Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
It was the site of the first and second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and according to Judaism is to be the site of the third and final Temple in the time of the Messiah. Since the 7th century it has been the site of two major Muslim religious shrines, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. It is the holiest site in Judaism, the third holiest site in Islam, and has special significance to Christianity. It is thus one of the most contested religious sites in the world.
History and Traditions of the Site
According to the Talmud, it was from here that God gathered the earth that was formed into Adam (some Christians say it was Golgotha), and it was here that Adam - and later Cain, Abel, and Noah - offered sacrifices to God.
According to the Bible, the place where Abraham fulfilled God's test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac was Mount Moriah. The Talmud says that this was another name for the Temple Mount. According to Muslims, Abraham was to sacrifice his son Ishmael.
The Bible recounts that Jacob dreamt about angels ascending and descending a ladder while sleeping on a stone. The Talmud says that this took place on the Temple Mount, and Jewish tradition has it that the rock in the Dome of the Rock was the one on which he slept.
According to the Bible, King David purchased a threshing floor owned by Aravnah the Jebusite (2 Samuel, 24:18-25) overlooking Jerusalem upon the cessation of a plague, to erect an altar. He wanted to construct a permanent temple there, but as his hands were "bloodied," he was forbidden to do so himself, so this task was left to his son Solomon, who completed the task c. 950 BC. After standing for 410 years, the First Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 BC.
Reconstruction of the Temple (see the Second Temple) began after the 70 year exile to Babylonia, but was destroyed by Titus 420 years later, in 70 CE. The Romans were, however, unable to topple the Western Wall of the Temple Mount.
Upon the destruction of the Temple, the Rabbis revised prayers, and introduced new ones to request the speedy rebuilding of the temple. They also instituted the saying of the portions of the Torah commanding the bringing of the sacrifices in place of the sacrifices themselves.
After the Muslim conquest of this region, the Temple Mount became known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif الحرم الشريف (the Noble Sanctuary); it is traditionally regarded by Muslims as the third most important Islamic holy site, after Mecca and Medina. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism.
Islam respects David and Solomon as prophets, and regards the Temple (mentioned in Quran 17:7, and described in much more detail in the noncanonical Qisas al-Anbiya) as one of the earliest and most noteworthy places of worship of God. (The Kaaba's sanctity has a similar basis in the Islamic tradition that it was built, or rebuilt, by Abraham.) In addition to this, the "farthest Mosque" (al-masjid al-Aqṣa) in verse (17:1) of the Qur'an is traditionally interpreted by Muslims as referring to the site at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on which the mosque of that name now stands, though some historians consider this interpretation to be historically invalid; see Al-Aqsa Mosque regarding this interpretation.
When Muslims first entered the city of Jerusalem, according to Arab historians of the time (eg MujÓr-ud-DÓn) as confirmed by the medieval Jewish Geniza documents, the ruins of the Temple were being used as a rubbish dump by the Christian inhabitants, in order to humiliate the Jews and fulfill Jesus' prophecy that not a stone would be left standing on another there; the Caliph (and companion of Muhammad) Umar ibn al-Khattab, horrified to see it in such a state, ordered it cleaned and performed prayer there at once. According to some sources, he also built a mosque there. Several of the earliest non-Muslim sources - notably the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes Confessor and the Jewish Secrets of Rabbi Simon ben Yohai - indicate that Umar's action was hailed by the Jews of the time as a restoration of the Temple of Jerusalem.
In 690 CE, after the Islamic conquest of Palestine, an octagonal Muslim shrine (but not a mosque) was built around the rock, which became known as the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhra قبة الصخرة). In 715 CE the Umayyads rebuilt the Temple's Chanuyos into a mosque (see illustrations and detailed drawing) which they named al-Masjid al-Aqsa المسجد الأقصى, the Al-Aqsa Mosque or in translation "the furthest mosque". It has been destroyed several times in earthquakes; the current version dates from the first half of the 11th century. Both buildings are considered holy to Muslims and make Jerusalem the third-holiest city, after Mecca and Medina.
