Native name:
جربة (Arabic Jerba)
Μῆνιγξ (Greek Meninx)
ג׳רבה (Hebrew Dzerbah)
Satellite photograph of Djerba
Djerba is located in Tunisia
LocationGulf of Gabès
Area514 km2 (198 sq mi)
Largest settlementHoumt Souk (pop. 75,904)
Population163,726 (2014 census)
Pop. density309/km2 (800/sq mi)
Ethnic groupsTunisians (Arabs, Turks, Berbers, Jews and Black Tunisians)
Official nameDjerba: Testimony to a settlement pattern in an island territory
Designated2023 (45th session)
Reference no.1640[1]

Djerba (/ˈɜːrbə, ˈɛərbə/; Arabic: جربة, romanizedJirba, IPA: [ˈʒɪrbæ] ; Italian: Meninge, Girba), also transliterated as Jerba[2] or Jarbah,[3] is a Tunisian island and the largest island of North Africa at 514 square kilometers (198 sq mi), in the Gulf of Gabès,[2] off the coast of Tunisia. Administratively, it is part of Medenine Governorate of this North African country. The island had a population of 139,544 at the 2004 census, which rose to 163,726 at the 2014 census. Citing its long and unique history, Tunisia has sought UNESCO World Heritage status protections for the island,[4] and, in 2023, Djerba was officially designated a World Heritage Site.[5]


Legend has it that Djerba was the island of the lotus-eaters[2][6] where Odysseus was stranded on his voyage through the Mediterranean Sea.


It is known historically that the Amazighs are the original inhabitants of North Africa. They inhabited the coasts and mountains and worked in cultivating the land. Their homes are caves and houses carved or built from stones and mud, or straw and tree branches in the form of huts on top of the mountains and plateaus. Others lived a nomadic lifestyle, traveling with their livestock, and they lived under tents. Some sects of them lived by the means of plundering and plundering. Others were more civilized and lived in populous cities that they built, as proven by Ibn Khaldun and others. Ibn Khaldun says in the history of Ibn Khaldun, Part One. - 8 of 258:

“Africa and the Maghreb, when the Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym crossed into it at the beginning of the fifth century (hijri) and invaded it for three hundred and fifty years, were destroyed and all of its areas returned to ruin, after the entire area between the Sudan and the Roman Sea had been built up, as evidenced by the traces of construction in it, including monuments, building statues, and evidence of villages and homes. »

Their clothing consists of striped woolen fabric and a black robe. They wear a cordon and a robe. They shave their heads and do not cover them with anything, and they cover their faces with a sham, which is still in practice today. They eat koski, speak and write challah, and some people, especially in southern Tunisia, such as the mountains of Matmata and Doueirat, still use this language when communicating: it is a distinct language in itself, known from ancient times and frequent until now, and it has its own popular oral literature.

Since the dawn of history, Djerba has moved from one occupier to another, and the first to occupy it were some inhabitants of the islands of the Aegean Sea, who stayed there for a long period before the arrival of the Phoenicians, during which they introduced tree planting and pottery making.

Thus, the Greeks preceded other peoples in coexisting with the inhabitants of Djerba.

In the 12th century BC. The Phoenicians who came from the cities of Tire and Sidon landed there from the Levantine Canaanite coast, which is the part of the Asian continent that borders the Mediterranean Sea.

During this period, trade flourished in Djerba, thus spreading the pottery industry and the manufacture of purple, which historians mentioned was comparable to, if not superior to, the purple of Tyre, and was sold at the highest prices.

There is no doubt that the Phoenicians were the ones who introduced the planting of olive trees, thus spreading the industry of olive pressing.

After the Phoenicians came the Roman occupier, and the island witnessed great prosperity during the Roman era, the urban effects of which still indicate it today. Then came after them the Vandals, a nation of German origin that marched into Gaul and Andalusia in the fourth century AD, where it settled for nearly twenty years and then extended its influence over the Far Maghreb in the year 429 AD under the leadership of its king, Genserik.

