Israel, Turkey & Morocco: Foundations of Faith

This fascinating journey was one of a National Geographic Traveler's 2012 “50 Tours of a Lifetime”

Israel, Turkey & Morocco: Foundations of Faith Inspired Expeditions

(Countries Visited)






(Interest Type(s))

Adventure Travel



(Tour Length)

19 Days

Tour Highlights

Starting at: $11,990

This journey, one of National Geographic Traveler’s 2012 “50 Tours of a Lifetime,” explores world history, religion, tradition and culture from many different perspectives.  It was designed to highlight the compelling theme of the history of Judaism as seen across three very different cultures.  It is interwoven in the fabric of each nation, including two predominantly Muslim countries.  This perspective, combined with the best guides, accommodations and sites, makes this the ultimate dream trip for those who find the currents of history irresistible. 

  • Explore part of Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem with a Holocaust Survivor as your guide for a once-in-a-lifetime experience
  • In Jerusalem’s Old City, visit a private home/museum of a family in the Jewish Quarter
  • Tour the Golan Heights in the company of a former member of the Israeli military to learn about the multi-faceted, geo-politically issues about this area
  • In Istanbul, visit to a Jewish neighborhood known as Galata to see the Galata Tower, built by the Genoese in 1303, and to visit local synagogues
  • In Morocco, discover the Mellah of Fes, a more than 650-year-old neighborhood adjoining the royal palace, where Jews took shelter during the 1912 pogrom


Day 1:  Arrive Tel Aviv, Israel
Shalom!  Welcome to Israel!  Upon arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport, your Big Five VIP representative greets you at the plane and assists you through passport control and luggage collections.  After proceeding through immigration you are escorted to the arrival hall where you will meet your private driver and be transferred to your hotel in Tel Aviv.  The remainder of the day is at leisure.  The Dan Tel Aviv – Executive Sea View Room

Day 2:  Tel Aviv
Meet your driver/guide this morning to visit Neve Tzedek – one of the first neighborhoods established in Tel Aviv when the old city of Jaffa became overcrowded for its residents.  Drive down Rothschild Boulevard known as the “white Tel Aviv” and see the Bauhaus architecture so dominant here.  Proceed to Ramat Aviv and visit the Museum of the Diaspora.  This museum was established to convey the story of the Jewish people from the time of their expulsion from the Land of Israel 2,500 years ago to the present.  It relates the unique story of the continuity of the Jewish people through exhibition, education and cultural endeavors.  End the day with a special tour accompanied by a local guide of the vibrant Levinsky Market that specializes in spices and Mediterranean delicacies.  The market is known for the delicatessen products – pickles, herring, cheeses and other regional specialties, which you may sample.

• Dinner at the Blackout Restaurant only available Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
• The Nalagaat Center – the first of its kind in the world seeks to promote interaction between deaf-blind, deaf and blind individuals and people able to hear and see.  We will arrange for a roundtrip transfer with a cab, if required. Please note that this visit must be booked well in advance.  The Dan Tel Aviv – Executive Sea View Room

Day 3:  Tel Aviv / Caesarea / Kfar Tikva / Zichron Ya’acov / Tiberias
Drive the coast highway to the ancient crusader city of Caesarea, originally called Straton’s Tower after its founder Straton, who ruled Sidon during the 4th Century BC.  Over the span of 12 years, Herod built this to be the grandest city, after  Jerusalem, and named it in honor of the emperor.  The population was half Jewish and half gentile, which was the source of many disputes.  This is also where Romans  tortured  and executed Rabbi Akiva following the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 AD.  Today, the amphitheater is not only a spectacular relic of the past, but a modern performing arts venue.  Continue to Kfar Tikva where you tour an Israeli winery, Tulip Winery in Kfar Tikva (Village of Hope), which produces premium wines.  Proceed north to the picturesque town of Zichron Ya’acov.  The Aharonson Family was among the first settlers there, and have been very active in the village.  Their son Aharon had influenced the agriculture of the area, and two more family members – Sarah and Alexander were part of the Netzah Israel Lo Yeshaker, which helped the British forces during WW1.  Their family home has become a national museum.  Proceed to Tiberias and check-in to your hotel.  Mitzpe Hayamim – Suite (B)