The Western Wall of the Temple Mount remains standing until today and due to its proximity to where the Temples once stood has, for practical purposes, become the holiest site for Jews to pray at. Many Jews often leave written prayers addressed to God in the cracks of the wall.
Controversy over location of site
In 1999 Dr. Ernest L. Martin published a controversial book called The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot based upon the idea of Ory Mazar, son of Professor Benjamin Mazar of Hebrew University. In 1995 Dr. Martin wrote a draft report to support this theory. He wrote: "I was then under the impression that Simon the Hasmonean (along with Herod a century later) moved the Temple from the Ophel mound to the Dome of the Rock area."
However, after studying the words of Josephus concerning the Temple of Herod, which was reported to be in the same general area of the former Temples, he then read the account of Eleazar who led the final contingent of Jewish resistance to the Romans at Masada which stated that the Roman fortress was the only structure left by 73 C.E. "With this key in mind, I came to the conclusion in 1997 that all the Temples were indeed located on the Ophel mound over the area of the Gihon Spring". This theory implied that Judaism was fighting to preserve the wrong location, which in turn sparked reactions from Moslems.
The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot by Dr. Martin was made even more controvsial due to the fact that he had previously spent five years engaged in excavations near the Western Wall in a joint project between Hebrew University and Ambassador College, publisher of The Plain Truth magazine edited by Herbert W. Armstrong.
Jewish Religious Law Concerning Entry to the Site
The Rabbis have ruled that Jews may not enter specific areas (approximately 15%) of the Temple Mount  because of the danger of entering the area of the Temple courtyard and the difficulty of fulfilling the ritual requirement of cleansing oneself with the ashes of a red heifer (see Numbers 19), and declared it punishable with kareth , or death by heavenly decree . The boundaries of the areas to be avoided, while having large portions in common, are delineated differently by various rabbinic authorities.
Many Rabbis have "imposed a blanket ban on access for Jews to the entire Temple Mount", given the uncertainty about the location of the permitted areas, an opinion still supported by Rabbis such as Ovadia Yosef, Avraham Shapiro, Eliahu Bakshi-Doron, and Israel Lau. In August 1967, the Chief Rabbis of Israel, Isser Yehuda Unterman and Yitzhak Nissim , in concert with other leading rabbis, asserted that "For generations we have warned against and refrained from entering any part of the Temple Mount."
However, many other rabbis, including Maimonides, Abraham Isaac Kook, Shlomo Goren, former Chief rabbi of Israel, Chaim David Halevi, and Mordechai Eliyahu have "strongly encouraged" Jews to visit the permitted sections of the Temple Mount. . During Maimonides' residence in Jerusalem, a synagogue stood on the Temple Mount alongside other structures; Maimonides prayed there. The law committee of the Masorti movement (Conservative Judaism in Israel) has issued two responsa on the subject, both holding that Jews may visit the permitted sections of the Temple Mount. One responsa allows such visits, another encourages them.
See also Jerusalem, Jews and Judaism.
Al-Aqsa arson and aftermath
On August 21, 1969, an Australian named Michael Dennis Rohan set the Al-Aqsa mosque, located atop the Temple Mount, on fire. Rohan was a reader of The Plain Truth magazine published by the Worldwide Church of God headed by Herbert W. Armstrong, which was best known for its radio and television programs called The World Tomorrow featuring his son Garner Ted Armstrong. Rohan had read an editorial in the June 1967 edition by Herbert W. Armstrong, concerning rebuilding of the Temple on Temple Mount. The article implied that the present structures would have to be removed and then when a new Temple had been built a series of events would take place resulting in the return of Jesus as the Messiah. This interpretation of prophetic events is now mainstream fundamentalist Christianity, but a scenario that was almost exclusive to the Worldwide Church of God at that time. Herbert W. Armstrong claimed that Rohan was not a member of the church, only a subscriber to the magazine. The incident made worldwide news and The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London pictured Rohan on its front page with a folded copy of The Plain Truth sticking out of his outside jacket pocket.