Middle Ages

When the two greatest states of that era: the Sassanid state and the Byzantine state controlling the Mediterranean countries, were engaged in fierce wars, a new power began to emerge in the Arabian Peninsula, which was almost isolated from the rest of the world. This new power is the power of Islam.

Islamic conquest

The Arab armies turned to jihad and conquest outside the Arabian Peninsula, and Djerba was among the places included in the Arab conquest at the hands of the companion Ruwaifa bin Thabit Al-Ansari in the year 665.

Then it became "Afriqiya" after its conquest under the rule of the governors, and their reign lasted for nearly a century from 716 to 800, during which it was known. aghlabid The state went through several disturbances until the first Islamic state came, which was the Aghlabid state, which was in dispute with the Rustumid state in Algeria. Djerba was sometimes subordinate to the Aghlabids and sometimes to the Rustamids, but it was always semi-independent, until the second Islamic state came, which is the Fatimid state, which was established in Tunisia after the Aghlabid era. Her reign lasted 64 years, from 909 to 973. The Fatimid people entered the island into their possession until Al-Mu'izz ibn Badis al-Sanhaji launched an invasion campaign during which the Sinhaji state was established by Prince Belkin ibn Ziri al-Sanhaji, whom al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah al-Fatimi appointed as ruler of Afriqiya, in recognition of his gratitude when he decided to move the Fatimid state to Cairo.

The Sanhaji state went through two successive stages: an era of prosperity and an era of turmoil. In the first stage, Kairouan experienced prosperity for 78 years until the arrival of the Hilalids in the year 1049. As for the second stage, Djerba suffered many calamities due to the invasion campaigns it was exposed to. Perhaps the most prominent of these was the campaign of “Rogar al-Narmandi” in the year 1135 , during which he attacked Djerba, seized it, and took it captive. He sent her women and children to Sicily, despite the violent resistance shown by the people. Djerba remained under Norman occupation from the year 688 to the year 738. During these years, the Hafsid state woke up from its slumber and remembered that its enemy was sitting on a cherished piece of its soil. It prepared a large army in a huge fleet, forced the Frankish garrison to withdraw, and the island entered the rule of the Hafsids.

From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century

The Ottomans entered a part of Africa in 1574 and made it an Ottoman province, similar to what they did in the Central Maghreb in 1519-1520 and in Tripoli in 1551. However, this Tunisian province, which was formed at a later date, soon developed its political system before its Algerian and Tripolitan neighbors since the late 16th century. At that time, the rule of the Dey with sole authority appeared (in the first half of the 17th century), then a semi-monarchical hereditary system during the era of the Muradid Beys (1628-1702) and then the Husseinis (after 1705). These Husseinis succeeded in building the edifice of a state firmly established in the country and enjoying broad independence from external powers (Istanbul or the Dey of Algiers), especially during the reign of Hammuda Pasha (1782-1814).

The two giant empires - the Ottoman and the Spanish - took advantage of the weakness of the Hafsid state to intervene in Tunisia from 1534-1535. The Spaniards settled in the huge castle that they had built in La Goulette since 1535. In addition to the island of Djerba, Darguth Pasha was able to occupy Gafsa in 1556 and Kairouan (the capital of the Almoravid Emirate of Chabia) in 1557, and the Bayler Bey (Supreme Commander) “Ali Pasha” or “Alaj Ali” entered the city of Tunisia. In 1569, before the Spanish evacuated him from it in 1573.

The Ottoman Sultan Selim II decided to eradicate the Spaniards from tunisia for strategic reasons (monitoring the southern bank of the Strait of Sicily), political reasons (completed the occupation of the countries of this bank from Egypt to the borders of the Far Maghreb), and religious reasons (jihad was one of the constants of Ottoman policy). With the help of the people, the Ottomans were able to storm the huge fortress of La Goulette, then seize Tunisia and completely eliminate the Spanish presence during the summer of 1574.