Day 4:  Tiberias – Safed / Golan Heights / Valley of the Tears
Ascend the Upper Galilee and visit the mystical city of Safed - one of the four holy cities in Israel -- the other three are Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias -- and is 900 meters above sea level in the Upper Galilee, with magnificent views of the Golan and the Sea of Galilee.  The old part of town consists of narrow cobblestone streets, many artists’ galleries, medieval synagogues and private homes.  Here you will meet with one of the locals and learn about the “Kabbalah,” which is considered, by its followers, as a necessary part of the study of the Torah.  Continue to Dado look-out point and see the neighboring villages of Lebanon just meters away.  You have a special opportunity to meet a retired military leader for a two hour tour of Golan Heights and learn firsthand about the geo-political situation of this area.  You proceed with your driver/guide to the Valley of the Tears, site of one of the fiercest tank battles of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  Time permitting, you will visit Oz 77 – an impressive audio-visual presentation of this heroic battle before returning to Tiberias.  Mitzpe Hayamim – Suite (B)

Day 5:  Tiberias / Kibbutz Degania / Beit Shean / Beit Alpha / Jerusalem
Check-out after breakfast and drive to one of the first kibbutzim established in Israel – Kibbutz Degania.  This is a landmark in the history of kibbutz settlement.  It was here that the principles of independent work and collective farming materialized.  Visit the museum housed in the original dining room that chronicles life in Israel’s first kibbutz.  Continue to Beit Shean just south of Afula in the Jezreel Valley, first established during the 5th Century BC.  It is in the heart of a fertile area with plenty of water and at a major crossroads.  During a revolt against the Romans in 66 AD, Jewish residents were killed and the Romans returned to the city – calling it Scythopolis.  After extensive excavations, one of the best preserved Roman-Byzantine cities was discovered along with a large amphitheater with mosaic floors.  At Beit Alpha, an ancient synagogue was discovered during the 1920’s, when members of Kibbutz Beit Alpha dug irrigation canals.  Many years later, more excavations were undertaken and houses were exposed that date back to a Jewish village of the 5th century Byzantine period.  Continue along the fertile Jordan Valley to Jerusalem.  The King David Hotel – Deluxe Old City View Room (B)

Day 6:  Jerusalem
Today's focus is the old city.  Walk along the Roman Cardo - former marketplace during the Second Temple era.  Continue to the Herodian Mansion, a six-house complex on a slope facing the Temple Mount.  The archaeological remains are at basement level of ancient two-story buildings.  The Upper City rests on the western hill, and is today referred to as the Jewish Quarter.  It was home to aristocratic families and temple priests, and the homes were built on terraces, one above the other which allowed all the homes to have an unrestricted view of the temple.  The exhibit focuses on 3 houses – the Western House, Middle Complex and Palatial Mansion.  Visit the private home and museum of Mrs. Siebenberg in the Jewish Quarter – her family home/museum comprises of six layers – home the upper levels and the museum the lower levels.  Enjoy a short audio presentation given by Mrs. Siebenberg.  View the Western Wall – last remnant of the Second Temple.  Enjoy a tour of the Western Wall Tunnels, which are a labyrinth of tunnels directly below the Temple Mount and the last remnant of the Second Temple.  Here you will learn about the history from hundreds of years ago.  Exit the tunnels in the Christian Quarter and walk through the colorful Arab Market- practice your bargaining skills.  Here you have an opportunity to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, if you are interested, before returning to your hotel for overnight.  The King David Hotel – Deluxe Old City View Room (B)

Day 7:  Jerusalem
This morning visit the Israel Museum, the largest cultural institution in the State of Israel and ranked among the leading art and archaeology museums worldwide.  The museum opened in 1965, and has the most extensive holdings of biblical and Holy Land archaeology in the world.  The Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world, are housed in the Shrine of the Book here.  Continue to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.  Also visit the New Museum with a Holocaust Survivor as your guide.  Next visit is Mt Herzl – this museum describes the many contributions Theodor Herzl made to the Zionist cause and portrays his life from the early days in Vienna.  The museum is in the military cemetery, where the graves of Yitzhak Rabin and others can be found.  The King David Hotel – Deluxe Old City View Room (B)