The Arab world blamed Israel for the incident and Yassar Arafat constantly used it as the foundation of his attacks on Israel. Several Arab and Islamic media agencies, including the Jordanian News Agency , IslamOnline , and Palestine Chronicle , incorrectly reported that Rohan was Jewish. However, Herbert W. Armstrong was not a stranger to King Hussein and he had been working with Jordanian government to put his daily radio program called The World Tomorrow on their AM and shortwave stations that broadcast from the Jordanian West Bank. That contract had been negated due to the Six Day War and the sudden capture of the Jordanian radio stations by Israel.
Israeli sources claim that Israeli firemen attempting to extinguish the blaze were hampered by Arabs who mistakenly believed that the fire hoses contained petrol rather than water; Ikrima Sabri claims that Palestinian efforts to put out the fire were obstructed by Israel.
On February 1, 1981, a remarkable article of historic proportions appeared in the Los Angeles Times. It was written by Don A. Schanche in the Opinion section under the headline: "Islam Reborn" which related the following information:
The Islamic conference, for example, was born in a worldwide surge of Muslim outrage over the August, 1969, burning of Jerusalem's Al Aksa mosque, third holiest shrine in Islam after Mecca and Medina, by a deranged Australian Jew, who many Muslims believed was a pawn in a Zionist plot. The call to gather in Rabat, Morocco, to unify and do something to redress the outrage drew only 25 of the more than 40 nations in the world with Muslim majorities. With only one cause to unite them, the kings and presidents talked for only a day and issued a call for the restoration of Arab sovereignty over Jerusalem and other territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Then they adjourned. The meeting and the newly founded organization were all but ignored by the rest of the world.... Last week, with its membership now grown to 42, but attendance weakened by the suspension of Egypt and Soviet-occupied Afghanistan and the pointed absence of Iran and Libya, the Islamic conference went a long way toward achieving its long-sought goal of power in unity.
On April 11, 1981, which was a mere two months after this article appeared in the Los Angeles Times, an American-born Israeli soldier named Alan Harry Goodman entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque and started firing randomly, killing two Palestinians.
In recent years many complaints have been voiced by Israelis about Muslim construction and excavation on and underneath the Temple Mount, and by Muslims about Israeli excavations, two under the Temple Mount, the rest around it. It is ironic that for a time Ambassador College which was the liberal arts educational institution of the Worldwide Church of God, regulary provided students and money during summer breaks to assist with these excavations.
Some claim that this will lead to the destabilization of the retaining walls of the Temple Mount, of which the Western Wall is one, and/or the al-Aqsa Mosque, and allege that one side is doing so deliberately to cause the collapse of the sacred sites of the other. Israelis allege that Palestinians are deliberately removing significant amounts of archaeological evidence about the Jewish past of the site and claim to have found significant artifacts in the fill removed by bulldozers and trucks from the Temple Mount. Muslims allege that the Israelis are deliberately damaging the remains of Islamic-era buildings found in their excavations. See below for details.
Since the Waqf is granted almost full autonomy on the Islamic holy sites, Israeli archaeologists have been prevented from inspecting the area; they have, however, conducted several excavations under and around the Temple Mount.
Damage to existing structures
In 1968-69, Israeli archeologists carried out excavations at the foot of the Temple Mount, immediately south of the al-Aqsa mosque and opened two ancient Second Temple period tunnels there that penetrate five meters and 30 meters beneath Al-Aqsa Mosque in the area of the Hulda and Single gates, penetrating five meters into one and 30 meters into another. "At the Temple Mount's south wall digging took place to uncover the Arabic Umayyad palaces and Crusader remains." 
