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News for Sociology of Religion--Fri Apr 18 07:24:25 EST 1997

  • `THE DEFIANT': UNVARNISHED TALE OF JEWISH SURVIVAL
    When he was 14, Shalom Yoran witnessed the first hours of World War II when his home in Poland, 37 miles from the German border, came under aerial bombardment.  (*)

  • AFGHANI WOMEN ARE A SUBSPECIES
    SAN FRANCISCO—Last week in Afghanistan it was a shop keeper who broke the rules and sold food to a poor, hungry woman. He was publicly beaten, jailed and shut out of his shop for a week.  (*)

  • MAKING ARCANA CLEAR IN THE ISLAMIC ZODIAC
    NEW YORK—The appearance and psychic allure of a spectacular comet have been much in the news of late. But a belief in the pull of celestial events on human affairs—shaping daily life, (New York Times) (*)

  • COMMENTARY: TEARING DOWN THE WALL IN ALABAMA
    Alabama's politicians have found God again, and they are shaking him down for all he's worth. They do that every few years.

  • CHAIM HERZOG, 78, FORMER PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL
    Chaim Herzog, Israel's outspoken president from 1983 to 1993, died on Thursday at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv. He was 78, and lived in Herzliya Pituach, a suburb of Tel Aviv. (New York Times) (*)



    `THE DEFIANT': UNVARNISHED TALE OF JEWISH SURVIVAL

    By LARRY LIPMAN=

    c.1997 Cox News Service=@

    ``The Defiant: A True Story of Jewish vengeance and Survival,'' by Shalom Yoran. St. Martin's Press; 293 pages; $24.95

    When he was 14, Shalom Yoran witnessed the first hours of World War II when his home in Poland, 37 miles from the German border, came under aerial bombardment.

    When he was 21, he wrote his memoirs.

    In between, Yoran fled Poland with his family and found refuge in communist Lithuania, lived under German occupation, barely escaped the round-up and execution of virtually all the Jews in his town, spent a winter with four other men in a hole in the ground, fought alongside the partisans, served in both the Soviet and the Polish armies, smuggled himself across half of Europe, was jailed in Hungary while posing as a Greek and entered Palestine posing as a British soldier.

    Now, a half century later, Yoran's harrowing and haunting tale of an ordinary Jewish family's firsthand experience during the war has been published in a slim book that makes a major contribution to our knowledge, not only of the Holocaust, but also of those Jews who fought and, rarely, survived.

    Yoran does not pretend to be a great writer, nor does his book offer a sweeping world view of the Holocaust. Instead, it is filled with the mundane personal details of living through unimaginable terror, horror, deprivation, pain and loss. Those intimate, unvarnished details—like the hopes and fears expressed in the ``Diary of Anne Frank''—are what makes this book so compelling.

    It is billed as a story of vengeance and survival, but it is much more about survival than vengeance.

    Yoran's story comes in three parts: fleeing with his family through war-torn Poland and Lithuania until they finally came under German occupation; living in the woods with his brother and a handful of other survivors after his parents and virtually all the Jews in his town were executed, and, finally, fighting against the Germans while experiencing relentless anti-Semitism and internecine warfare among the Soviet and Polish partisans.

    Yoran was just out of elementary school when Germany invaded Poland the morning of Sept. 1, 1939. Even before war was formally declared, Yoran's house next to his family's lumberyard was being strafed by German fighters.

    His family fled eastward, going from relative to relative across Poland and into Soviet Lithuania. There the family coped with communism, and Yoran, 15, and with no training in photography, became the manager of a photo studio.

    Just when life began returning to normal, Germany and the Soviet Union went to war and the family once again became refugees. Eventually, they stopped in the small Polish town of Kurzeniec.

    Here, Yoran experienced the relentless, systematic humiliation and brutalization of the Jewish community—from the earliest days when Jews had to wear a yellow Star of David and spend hours exercising in the town square—until the morning when the Germans occupying Kurzeniec went door to door pulling 1,040 Jews from their homes and taking them to a barn to be slaughtered.