Day 8:  Jerusalem / Tel Aviv / Istanbul, Turkey
Meet your driver for the departure transfer to Ben Gurion International Airport.  Upon arrival you are met and assisted by a VIP representative who will escort you through security and check in for your flight to Istanbul.  Welcome to Turkey!  At Atatürk International Airport, you are met and privately transferred to your hotel.   Although not the capital, İstanbul is the largest city in Turkey and the leading industrial, commercial and cultural center.  The city lays out along both sides of the beautiful Bosphorus, which separates Europe from Asia.  It connects the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea.  İstanbul was the capital for three empires, leaving behind a vast trove of historical treasures in addition to the beauty of the surrounding landscapes.  Originally called Byzantium, the city was renamed Constantinople in 330 AD by Emperor Constantine, who chose it as the site of the capital of the Byzantine Empire.  Today, İstanbul is a city whose splendor is marked by ethereal minarets and monumental mosque domes punctuated by modern suspension bridges, high-rise buildings and cell phones.  Pera Palace Hotel – Deluxe Golden Horn View Room (B)

Day 9:  Istanbul
This morning, visit a Jewish neighborhood nearby known as Galata, and see the Galata Tower built by the Genoese in 1303.  Visit Neve Shalom and Askenazy synagogues.  View the 3rd-century Hippodrome, where chariots raced during the Roman period.  Continue to the Blue Mosque, famous for its blue tiles and six minarets.  Your last stop is the fabulous Hagia Sophia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 6th century and one of the most famous Byzantine structures in the world.  Pera Palace Hotel – Deluxe Golden Horn View Room (B)

Day 10:  Istanbul
Experience the Egyptian Bazaar and then enjoy a boat tour of Bosphorus with views of palaces and the European and Asian shorelines.  Then, drive over the bridge to the Asian side to visit synagogues in Kuzguncuk and Uskudar.  Then take in the panoramic view of the city from the highest hill in Istanbul, Camlica Hill.  Pera Palace Hotel – Deluxe Golden Horn View Room (B)

Day 11:  Istanbul / Izmir
This morning you fly to İzmir, where you are welcomed and escorted to your hotel.  After settling in, visit one of the local synagogues in Izmir.  The Jewish community here dates back more than 2,000 years.  Discover the castle of Alexander the Great and the agora.  Swissotel Gran Efes – Swiss Executive Room (B)

Day 12:  Izmir / Ephesus / Izmir / Istanbul
Early this morning, set out to explore the ancient city of Ephesus.  Enter through the Magnesia Gate and begin a slow, downhill walk with your guide into the ruins of this Roman provincial capital.  Your route takes you past the Odeon, the Bouleterion, the Fountain of Trajan, the Temple of Hadrian, the Brothel, the Celsus Library, the Roman Baths, the Gymnasiums, the Great Theatre. The Theater had seating for 25,000, was the site where St. Paul preached to the Ephesians.  Today, is serves as a venue for a local spring festival.  Explore the Archaeological Museum, a small museum in Selcuk that boasts an incredible collection of Hellenistic and Roman statues, carved reliefs and artifacts unearthed from the ruins of Ephesus.  Enjoy a special meeting with the Museum’s director.  Also, see the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.  The next stop is the Basilica of St. John, built by the Emperor Justinian over the tomb of St. John, the Apostle, the Basilica, now in ruins, once rivaled St. Sophia in size.  The graceful columns, mosaics and frescoes remain.  Return to Izmir for your flight to Istanbul.  Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel.  Kempinski Çiragan Palace – Deluxe Sea View Room (B)