Over the period 1970-1988, the Israeli authorities excavated a tunnel passing immediately to the west of the Temple Mount, northwards from the Western Wall, sometimes using mechanical excavators under the supervision of archeologists. Palestinians claim that both of these have caused cracks and structural weakening of the buildings in the Muslim Quarter of the city above. Israelis confirmed this danger:
- "The Moslem authorities were concerned about the ministry tunnel along the Temple Mount wall, and not without cause. Two incidents during the Mazar dig along the southern wall had sounded alarm bells. Technion engineers had already measured a slight movement in part of the southern wall during the excavations...There was no penetration of the Mount itself or danger to holy places, but midway in the tunnel's progress large cracks appeared in one of the residential buildings in the Moslem Quarter, 12 meters above the excavation. The dig was halted until steel buttresses secured the building." - Abraham Rabinovitch, The Jerusalem Post, September 27, 1996
In 1982, Yehuda Meir Getz, rabbi of the Western Wall, had workmen open the ancient gateway, known as Warren's Gate , between the tunnel leading north from the Western Wall and the innards of the Temple Mount itself. Arabs on the Mount heard excavation noises from one of the more than two dozen cisterns on the Mount. Israeli Government officials upon being notified of the unauthorized tunneling hastily ordered the Warren's Gate resealed. It remains closed today.
In 1996, Israel completed a second tunnel beside the Temple Mount, which Palestinians say trespassed on Waqf property.
Archeologist Leon Pressouyre, a UNESCO envoy who visited the site in 1998 and claims to have been prevented from meeting Israeli officials (in his own words, "Mr Avi Shoket, Israel's permanent delegate to UNESCO, had repeatedly opposed my mission and, when I expressed the wish to meet with his successor, Uri Gabay, I was denied an appointment"), accuses the Israeli government of culpably neglecting to protect the Islamic period buildings uncovered in Israeli excavations. More recently, Prof. Oleg Grabar of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University has replaced Leon Pressouyre as the UNESCO envoy to investigate the Israeli allegations that antiquities are being destroyed by the Waqf on the Temple Mount. Initially, Grabar was denied access to the buildings by Israel for over a year, allegedly due to the threat of violence resulting from the al-Aqsa Intifada. His eventual conclusion was that the monuments are deteriorating largely because of conflicts over who is responsible for them, the Jordanian government, the local Palestinian Authority or the Israeli government.
In autumn 2002, a bulge of about 700 mm was reported in the southern retaining wall part of the Temple Mount. It was feared that that part of the wall might seriously deteriorate or even collapse. The Waqf would not permit detailed Israeli inspection but came to an agreement with Israel that led to a team of Jordanian engineers inspecting the wall in October. They recommended repair work that involved replacing or resetting most of the stones in the affected area which covers 2,000 square feet (200 m²) and is located 25 feet (8 m) from the top of the wall.  Repairs were completed before January 2004. The restoration of 250 square meters of wall cost 100,000 Jordanian dinars ($140,000).
On February 16, 2004, a portion of a stone retaining wall supporting the ramp that leads from the Western Wall plaza to the Gate of the Moors (Arabic Bab al-Maghariba , Hebrew Sha'ar HaMughrabim ) and on the Temple Mount collapsed. 
Damage to adjoining areas
In 1967, Israel razed the entire historic medieval Moorish Quarter (Harat al-Magharbah ) of the Old City, immediately adjacent to the Temple Mount, to the ground in order to build a new plaza in front of the Western Wall and a yeshiva. Many consider this to have severely damaged the historic context of the area.
Damage to antiquities
Beginning in 1996, the Muslim Waqf has been constructing a series of works on and under the Temple Mount. The construction has been carried out without any archeological supervision. Material has been removed using bulldozers and other earth moving equipment.
In 1996 the Waqf began construction in the structures known (inaccurately) since Crusader times as Solomon's Stables , and in the Eastern Hulda Gate passageway, allowed the (re)opening of a mosque called the Marwani Musalla (claimed by Israel to be new, by Palestinians to be restored from pre-Crusader times) capable of accommodating 7,000 individuals. Many Israelis regard this as a radical change of the status quo under which the site had been administered since the Six-Day War which should not have been undertaken without consulting the Israeli government; Palestinians regard these objections as irrelevant. Though the building was built at the same time as the Al-Aqsa Mosque, whether the building had been a mosque before Crusader times or not is unknown:
- "The underground area used today as the Marwani Mosque appears to have been built at the same time as the Al-Aksa Mosque in the 8th century and may have been renovated in the 10th century, but there is no evidence that the area was ever used as a mosque." Israeli archeologist Jon Seligman 
In 1997, the Western Hulda Gate passageway was converted into another mosque. In November 1999, a buried Crusader-era door was reopened as an emergency exit for the Marwani Mosque , opening a excavation claimed by Israel to be 18,000 square feet (1,700 m²) in size and up to 36 feet (11 m) deep. According to The New York Times, an emergency exit had been urged upon the Waqf by the Israeli police, and its necessity was acknowledged by the Israeli Antiquities Authority .