The modern era opened with a deep crisis in all Moroccan countries, including Tunisia, which ended with the Ottomans’ accession there and its transformation into an Ottoman province.

However, its political system quickly developed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries into an independent “semi-national monarchy” with only formal ties of loyalty to Istanbul. They control (varyingly according to the regions and groups) a specific space that is different from the space of the neighboring provinces.

Then Tunisia fell into the trap of colonialism, as German Chancellor Bismarck declared to the French ambassador in Berlin (January 4, 1879): “The Tunisian pear has ripened and it is time for you to pick it...” Indeed, since the first third of the nineteenth century, the conditions of the Tunisian province have gradually deteriorated and worsened under the pressure of the rising European expansionist powers, until the province stabilized in a comprehensive crisis that facilitated the French intervention in 1881.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the island witnessed radical transformations, and perhaps the most prominent thing that distinguishes this era is the migration of its people to engage in trade in some Islamic cities and Tunisian cities. During the period of French rule, the people of the island had an effective contribution to the Tunisian national movement. Following independence, Djerba became one of the most prominent Tunisian tourist attractions and a destination for tourists from all over the world.

Since 1881

Djerba was known as the island of Lytos in the time of the Greeks, and it was possible to locate one of its villages from the Qantara Tower, and the name Djerba was given to the area near Houmt Souk. An important Jewish community settled in Djerba following the demolition of the Temple of Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews in the first century BC, and their descendants still live in Houmt Souk.

Djerba was conquered by the leader Ruwaifa bin Thabit in the year 45 AH / 665 AD during the invasion of Tunisia by Muawiyah bin Hadij, in which the Ibadi sect prevailed.[7] It was also invaded by the King of Sicily, then invaded by the Hilalids, then the Normans, then they were expelled by the Almohads, then it was subjected to the Crusades for three years, especially by the kings of Sicily, but the Hafsid prince, with the help of its people, recovered it. Then it was subjected to attacks by Ibrahim Pasha. It was also damaged as a result of Yunus Bey’s invasion of it in the year 1738 AD, and it was damaged by the epidemics of 1705 and 1706. 1809, 1864, and its economy was greatly damaged, then it suffered under the yoke of French colonialism in 1881 AD until it gained its independence in 1956 AD.

Demands to become a “Tunisian state”

The island of Djerba is administratively affiliated with the state of Medenine, but some people on the island have been demanding since the January 2011 revolution for secession from the state of Medenine and for Djerba to become the twenty-fifth Tunisian state, which did not resonate with Tunisian officials. [8][9][10]

Jewish history

According to their oral history, the Jewish minority has dwelled on the island continuously for more than 2,500 years.[11][12] The first physical evidence that historians know of comes from the 11th century found in Cairo Geniza.[13]

This community is unique in the Jewish diaspora for its unusually high percentage of Kohanim (Hebrew; the Jewish priestly caste), direct patrilineal descendants of Aaron the first high priest from Mosaic times.[13] Local tradition holds that when Nebuchadnezzar II levelled Solomon's temple and laid waste to Judah and the city of Jerusalem in the year 586 BC, the Kohanim who settled in Djerba were among the refugees who were able to avoid slavery.[14]

A key point in this oral history has been backed up by genetic tests for Cohen modal haplotype showing that the vast majority of male Jews on Djerba claiming the family status of Cohen had a common ancient male ancestor which matches that of nearly all of both historically European and Middle Eastern Jewish males with a family history of patrilineal membership in the Jewish priestly caste.[15] Thus, the island has been known by many Jews as the island of the Kohanim. According to the legend, during the destruction of the temple, the Kohanim, who were serving the temple at the time of destruction escaped from Jerusalem and found themselves on the island of Djerba.[13] The legend claims the Kohanim carried the door and some stones from the Temple in Jerusalem which they then incorporated into the "marvelous synagogue", also known as Ghriba, which still stands in Djerba.[13]