Day 13:  Istanbul / Casablanca, Morocco
Early this morning, you are escorted to the airport for your flight to Casablanca, Morocco.  You are met upon arrival at the Mohamed V International Airport by your private licensed national guide as well as your driver and transferred to your hotel.  Casablanca, the largest city in Africa after Cairo, is home to the largest remaining Jewish community in Morocco with several congregations, active communal institutions and good kosher restaurants.  Subject to the arrival time and your level of fatigue, you leave in late morning to visit the Museum of Moroccan Judaism (closed on Fridays).  You will then see the magnificent Hassan II Mosque, the second largest mosque in the Islamic world after the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.  This mosque is closed to non-believers on Fridays after 9:00 AM.  This architectural masterpiece, a symbol of an Islam open to the world, took seven years to complete using 50 million man-hours.  It was built partially on the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, on the farthest western point of the Maghreb.  Then you drive to the Corniche running alongside the Atlantic Ocean for a seafood lunch before reaching the seaside resort of Aïn Diab.  You discover the Habous Quarter - the New Medina, a 1920s souk, and the King’s Palace precinct.  Return to your hotel, where you may visit the nearby old Medina adjacent to United Nations Square.  About a century old, the Medina is a constant hive of activity, its cramped, narrow streets abound with merchants selling everything from fruit and vegetables to leather, brass and copper items, spices and clothing.  In the old market, you come across kosher butchers next to butchers selling horse, sheep and goat meat.  The Jewish cemetery in the Mellah is open and relatively quiet, with well-kept white stone markers in French, Hebrew and Spanish.  The Rue Djemda Es Souk, one of the main streets of this Quarter, has among its special interests many shops on Rue de Rabat where a few Jewish goldsmiths still ply their trade.  Many traditions were shared and sometimes even originated with the Arab and Berber population, with different groups worshipping many of the same saints.  They also had a mutual fear of the evil eye, or jinn, as it was called, a constant threat of death.  An unnaturally high number of deaths due to poor living conditions in the Mellah was often attributed to the evil eye.  To ward off such bad luck, a khamsa was worn as a defense against the jinn.  The khamsa, a flat silver or brass decorated hand, created by Jewish craftsmen, was worn by Jews and Muslims alike.  A short walk away are half dozen synagogues on the long block of the Rue Lusitania.  Later, you can have a drink at the American-owned Rick’s Café, complete with mahogany, wicker and ceiling fans – images long associated with the classic movie, Casablanca.  Before dinner, you will enjoy an oriental show in the Basmane Restaurant overlooking the ocean.  Hotel & Spa Le Doge Casablanca – Passion Suite (B,L,D)

Day 14:  Casablanca / Rabat
After breakfast, continue your exploration of Jewish Morocco by a visiting Casablanca’s mellah, Jewish Quarter, with its temples and synagogues such as Beth-El, Em Habanim and Neve Chalom.  Drive north along the Atlantic Ocean to the Imperial City Rabat, the administrative Imperial capital since 1912 of the Kingdom of Morocco, and one of the four imperial cities, founded in the 12th century.  Drive through this graceful city of parks and gardens along Victory Avenue.  Next you arrive at the Chellah, where Jewish residents are believed to have lived during the time of the Phoenicians.  Once a prosperous Roman enclave, it was abandoned late in the 5th century.  It fell into ruins until late in the 14th century, when it was turned into a vast cemetery.  This Necropolis, where you find also some Roman excavations, was destroyed by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.  Today, it is a tranquil garden of date and banana palm trees, hibiscus, bougainvillea, olive and fig trees nestled amid the ruins.  Travel to Mohamed V Mausoleum, which has become a pilgrimage site for Jewish travelers because of his efforts to defend them against the anti-Semitic policies of the French Vichy Government in WW II.  See the unfinished minaret of the Great Mosque, known also as the Hassan Tower, begun in 1195.  It was intended to be the highest minaret in the world along with the mosque, also intended to be the world's largest.  In 1199 Sultan Yacoub el Mansour of the Almohad dynasty died, so the construction on the mosque stopped.  The tower only reached 140 feet, about half of its intended height.  The mosque was also left incomplete, with only the foundations of several walls and 200 columns completed.  The tower is designed to allow the muezzin, who leads the call to the faithful to the 5 daily prayers, on a horse to the top of the tower to issue the call to prayer.  Experience the 12th-century Kasbah of the Oudayas next to the Medina.  The old city was once the home of the Salé pirates.  The Oudayas Museum displays traditional Moroccan clothing, including a Jewish wedding costume.  Historical sources attest to a continued presence of a Jewish community since 1492 in the Al Buhaira Quarter until the establishment of the Mellah in 1807.  The Mellah, with its narrow lanes and colorful courtyards, has a beautiful synagogue just inside its gates.  The main synagogue is found a few blocks away in the New City.  The Kasbah’s alleyways are reminiscent of a whitewashed Andalusian village.  From here, gaze out over the Bou Regreg River, once the lair of famed Moroccan corsairs of the Barbary Coast at the Salé Fortress.  After lunch, take in Rabat's Jewish cemetery with tombstones with inscriptions in Hebrew, French and Spanish, including important saints such as Eliezer de Avila and Chalom Zaoui.  Across the bay, Salé, Rabat's sister city, you visit the Mellah, important center of Jewish intellectual thought.  The main door to the Mellah and the beautiful Medersa were constructed by the Merinids, who had close ties to the Jewish community.  Sale's most famous Rabbi was Raphael Ben Mordechai Encaoua (1848-1935), the chief Rabbi of Morocco, is buried in the Salé cemetery.  His tomb is the focus of a major hiloula.  Villa Mandarine – Deluxe Room (B,L,D)