    In the turmoil of that morning, Yoran and his brother, Musio, were separated from their mother—their father was rounded up with other Jewish men praying in the synagogue. Moments before they were separated, Yoran's mother told the brothers: ``try to save yourselves and take vengeance for us.''

    The next two years Yoran spent living up to his mother's last request, first as a survivor on the run trying just to stay alive, and then as a partisan, fighting a guerrilla war against the Germans. Here, again, most of the narrative is devoted to the struggle for survival with matter-of-fact descriptions of the sabotage and skirmishes engaged in by the partisans.

    Even among the partisans, Yoran encountered rampant anti-Semitism, which he recounts in detail.

    The end of the war did not mark the end of Yoran's travails. While serving as a sergeant in the Polish army, Yoran returned to his boyhood home. That night, a childhood acquaintance who became a policeman came to his room and tried to convince Yoran to report to the chief of police in the middle of the night. Machine gun in hand, Yoran refused. Later a group of Jewish survivors asked Yoran to spend a few nights with them as a protector. After he left, the survivors were killed.

    At the time he wrote this book, Yoran was recuperating in Palestine after a long-delayed operation to repair ruptured abdominal stitches. He had completed only six years of school. Most of his teenage years had been spent hiding from and fighting the Germans.

    After he wrote the manuscript, Yoran put it away and lost track of it. During the next nearly five decades, he became an officer in the fledgling Israeli Air Force during its war of independence, and a leader in the Israeli aircraft industry.

    In 1991, when he moved from Israel to New York, where he is chairman of a commercial aircraft company, Yoran discovered the manuscript in a suitcase tucked away in his attic.

    The original was written in Polish. He dictated it to his wife in Hebrew, and she typed it in English. In its published form, Yoran said, it is virtually unchanged from the way he wrote it more than a half century ago.

    The book is dedicated to his parents. In publishing his story, Yoran tells a tale that should never be forgotten.

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    AFGHANI WOMEN ARE A SUBSPECIES

    By STEPHANIE SALTER

    c.1997 San Francisco Examiner

    SAN FRANCISCO—Last week in Afghanistan it was a shop keeper who broke the rules and sold food to a poor, hungry woman. He was publicly beaten, jailed and shut out of his shop for a week.

    In January, it was a Kabul woman who broke the dress code by neglecting to cover her ankles while in a market place in the Afghan capital. She was publicly beaten with a thick belt by militia.

    In February, 60 more Kabul women were caught and punished by the ``religious police'' for appearing in public ``without a legal reason'' during the Islamic holy days of Ramadan. Last autumn, a man and woman in Kandahar were stoned to death in front of their respective 10 children for committing adultery.

    One of those where-is-it-exactly countries to many Americans, Afghanistan has been a hellhole of war for the past two decades. More than 1.5 million Afghans (out of a population of about 16 million) have been killed. Some 10,000 villages have been badly damaged.

    Most of the fighting occurred between Islamic rebels and a Soviet-imposed government the rebels drove out of power in 1992. Since then, alliances and factions have battled for control.

    An army led by former Islamic theology students—the Taliban _ is winning. They rule 21 of the nation's 32 provinces and the capital city of Kabul.

    Ultrafundamentalist Muslims, the Taliban has imposed the strictest, most primitive interpretation of Islamic law upon the populations it controls. Adultery is punished by stoning, theft by amputation. Males are required to wear beards and worship openly five times each day.

    Women and girls, however, have suffered the most dramatic prohibitions. In the name of ``esteem'' and ``protection,'' the Taliban outlawed women from working. Girls' schools were closed. Interaction between unmarried or unrelated males and females is illegal.

    A shroud-like body covering, the burqa, is mandated for all females who appear in public.

    In January, during the holy days of Ramadan, the Taliban Department for Promoting Virtue and Suppressing Vice warned that women could leave their houses—accompanied by husbands or other male relatives—for only a handful of reasons. Among them: to attend funerals or make hospital visits.

    The official warning said: ``Our esteemed sisters are asked not to go out of their house without a legal excuse. In case they have to leave their houses, they should be veiled from the head to below the ankle.''