The Jewish community differs from others in Djerba in their dress, personal names and accents. The Jewish rabbinate of Djerba have established an eruv, which establishes the communal area in the city in which Jews can freely carry objects between their homes and community buildings on Shabbat.[16] Some traditions that are distinctive of the Jewish Djerba community is the kiddush prayer said on the eve of Passover and a few prophetic passages on certain Shabbats of the year.[13]

One of the community's synagogues, the El Ghriba synagogue, has been in continuous use for over 2,000 years.[17] The Jews were settled in two main communities: the Hara Kabira ("the big quarter";Arabic:"الحاره الكبيرة") and the Hara Saghira ("the small quarter";Arabic:" الحاره الصّغيرة"). The Hara Saghira identified itself with Israel, while the Hara Kabira identified with Spain and Morocco.[18]

The next influx of Jewish people to the Island of Djerba occurred during the Spanish Inquisition, when the Iberian Jewish population was expelled.[19] The Jewish population hit its peak during the time that Tunisia was fighting for independence from France 1881–1956.[19] In 1940, there were approximately 100,000 Jewish-Tunisians or 15% of the entire population of Tunisia.[19]

In the aftermath of World War II, the Jewish population on the island declined significantly due to emigration to Israel and France. As of 2011, the Jewish permanent resident community on the island numbered about 1,000,[12][20] but many return annually on pilgrimage. However, once the State of Israel was established, and political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa was building up many Jewish people were expelled from Tunisia.[19] Although the Jewish community of Tunisia was on the decline, the Jewish community of Hara Kebira witnessed an increase of population due to its traditional character.[19] The community on Djerba remains one of the last remaining fully intact Jewish communities in an Arab majority country. The most traditionally observant Jewish community is growing because of large natural families despite emigration and a new Orthodox Jewish school for girls has recently been inaugurated on the Island to serve alongside the two boys yeshiva schools. According to The Wall Street Journal "Relations between Jews and Muslims are complex—proper and respectful, though not especially close. Jewish men work alongside Arab merchants in the souk, for example, and enjoy amicable ties with Muslim customers."[21]

Lag BaOmer festival in Djerba's El Ghriba synagogue
Lag BaOmer festival in Djerba

The historical conflicts between Muslims and Jewish people have been largely absent in Djerba. This is reportedly attributed due to all the people of the island being at some point Jewish, and therefore share similar practices in their ways of life.[13] Some of these Jewish practices that can be seen in Muslim households in Djerba are the lighting of candles on Friday night, and the suspending of matzot on the ceiling from one spring to the next.[13] The Jewish and Muslim communities have coexisted peacefully in Djerba despite political unrest regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The people of Djerba say that the two communities simply pray in different places, but are still able to converse.[22] A Jewish leader once stated "We live together, We visit our friends on their religious holidays. We work together. Muslims buy meat from our butchers. When we are forbidden to work or cook on the Shabbat, we buy bread and kosher food cooking by Muslims. Our children play together".[22]

On 11 April 2002, Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for a truck bomb attack close to the famous synagogue, killing 21 people (14 German tourists, 5 Tunisians and 2 French nationals).[23]

Since the "Arab Spring", the Tunisian government has extended its protection and encouraged Jewish life on the island of Djerba.[14] Citing the long and unique Jewish history on Djerba, Tunisia has sought UNESCO World Heritage status for the island.[4] There are currently 14 synagogues, 2 yeshivot and 3 kosher restaurants.[14]

A Jewish school on the island was firebombed during the national protests held in 2018, while security forces in Djerba were reduced, being preoccupied with protection efforts elsewhere.[24] This attack was among many other uprisings that were occurring throughout Tunisia at the time.[24]