Day 15:  Rabat / Meknes / Volublis / Fes
Travel to the Imperial City of Meknes.  Its Medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In 1672, Meknes was chosen as the capital because of strategically central position on the crossroads of the South-North camel caravan traders and settlers.  Meknes is the birthplace of Rabbi Hayyim Ben Moses Ibn Attar, the famous 18th century scholar and cabbalist, who is known throughout the Jewish world for his Bible commentary, the “Or Ha-Hayyim.”  Continue to the El Heri es-Souani, the granary of huge vaulted structures and stables.  See the Christians’ Prison, the splendid Moulay Ismail Mausoleum, Place el-Hedim and Dar Jamaï Museum.  Meknes' Mellah does not join the Royal Palace.  It is the only city where Jewish residents decided to create a new Mellah, which is home to 11 synagogues, eight of which are still in use.  The new Mellah has a beautiful synagogue, the El Krief.  Buried in both the old and new cemeteries are several saints, including the tombs of renowned Ribbis Chaïm Messas, David Boussidan, Daniel Toledano, Raphael Berdugo and the ‘Patron of Meknes’ Rabbi David Benmidan.  The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismaïl memorializes the Alaouite Sultan, who protected the Jews while securing control of the Moroccan empire.  You will note Greek inscriptions that appear in synagogues here.  Continue on to Volubilis, a city of ancient olive presses, mansions, mosaics, monumental arches and Corinthian columns.  Gain a sense of Roman lifestyle as well as that of a subsequent medieval Berber town.  The site features the Mansion containing the mosaic of the Labors of Hercules, the Baths of Gallienus and Baths of Forum with their fragmentary mosaics.  Other sites include the House of Orpheus, the Cortege of Venus, the Gordian Palace, the House of the Wild Beast, the House of Nymphs, the House of the Seasons, and the House of Flavius Germanus.  Travel to Fes and check into your riad.  Palais Amani – Classic Room (B,L,D)

Day 16:  Fes

Today’s focus is Fes.  For nearly three centuries, the Jewish community played an important role in the commercial and cultural life of this once capital city, and the religious capital of Morocco.  The journey includes the old Mellah, also called "Fondouk El Yehoudi," the Jewish cemetery, Aben Danan renovated synagogue, the colorful es-Sabbaghine with its Street of the Dyers, brass workers at es-Saffarine, and the Bou Inania Medersa with its aromas of the Souq el-Atterine area of spices and groceries.  See the delightful el-Nejjarine Square with its fountain and caravanserai, the el-Nejjarine fountain.  The Community Centre, Centre Communautaire "Maimonide," is one of the best organized in Morocco, with a kosher restaurant and modern synagogue on the premises.  The Center was created in the early 1980's in a building housing a Talmud Torah synagogue and school.  Nearby, the Roben Ben Sadoun Synagogue, built in the 1920s, is decorated with exquisite plaster carving reminiscent of the decoration of traditional mosques and Medersas.  Move on to the renowned Tanneries on the bank of the Oued Fes and then see pottery, perfume and beauty products at the Souq el-Henna.  Leaving the Medina from the Bab Boujloud, tour the magnificent ramparts with its beautiful ‘Babs’ as you make your way to the 16th century Saâdien watchtower at the North Borj, and the Dar Batha Museum with its collection of carpets and woodwork.  Palais Amani – Classic Room (B,L)