    A deputy of the virtue department added that women ``should not just wander around in the markets and parks.... If a man sees a woman during Ramadan, he will be provoked.''

    And if a man is provoked, a woman is punished.

    ``We are fighting against Muslims who have gone wrong,'' Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Umar explained.

    After the Kandahar stonings, a Taliban investigator, Mohammed Wali, said: ``When I see this kind of thing, I am very happy because it means that the rule of Islam is being implemented.''

    Last October, only days after the Taliban took over Kabul, the United Nations formally admonished the group for violating Afghan women's civil rights. Then-Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali warned of ``serious repercussions on the ability of the United Nations to deliver programs of relief and reconstruction'' to the war-ravaged nation.

    Less than a month later, Taliban soldiers gave the U.N. an answer of sorts when they kept female Red Cross workers from carrying out war relief duties in the agency's Kabul compound.

    The soldiers said they would hang any women who showed up.

    ^Stephanie Salter is an Examiner columnist.

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    MAKING ARCANA CLEAR IN THE ISLAMIC ZODIAC

    By HOLLAND COTTER<

    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service=@

    NEW YORK—The appearance and psychic allure of a spectacular comet have been much in the news of late. But a belief in the pull of celestial events on human affairs—shaping daily life, presaging beginnings and endings—has ancient roots.

    This conviction was strong in the Islamic world centuries ago, when the study of the movement of planets and stars was gradually shifting from the hard-science realm of astronomy toward the popular, often mystical terrain of astrology.

    Astrological emblems and diagrams were a natural subject for art, particularly for an audience already disposed to see Creation itself as a vast fabric of ornamental design. Within this model of the universe, the vision of the constellations as light-spangled patterns dancing through space made perfect sense.

    The way in which such a concept was embodied in art is the theme of a small, carefully thought out exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art titled ``Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art.'' Organized by Stefano Carboni, assistant curator in the department of Islamic art, it includes 20 objects dating from the 12th to the 15th centuries. All but one piece are from the Met's collection.

    As the show's modest catalogue suggests, written treatises on astrology were thick with arcane symbols that only initiates could fathom. But once translated into visual form, the same concepts became not only accessible but with a little creative tinkering here and there, richly poetic as well.

    In Islamic thinking, for example, the universe was a circles-within-circles hierarchy, with Earth at the center surrounded by seven other bodies (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, the moon and the sun), which were ringed by the 12 signs of the zodiac.

    Artists, however, revised this scheme. In almost every representation of the cosmos that appears on the exquisite plates, bowls and basins in the Met's show, it is not the Earth but the sun _ graphically radiant, spiritually charismatic—that takes center stage.

    It appears as a multi-rayed orb picked out in silver inlay and nested within a flower on a brass plate from 14th-century Egypt or Syria placed near the gallery entrance. It stares out with a human face from a ceramic bowl made in Iran in the late 12th or early 13th century and painted with a palette of soft blue-gray, red and gold.

    On this lovely object, the sun is flanked by six heavenly bodies. (Another was believed to exist but was rarely depicted.) Five are squat, serene seated figures in courtly robes: Mars is a bearded warrior carrying a severed head, the moon a woman with a crescent framing her plump face. The inauspicious Saturn is the exception. Gaunt and bare-chested, he stands poised in mid-stride, a pickax in each hand.

    Elsewhere, the signs of the zodiac take their bow, completing the cosmological arrangement that ``Following the Stars,'' with its concentric installation, replicates. Nine of them—human and animal forms naturalistically modeled in low relief—can be found on a handful of gold and silver coins minted in 17th-century India for the Mogul emperor Jahangir. (Look for Taurus as a humpbacked Brahman bull.)

    And the complete set of 12 are incised on a banquet-size copper tray from 14th-century Egypt. Here the constellations are fragmented, nearly abstract forms spinning around the sun, while around them circle royal huntsmen in roundels and a menagerie of creatures real and fanciful, from Salukis to sphinxes.