On 9 May 2023, El Ghriba Synagogue was the target of a mass shooting on a large gathering of Jewish pilgrims that takes place every year at the synagogue. Five people were killed including: two jewish cousions, a Jewish-French tourist, and two Tunisian security guards.[25]

Ecclesiastical history

Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Houmt El Souk

The city Girba in the Roman province of Tripolitania (mostly in modern Libya), which gave its name to the island, was important enough to become a suffragan bishop of its capital's archbishopric. Known Bishops of antiquity include:

  • Proculus (Maximus Bishop fl.393)
  • Quodvultdeus (Catholic Bishop fl.401–411) attending Council of Carthage (411)
  • Euasius (Donatist Bishop fl.411) rival at Council of Carthage
  • Urbanus (Catholic bishop fl.445–454)
  • Faustinus (Catholic bishop fl. 484), exiled by King Huneric of the Vandal Kingdom
  • Vincentius (Catholic bishop fl. 523–525)

The 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia lists only two: "At least two bishops of Girba are known, Monnulus and Vincent, who assisted at the Councils, of Carthage in 255 and 525".[26]


Djerba has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification: BWh)[27] that borders on a hot semi-arid climate (BSh).

Climate data for Djerba (1981–2010, extremes 1898–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 31.8
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 16.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 12.9
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 9.2
Record low °C (°F) 0.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 27.4
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 3.4 3.1 2.7 1.8 1.1 0.5 0.0 0.1 2.1 3.5 2.8 3.5 24.6
Average relative humidity (%) 69 67 66 66 65 66 63 65 69 68 67 70 67
Mean monthly sunshine hours 207.7 207.2 244.9 264.0 313.1 321.0 375.1 350.3 276.0 248.0 213.0 204.6 3,224.9
Mean daily sunshine hours 6.7 7.4 7.9 8.8 10.1 10.7 12.1 11.3 9.2 8.0 7.1 6.6 8.8
Source 1: Institut National de la Météorologie (precipitation days/humidity/sun 1961–1990)[28][29][30][note 1]
Source 2: NOAA (humidity and sun 1961–1990),[32] Meteo Climat (record highs and lows)[33]
Climate data for Djerba
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average sea temperature °C (°F) 16.0
Mean daily daylight hours 10.0 11.0 12.0 13.0 14.0 14.0 14.0 13.0 12.0 11.0 10.0 10.0 12.0
Average Ultraviolet index 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 10 8 6 4 3 6.8
Source #1: Weather2Travel (sea temperature) [34]
Source #2: Weather Atlas [35]

Migratory bird sanctuary

Djerba Bin El Ouedian is a wetland and habitat for migratory birds. It is located at 33 ° 40 'N, 10 ° 55 'E. On 7 November 2007 the wetland was included on the list of Ramsar sites under the Ramsar Convention, due to its importance as a bird refuge.[36]

See also


  1. ^ The Station ID for Djerba is 57070211.[31]


