! And Ari will love it!
Happy New Year from Zion!
Fall is upon us. In Israel, this is the new planting season. Farmers are purchasing seed and preparing the ground for a new yield of fruit, vegetables and grains. Just behind our house, we see the workers plowing the ground for the next crop of strawberries.
In the heavenly realm, that is also true.
Those who have already come to faith, are being nurtured and discipled. And now we begin to prepare for another precious harvest season - to “purchase seed” - prepare more books for publication, make plans for evening Bible studies (which our congregation loves), work with the teens and children’s leadership, train leaders and laborers, and work with evangelism teamsand continue developing the worship teams.
Beginning in September, as every Israeli farmer does, we pray for the early (full) rains. However, our prayers are for the rain of the Holy Spirit to convict our people of sin and reveal the solution to that sin problem through the Sacrifice of Yeshua.
We pray that the love of Yeshua will be seen upon every single member of our congregation, Tiferet Yeshua, and our Maoz Israel staff as we labor together for the harvest.
To reap a harvest, we must invest. Every farmer knows that! The seed costs. The fertilizers, the laborers, the machinery - even the taxes!
You understand the picture. Since you are a part of the harvest field in which Maoz works, your participation is an essential component of God’s plan to bring salvation to Israel.
Our outreaches are many, as we also help other congregations and ministries who are pioneering in different areas of Israel - both Jew and Arab. We love to cooperate with the Body at large in every way possible.
Our hearts are filled with joy when we can help children, teenagers and young adults find their purpose for living in Yeshua. Of course, that takes time, laborers and significant funds to be continually in touch with the young people who live over a large part of central Israel. Our leaders minister to soldiers, college students, young career adults, teens and kids.
Just one example is the music program we have initiated to give our children the opportunity to study music by providing them with 90% of the costs. Within a few short years, many of them who would never had the opportunity to study music will be a part of our worship teams.
Materials that will be meaningful to our children and teens must be translated and printed at considerable expense - but it is so worthwhile! Already, now, we have congregational members who are preparing original materials in Hebrew - for which we are very excited!
We are expanding our media department, because there is no better way to reach Israeli youth than through the Internet and Social Networking. A recent poll shows that 99% of Israel’s children have access to Internet. And they spend hours each day looking for anything interesting...
There is much more we can do with your help. And by the grace of God, together we will do it! Because He promised, “All Israel shall be saved!”
Your partners in Israel’s Harvest,
Ari & Shira Sorko-Ram
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