    Such ornate patterning is ubiquitous in the show. In a 14th-century manuscript page painted in Isfahan, the Persian city renowned for its roses, the shell of the crab Cancer is composed of overlapping petal-like pink curves. On a ceramic pilgrim's flask from Persia, a horoscope, cast perhaps for a newborn child, is spelled out in interlocking medallions and zodiacal signs.

    The vibrant surface of this vessel, a deep azure blue speckled with white dots and curls like a night sky, brings to mind again the vision of the cosmos as a decorative curtain, at once gorgeous and insubstantial, behind which God sits.

    Such a grand concept is, of course, only distantly present in the objects in ``Following the Stars.'' That big, brass tray with the sun at its center was far less likely to inspire piety in its owner as he sat down to dinner than to reinforce a reassuring view of himself as the hub of a domestic universe of dependents and servants.

    And yet here, as in so much Islamic art, the ordinary and the exalted, the pleasurable and the ceremonial tend to converge. Everyday life is moved by the stars, and the stars may very well reflect the mechanics of heaven, though of that reality, as the Muslim saying goes, ``Allah the Highest knows more.''

    ``Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art'' remains at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue and 82d Street, through Aug. 31.

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    COMMENTARY: TEARING DOWN THE WALL IN ALABAMA

    By TOM TEEPEN=

    c.1997 Cox News Service=@

    Alabama's politicians have found God again, and they are shaking him down for all he's worth. They do that every few years.

    This time the issue is a federal court ruling that Etowah County Court Judge Roy Moore must remove a Ten Commandments plaque from his courtroom. It violates church-state separation.

    This has predictably inspired epics of indignation. The governor is threatening to muster the National Guard. The U.S. House of Representatives, bravely seizing a chance to favor piety, has passed a resolution supporting the judge. Tens of thousands rallied in the state capital.

    Lest anyone think Moore is up to nothing more malign than honoring a set of historic legal principles, the judge himself makes it clear he has sharper business.

    Moore opens his court sessions with Christian prayers, but the judge won't let Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists do the same because, he says, they pray to the wrong gods. The judge also disdains the out offered by rulings in another courthouse Ten Commandments case.

    With eventual appellate approval, U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob in Atlanta held in 1993 that the commandments could be displayed in context with other legal codes. That's what the U.S. Supreme Court does after a fashion, with a frieze that shows Moses, Muhammad, Confucius, Justinian and other law-givers.

    Moore, in effect, is using his courtroom for Christian evangelism—just the sort of bullying our founders and the Constitution's framers meant to prevent with the First Amendment's promise of freedom from religious imposition.

    The point is lost on Alabama.

    In the '80s, its legislature ordered unconstitutional prayer into public classrooms. (And was about to specify the Lord's Prayer until the governor's son came up with one of his own. The lawmakers switched to junior's prayer. The Lord's Prayer offered no gubernatorial brownie points.)

    The legislature then tried to sneak prayer into the schools in a moment-of-silence law. That was slapped down, too, but not before an odd-duck federal district judge, Brevard Hand, had first ruled that the religion clause in Bill of Rights only restrains Congress and that Alabama was free to designate an official state religion. Hand also held that secular humanism, because it is not a religion, is a religion.

    Now, comparably clever, Gov. Fob James Jr. says that because the phrase ``a wall of separation between church and state'' doesn't appear in the Constitution, it has no legal bearing.

    But the First Amendment's religion clause was based on Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. It was Jefferson himself, as president, who used the wall image to vivify his purpose. James Madison similarly favored ``the complete separation of the church from the state.''

    And both were following the 17th century American advocate of religious freedom, Roger Williams, who wrote in favor of a ``hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.''

    Conservatives who want the Constitution understood only according to original intent could hardly hope for an intent more original.

    (Tom Teepen is national correspondent of Cox Newspapers.)

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    CHAIM HERZOG, 78, FORMER PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL

    By ERIC PACE<

    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<

    Chaim Herzog, Israel's outspoken president from 1983 to 1993, died on Thursday at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv. He was 78, and lived in Herzliya Pituach, a suburb of Tel Aviv.