Day 17:  Fes / Beni Mellal / Marrakech
Take in the contrasting views of Morocco as you spend the day crossing the Middle Atlas Mountains to the rose-red caravan city of Marrakech.  Pass through Middle Atlas Mountains forests of cedar and Holm-oak - perchance to feed some of the resident Barbary Apes - pasturelands, traditional villages, and mountain resorts.  Arrive in Marrakech in the early afternoon with its beautiful High Atlas Mountain backdrop.  Riad, El Fenn -  Colonnade Room (B,L,D)

Day 18:  Marrakech
This morning, you head into the bustling Kasbah to the lavishly-decorated Saâdien Tombs, discovered in 1917 with some tombs dating from the middle 1550s.  This is the ancient cemetery of the Shorfa, the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed.  The Saâdien Dynasty relied heavily on Jewish traders, including Moroccan-controlled Timbuktu, to finance its wars against Portugal and the Turkish Empire, which had made Marrakech their capital and converted land adjoining the El Badii Palace into a Mellah.  That became home of a thriving community of native and Spanish Jews, famed for their rabbinical schools and scholars.  Visit the Rabbi Hanania Ha-Cohen Cemetery, which is also the burial place of Rabbis Mordechai Ben Attar and Pinhas Khalifa Ha-Cohen Azough, known as the “Patron of Marrakech.”  This Mellah dates from the 1550s, as noted on the door to the Jewish cemetery and, unlike the Moslem old city or Medina, it has many three-story buildings towering over narrow streets, reflecting the crowded conditions of those who lived there until the 1960s.  Synagogues were once found on every street, but few remain in open today.  In the middle of the Mellah is a building that once housed a synagogue and a home for the elderly.  Another synagogue is across from the Jewelers Market, where several Jewish goldsmiths still produce pendants of the hand of Fatima, a symbol of good luck to both Jews and Muslims and said to keep at bay evil spirits.  On now to the late 19th century Bahia Palace that was built by craftsmen from Fes for the black slave Si' Ahmed Ben Musa after he had risen to power and wealth as the Grand Vizier of Sultan Moulay al-Hassan.  The attractive, well-preserved Harem Courtyard has been featured in many movies.  It took some 15 years to complete and has nearly 150 rooms.  Continue to the Dar Si Saïd Museum, formally a palace dating from the late 1800s.  Restored in 1997, it houses both traditional and contemporary exhibitions of Moroccan arts and sculpture.  Wander into the Medina and the 14th century Ali Ben Youssef Medersa, one of the most beautiful buildings in Marrakech.  It once housed the Islamic equivalent of a monastery.  Founded in the 14th century, it was almost completely rebuilt during the Saâdien Dynasty.  See the Almoravid Dynasty Koubba, one of the few architectural reminders of the dynasty that presided over the "Golden Age" of Jewish life in Spanish Andalusia and Morocco.  This is the oldest building in Marrakech and the only Almoravid building to remain standing in Morocco.  Stroll through the Marrakech Museum of Contemporary Art and/or explore the Bert Flint Museum, which represents 50 years of collecting by the Holland-born Flint as he travelled along the Gold Road from the Atlas Mountains to Timbuktu, crossing the regions of the Sahara and the Souss Valley.  See his extensive collection of costumes, jewelry, arms, basketwork, musical instruments, Moroccan art, popular traditions and artifacts, carpets and furniture as displayed in a 12-th century riad.  A labyrinth of narrow alleyways makes up the renowned cool, colorful and aromatic souqs of Marrakech.  End the day in the Djmaâ el Fnaâ Square.  Back at your hotel or riad, you can relax in the late afternoon or opt to venture further into the bustle of this cosmopolitan city until dinner late this evening.  Riad El Fenn – Colonnade Room (B,L)

Day 19:  Marrakech / Casablanca / Depart
This morning you will transfer to the airport in Casablanca for your departing flight home.  (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy:  $11,990

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