In early 2001, Israeli police said they observed bulldozers destroying an ancient arched structure located adjacent to the eastern wall of the Temple Mount in the course of construction during which 6,000 square meters of the Temple Mount were dug up by tractors, paved, and declared to be open air mosques, which is assumed to have intermixed the underlying strata. Some of the earth and rubble removed was dumped in the El-Azaria and in the Kidron Valleys, and some of it (as of September 2004) remained in mounds on the site. The excavation and removal of earth with minimal archaelogical supervision became an issue of controversy, with some scholars such as Jon Seligman claiming that valuable history material is being destroyed and others, such as Dan Bahat and Meir Ben-Dov, disputing this assessment. The Israeli Antiquities Authority (IAA) inspected the material and declared it of no archaelogical value, but a group called the Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of the Antiquities on the Temple Mount campaigned against this position and in September 2004 obtained a temporary injunction against the IAA and the Muslim Waqf preventing them from removing the material which still lies in mounds on the site. Both sides accuse the other of having political motivation.
Management of the Site
A Muslim Waqf has managed the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif continuously since the Muslim reconquest of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Since taking control of the area in the Six-Day War, Israel has not changed this state of affairs.
- On the 7th June 1967, immediately after the fighting had died down in Jerusalem, the then Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, convened the spiritual leaders of all the communities in Jerusalem and assured them that "no harm whatsoever shall come to the places sacred to all religions", and that contacts should be maintained in order to make certain that spiritual activities of the religious leaders in the Old City may continue. He also mentioned that upon his request the Minister of Religious Affairs had issued instructions according to which arrangements in connection with the Western Wall, Muslim Holy Places and Christian Holy Places should be determined by the Chief Rabbis of Israel, a council of Muslim clerics and a council of Christian clergy respectively. Together with the extension of Israeli jurisdiction and administration over east Jerusalem, the Knesset passed the Preservation of the Holy Places Law, 1967,  ensuring protection of the Holy Places against desecration, as well as freedom of access thereto.—Jerusalem–The Legal and Political Background Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Israel 
Claims of Exclusivity
Jewish Claims of Exclusivity
- Many Israelis object to the continued Arab presence on the Temple Mount.
- One extremist group, the Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement advocates the removal of the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque, which they deem signs of "Islamic conquest and domination", suggesting that they be "rebuilt at Mecca" and claiming "G-d ... expects Israel to re-liberate the Temple Mount from the pagan Arab worshippers." This group has very little support in Israel.
- On June 7, 1967, a few hours after East Jerusalem fell into Israeli hands, Rabbi Shlomo Goren told General Uzi Narkiss "Now is the time to put 100 kilograms of explosives into the Mosque of Omar so that we may rid ourselves of it once and for all." His request was denied. Later that year, in a speech to a military convention, he added: "Certainly we should have blown it up. It is a tragedy for generations that we did not do so. ... I myself would have gone up there and wiped it off the ground completely so that there was no trace that there was ever a Mosque of Omar there."