    The cause was heart failure after he contracted pneumonia on a recent visit to the United States, said Rachel Sofer, spokesman for the hospital.

    Herzog, a former general, was Israel's chief delegate to the United Nations from 1975 to 1978, a critical period, after serving as its director of military intelligence and, in 1967, as the first military governor of the occupied West Bank. Over the years, he was also a businessman, a lawyer, an author and a Labor Party member of the Israeli Parliament.

    In his two successive five-year terms as Israel's sixth chief of state, he strove to enlarge the president's role, which in Israel is largely ceremonial, by making public declarations on issues that leaders in government would not, or could not, address.

    Herzog argued in favor of greater rights for the Druse and Arab populations in Israel, declaring: ``I am the president of Arabs and Druse, as well as Jews.'' He worked actively to make political pariahs of Rabbi Meir Kahane and his fervently anti-Arab Kach Party.

    In addition, Herzog was an outspoken though unsuccessful lobbyist for comprehensive change in the Israeli voting system, which has spawned a jigsaw-puzzle of political parties and frequent parliamentary stalemates.

    By late 1987, as his first term was drawing to a close and while a national unity government was in power, he had probably become more influential and popular than any previous Israeli president.

    This was largely because the Labor and Likud party partners in that government were always bickering and frequently turned to him to arbitrate their disagreements. Moreover, groups of Israelis, like farmers and nurses, were always looking to him for aid that they could not get from the deadlocked Cabinet.

    Through the years, Herzog also made use of the Israeli president's power to pardon convicted criminals—and sometimes was criticized for doing so. In addition, he exercised the president's power to determine, after elections, which political party has the first opportunity to assemble a government.

    His urbane, outgoing nature and his earlier roles in his country's life fitted him to serve as a symbol of Israeli unity during his years as president.

    A descendant of rabbis, and a witness of Nazi concentration-camp horrors while he was an officer in the British army in World War II, he was steeped in the splendors and sorrows of Jewish history. He was also cosmopolitan, with the trace of a brogue from his native Belfast, Northern Ireland, and an education gained largely in Britain.

    As the chief delegate to the United Nations, Herzog led Israel's defense against Arab attempts to oust it. In 1975, when the General Assembly passed a resolution equating Zionism with racism, he went to the rostrum and defiantly tore a copy of the resolution in two. Seventeen years later, the Assembly repealed the resolution.

    Herzog was in the Israeli Defense Force at his country's birth in 1948, rose to the rank of major general and served twice as director of military intelligence, from 1948 to 1950 and from 1959 to 1962.

    Then he retired, only to return as the West Bank's military governor just after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, in which Israel, in an overwhelming victory, captured the West Bank and other territory from neighboring Arab countries.

    He also became noted, among Israelis, for radio commentaries he gave on military subjects before and during that six-day war. He used the radio to urge Israelis to stay in their air-raid shelters during alerts, and in one widely quoted broadcast he told his listeners that they were in much less danger where they were than was the attacking Egyptian air force.

    Herzog was first elected president by the Israeli Parliament, in 1983, in a rebuff to Prime Minister Menachem Begin's governing coalition of that day. By a vote of 61 to 57, with two blank ballots, Parliament chose him over the government's candidate, Justice Menachem Elon of the Supreme Court, to succeed President Yitzhak Navon of the Labor Party.

    In 1988, Herzog was elected by Parliament to a second term, the maximum permitted by Israeli law. In that balloting, he was unopposed, having the sponsorship of the Labor Party as well as wide backing from the right-wing Likud bloc, Labor's partner in the coalition government of the time.

    He was succeeded on May 13, 1993, by Ezer Weizman, a former defense minister and the nephew of Israel's first president, Chaim Weizman. Ezer Weizman had been elected by Parliament on March 24, 1993.

    As president, Herzog was sometimes acid in his criticisms of the Israeli national voting system. In an interview in 1992, he said: ``The system we have is a catastrophe. It allows for fragmentation and wheeling and dealing and gives inordinate power to small groupings.''