  1. ^ "Djerba: Testimony to a settlement pattern in an island territory". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 24 September 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Jerba" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 322.
  3. ^ "Converter: Arabic,ar, 'alyrbiah', العربية". Retrieved 10 May 2023.
  4. ^ a b Center, UNESCO World Heritage. "Regional Workshop on the World Heritage Nomination Process". UNESCO World Heritage Center. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  5. ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Djerba: Testimony to a settlement pattern in an island territory". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 24 September 2023.
  6. ^ Polybius; Strabo 1.2.17.
  7. ^ "صحابة زاروا تونس : رويفع بن ثابت الأنصاري (القائد الزاهد المتوكل على الله)". تورس. Retrieved 4 April 2024.
  8. ^ "جربة: الأهالي يطالبون بإعلان الجزيرة ولاية". 4 February 2022. Archived from the original on 4 February 2022. Retrieved 4 April 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  9. ^ "المنعرج الحاسم في ملف "جربة الولاية رقم 25" - أنباء تونس". 4 February 2022. Archived from the original on 4 February 2022. Retrieved 4 April 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  10. ^ "هل من المشروع المطالبة بإحداث ولاية جربة؟ - أنباء تونس". 13 August 2020. Archived from the original on 13 August 2020. Retrieved 4 April 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  11. ^ Teich, Shmuel (1982). The Rishonim. Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah Publications. ISBN 978-0-89906-452-9.
  12. ^ a b International Religious Freedom Report 2007: Tunisia. United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (14 September 2007). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Udovitch, Abraham L.; Valensi, Lucette (1984). The Last Arab Jews: The Communities of Jerba, Tunisia. London, England: Harwood Academic Publishers. pp. 8–11, 24–25. ISBN 978-3-7186-0135-6.
  14. ^ a b c "WATCH: Candle lighting in Djerba – a Jewish community to admire – Diaspora – Jerusalem Post". 16 December 2017. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  15. ^ "Tunisia's Diverse Djerba Island and Its Annual Jewish Pilgrimage". 2 June 2015. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  16. ^ Schroeter, Daniel (1985). "Review of The Last Arab Jews: The Communities of Jerba, Tunisia, (Social Orders 1.)". Middle East Studies Association Bulletin. 19 (1): 63–64. doi:10.1017/S0026318400014905. JSTOR 23057816. S2CID 164480553.
  17. ^ "Tunisian Cleric Says Jews are Apes". Israel National News. 7 December 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  18. ^ Spector, Shmuel; Wigoder, Geoffrey (2001). The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust: A-J. New York: NYU Press. p. 312. ISBN 978-0-8147-9376-3.
  19. ^ a b c d e Widman, Miriam (19 December 1994). "Behind The Headlines: Amid Sea of Muslim Neighbors, Tunisia Jews Observe Traditions". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
  20. ^ Ettinger, Yair (17 January 2011). "Sociologist Claude Sitbon, do the Jews of Tunisia have reason to be afraid?". Haaretz. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  21. ^ Lagnado, Lucette (13 February 2015). "Tunisian Jewish Enclave Weathers Revolt, Terror; Can It Survive Girls' Education?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 December 2018 – via
  22. ^ a b Hanley, Delinda C. (December 2003). "Tunisian Jews Enjoy Religious Tolerance and Peace In Djerba". The Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs. Vol. 22, no. 10. pp. 46–49.
  23. ^ Tunisian bomb attack trial opens,; accessed 28 July 2020.
  24. ^ a b "Tunisian Jewish school attacked as anti-government protests rage elsewhere". Reuters. 11 January 2018.
  25. ^ "5 killed in shooting near Lag Ba'omer fest at ancient synagogue in Tunisia". The Jerusalem Post | 9 May 2023. Retrieved 1 March 2024.
  26. ^ Vailhé, S. (1909). "Girba". The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  27. ^ "World map of Köppen-Geiger climate classification". Retrieved 18 August 2023.
  28. ^ "Les normales climatiques en Tunisie entre 1981 2010" (in French). Ministère du Transport. Archived from the original on 19 December 2019. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  29. ^ "Données normales climatiques 1961–1990" (in French). Ministère du Transport. Archived from the original on 21 December 2019. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  30. ^ "Les extrêmes climatiques en Tunisie" (in French). Ministère du Transport. Archived from the original on 21 December 2019. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  31. ^ "Réseau des stations météorologiques synoptiques de la Tunisie" (in French). Ministère du Transport. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  32. ^ "Jerba Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  33. ^ "Station Djerba" (in French). Météo Climat. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  34. ^ "Djerba Climate and Weather Averages, Tunisia". Weather2Travel. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  35. ^ "Djerba, Tunisia – Climate data". Weather Atlas. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  36. ^ "Tunisia – Ramsar". Retrieved 6 December 2018.

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Girba". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

  • GigaCatholic with titular see incumbent biography links

33°47′N 10°53′E / 33.783°N 10.883°E / 33.783; 10.883

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