Muslim Claims of Exclusivity
- Sheikh Ikrima Sabri , chairperson of the Palestinian Higher Islamic Commission and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, claims that the Temple Mount, all its structures and wall, including the Western Wall, are a sacred place "only for the Muslims around the globe." IslamOnline
- Fatwa, also from IslamOnline, asserting "Jews Have No Legitimate Claim to Al-Buraq Wall" 
- "The archaeology of Jerusalem is diverse - excavations in the Old City and the areas surrounding it revealed Umayyad Islamic palaces, Roman ruins, Armenian ruins and others, but nothing Jewish. Outside of what is mentioned written in the Old and New Testaments, there is no tangible evidence of any Jewish traces remains in the old city of Jerusalem and its immediate vicinity."—Palestinian Authority Information Ministry Press Release, December 10, 1997
- "The claims being made by the rulers of Israel and its rabbis about the alleged Temple are pure fabrications without any base or foundation."—Statement by the Higher Islamic Authority of Palestine Al-Quds (PA), December 28, 2001 (Translation by BBC Worldwide Monitoring)
- "(The Israelis) claim that 2000 years ago they had a Temple (on the Temple Mount). I challenge the claim that this is so. But even if it is so, we do not accept (current Israeli claims on the Temple Mount)."—Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), First Prime Minister of the Palestine Authority Kul Al-Arab (Israel), August 25, 2000 (Translations by MEMRI)
Acknowledgements of the bases for its holiness to other religions
Jews do not believe in the Quran, and as such do not accept the claim that Muhammed is a prophet or that he experienced a night trip to Jerusalem. Many Jews who are conversant with the topic believe that, in any case, the Quran's discussion of the night trip never involved Jerusalem or the Temple Mount, but rather that this was a later Muslim reinterpretation of the verse, made for political reasons. See the discussion of this topic at Al-Aqsa Mosque).
However, the Government of Israel and most Jews, recognize that Muslims regard the site as holy based upon their beliefs, and respect the rights of Muslims to hold such beliefs and to pray there in their fashion. The State of Israel has guaranteed Muslim access to the site since capturing it in the Six-Day War.
The main reason that the Temple Mount is holy in Judaism is that it was the site of the Temple. This fact provides a major reason for its holiness in Islam; it is still considered to be the orthodox Islamic position. A Brief Guide to al-Haram al-Sharif, a booklet published in 1930 by the "Supreme Moslem Council", a body established by the British government to administer waqfs during the British Mandate period, states:
- "The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest times. Its identity with the site of Solomon's Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings." A footnote refers the reader to 2 Samuel 26:25. 
More recent examples include a fatwa issued by the Saudi Sheikh M. S. al-Munajjid, quoted on IslamOnline , 18 March 2001, stating that:
- Al-Aqsa Mosque (in Jerusalem) was the first of the two qiblahs (prayer direction), and is one of the three mosques to which people may travel for the purpose of worship. And it was said that it was built by Sulayman (Solomon, peace be upon him), as stated in Sunan an-Nasa’i and classed as authentic by al-Albani.
Since the beginning of Islam, this has been the orthodox position. Starting in the 1990s, however, some people, including the PA-appointed Sheikh Ikrima Sabri , chairperson of the Palestinian Higher Islamic Commission and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, have denied that the site is connected with Solomon, and that it had any history involving the Jews.
- The Haram al-Sharif: An Essay in Interpretation by Oleg Grabar (discussing the history of the name "Haram al-Sharif")
- Protection of Holy Places Law, 1967 (Government of Israel)
- The Temple Mount - the Haram-esh-Sharif (from US-Israel.org)
- The Temple Mount in Jerusalem (Christian source)
- Noble Sanctuary: The Online Guide to Al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem
- Site Plan the site plan has south at the top
- Entering the Temple Mount In Our Time, Masorti movement responsa
- A daily national Christian Broadcaster of Bible Prophecy
- Igor Schestkow - Temple Mount - Dome of the Rock Photos
- Jerusalem's Temple Mount Flap (from Archeology magazine)
- The Archeological Destruction on the Temple Mount (from "Israel's War Against Terror")
- The Temple Mount Archaeological Destruction (with photographs of the construction) from Committee for the Prevention of Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount
- The Destruction of the Temple Mount Antiquities (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Islamic Research Academy on archeological damage
- Friends of Al-Aqsa Journal (on archaeological damage)
- Controversy over exact location of the Temples
Al Aqsa arson controversy
"During an assembly commemorating the 1969 arson attempt on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Zakhariya Al-Agha, a member of the PA Executive Council, made a speech on Arafat's behalf, stressing the determination of the Palestinian people to continue along the path of Jihad until the occupation ends." (Al-Ayyam, August 22, 2001)
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