    He was also something of a gadfly on a variety of other issues during his presidency. He was one of the few prominent figures in Israeli politics to comment regularly on Israel's high incidence of fatal vehicular accidents. By late 1992, drivers had killed 20 times more Israelis in the last five years than had the Palestinian uprising, almost 2,300 people.

    ``If the enemy had slain us to this extent, the country would quake and we would be shaking in our foundations,'' Herzog declared then in a message for the Jewish New Year.

    Earlier that year, at a time when Jewish settlers in the Israeli-occupied territories had taken various measures in retaliation for Arab acts of violence, he denounced vigilantism, saying in a radio broadcast: ``The phenomenon of taking the law into one's hands, of attacking innocents and interfering with the dedicated work of the security forces, endangers our foundations and future.''

    Later in the year, with Israel not able to integrate all the new arrivals from the former Soviet republics fully into its economic life, Herzog proposed setting up soup kitchens for immigrants, and was criticized for doing so.

    He also spurred controversy sometimes by his use of the presidential power to pardon. In the mid-1980s, he was criticized for pardoning agents of the Shin Bet security service and its chief, who was charged with commanding that two Palestinian bus hijackers be summarily executed.

    In an interview in early 1993, Herzog noted that he had condemned ``what had happened.'' But he added that Israel was locked in combat with terrorists, and that to take the security-service personnel ``and put them on trial, and have each one bringing all sorts of evidence to prove that he wasn't the worst and so on, could have torn the Shin Bet to pieces just when we didn't need that.''

    In addition, loud dissent arose after Herzog commuted the sentences of members of what was called a Jewish underground organization that had tried to kill local Palestinian functionaries.

    He later contended that reducing the penalties against some of the convicted members, and making them decry their deeds, had helped to shatter their group.

    As president, he traveled widely. He was among the world figures who, along with survivors of the Holocaust, gathered in Washington in April 1993 to dedicate the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. There he described his horror when he came upon Bergen-Belsen and other Nazi death camps as a British officer.

    ``No one who saw those terrifying scenes,'' he said, ``will ever forget.''

    In 1992, to mark the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Herzog went to Madrid and prayed together with Spain's king, Juan Carlos, in a gesture symbolizing reconciliation between their peoples.

    But Herzog did not become reconciled with the nations that had presented the 1975 U.N. resolution. In the 1993 interview, while still president, he said:

    ``Of the three countries that presented the Zionism as racism resolution, one has relations with us although no embassy—that's Benin. Two still don't have relations—one which has relations with nobody, namely Somalia, and one which is in great trouble, namely Cuba. They were the three sponsors of that resolution, these bastions of democracy and freedom.''

    Herzog was born on Sept. 17, 1918, in Belfast, the son of Rabbi Isaac Halevy Herzog, who was the chief rabbi of Ireland and later became the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, and the former Sarah Hillman.

    The Herzog family emigrated to Palestine in the mid-1930s, and the future president had three years of schooling at the Hebron Yeshiva there. The educational institutions where he later studied included Wesley College in Dublin, the Government of Palestine Law School in Jerusalem, and London and Cambridge universities.

    In the British army during World War II, he served with the Guards Armored Division and in intelligence on the Continent. He was discharged and then joined the Jewish underground in Palestine before Israel was founded.

    After his retirement from the military in 1962, he was for some years a high executive of a conglomerate of industrial enterprises that Sir Isaac Wolfson, a British businessman, owned in Israel.

    Over the years he wrote, was a co-author of, or edited more than half a dozen books, including ``The Arab-Israeli Wars'' (Random House and Vintage, 1982), ``Heroes of Israel'' (Little, Brown, 1989) and ``Living History: A Memoir'' (Pantheon, 1996).

    He is survived by his wife of 50 years, the former Aura Ambache; three sons, Joel, Michael and Yitzhak, and a daughter, Ronit Bronsky. All his children live in Israel except for Joel, who lives in Geneva. Herzog is also survived by eight grandchildren.

    In his memoirs, he wrote: ``I pray that my children and grandchildren will see a strong and vigorous Israel at peace with its neighbors and continuing to represent the traditions that have sustained our people throughout the ages.''

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