Brooklyn Chanukah Donut Crawl 2020

With the pandemic in its second full swing, the annual pilgrimage to try the great donuts and sufganiyot (filled donuts) in Brooklyn was not without controversy. Some people refused to join the outing due to fear so we decided to take a different approach:

  • only two people would make the trek- a parent and a teenager;
  • we would go in the early morning before the crowds;
  • only the teenager would enter the store in full hazmat attire;
  • all donuts would be brought back to base for consumption and ratings

The approach allowed for a wide sampling of bakeries, principally focused on Borough Park and Flatbush. The bakeries are listed in order of our route in case people want to replicate the tour:

  • Taam Eden Bakery, 4603 13th Ave
  • Weiss Kosher Bakery, 5011 13th Ave
  • Sesame – Boro Park, 5024 13th Ave
  • Gobo’s Cafe, 5421 New Utrecht Ave
  • Shloimy’s Bake Shoppe, 4712 16th Ave
  • Brooklyn Artisan Bakehouse, 1371 Coney Island Ave
  • Isaac’s Bake Shop, 1419 Avenue J
  • Ostrovitsky Bakery, 1124 Avenue J
  • Presser’s Kosher Bagels and Bakery, 1720 Ave. M
  • Patis Bakery, 1716 Ave. M
  • Schreiber’s Homestyle Bakery, 3008 Ave. M

Yes, that’s eleven bakeries. We’re that committed (in a bad mental health way).

We didn’t actually buy sufganiyot at the eleven stores. Gobo’s, the number one bakery of 2019, was closed both times we drove by, as was Brooklyn Artisan Bakehouse. Patis Bakery still had not received their shipment from New Jersey when we arrived around 10:00am. That still left eight bakeries to review for Chanukah. If one includes the free donut we got from Rachel Berger, the Kosher Dinner Lady (top score on presentation for the cookies and cream), we more than hit our calorie quota.

Taam Eden

In 2019, we got to Taam Eden last and the scores suffered due to our being well-sated and more than a tad over-sugared. We decided to start with that bakery in 2020 and hoped for a fresh assortment of interesting flavors. While they did have many unique flavors like Pina Colada, they weren’t always that good and the sugared toppings fell right off at first bite. Overall, they were also pretty flat and not puffy.

Taam Eden donuts. Blue flags denote dairy

Weiss Kosher Bakery

Weiss is an all around favorite bakery in our family. Yoely was nice enough to give us a free donut too. Unfortunately, the shelves were pretty bare when we arrived at 8:40am, so we missed out on their amazing chocolate horns. The chocolate sufganiyot were good but a bit too sweet. The custard was nice, especially for a pareve one.

Thanks Yoely!

Sesame

Sesame redoes the entire bakery just for Chanukah, and for good reason. The donuts are amazing. Full of rich flavor which is not too sweet with dough which has nice texture and flavor. I cannot believe how good the pistachio ones are. BTW, no masks in sight.

Shloimy’s Bake Shop

My teenage son was impressed by what he saw in Shloimy’s and came back with lots of choices. The taste varied. The salted caramel was simply not good while the cheese was very tasty and went perfectly with the texture and flavor of the dough.

A hazmat boy in a heimeshe bakery

Isaac’s Bake Shop

Isaac’s had the benefit of being the only bakery we visited where everything was fresh. We gobbled two onion bagels without any spread as we left the store – delicious. The sufganiyot we ate at home were non-complicated and tasty.

Ostrovitsky Bakery

If you want something a bit more ornate and shall I say… Hungarian? – try Ostrovitsky. The chocolate rosemarie are tops in the pareve category with great flavor. The chocolate mousse is very light – perhaps a bit too much relative to the texture of the dough. The Napolean flavor was also quite good.

Presser’s

Presser’s has a lot more appetizing in the store than donuts. We picked up a couple anyway which were pretty good.

Schreiber’s Homestyle

We always visit Schreiber’s to bring home a box of excellent lace cookies; hauling donuts is a plus. Skip the sufganiyot in the boxes in the front of the store and go to the back to select your own. This year we decided to try the dairy donuts – which run about $5 – quite a bit more than the pareve ones at around $2. There’s a reason. The dairy cheese and strawberry are remarkable. A must have.


Overall, none of the sufganiyot (other than Isaac’s) were fresh when we arrived. It felt like we were getting 6am baking at 9am. Sufganiyot don’t age well so we decided to try the other Sesame Bakery location in Flatbush to see if we could try one straight out of the oven. Unfortunately, it was packed at 11am and none of the baked goods were oven-fresh. We grabbed two and hit the road back home.

Below is a rating of the various spots. I would again put Sesame in the top category along with Schreiber’s dairy sufganiyot. Ostrovitsky’s got mixed reviews but I liked them.

We actually have a GoPro video of each store location. Subscribe to the blog and send a note and we’ll let you experience the shopping!


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Chanukah Donuts: Brooklyn 2019

Brooklyn’s Holiday Donuts

The Last of the Mo’Kichels

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Chanukah Donuts: Brooklyn 2019

The annual Chanukah pilgrimage in search of great donuts went to Brooklyn again this year. Due to the horrible tragedy that struck the Satmar community in Jersey City, NJ a few weeks ago, the first leg of the trip was in Williamsburg where the Satmar community has a large presence. We set out to try the donuts of seven different bakeries of which two were standouts. Later we headed to Boro Park where we sampled four bakeries which were all very good.

Williamsburg

Oneg Bakery, 188 Lee Avenue

The best donuts of Williamsburg were at Oneg Heimishe Bakery.

The store is small and the selection of donuts is limited but that says nothing about the quality of the food. The caramel and custard filled donuts were outstanding. They were overflowing with delicious centers which were very tasty and not too sweet. The dough was light and the icing was very good. An overall rating of an 8. Considering that the donuts only cost $2.00, lower than many others, if felt like a 9.

Oneg also was the only bakery we visited that carried “frittle,” essentially small and light pieces of fried dough with sugar which are made only on Chaunkah. They were quite good. May I add that the babka from Oneg is among the very best in New York.

Black and White Bakery, 520 Park Ave

The Black and White Kosher Bakery is not that close to the other bakeries but worth the trip. There is a mix of dairy and pareve donuts, plain and fancy, with prices ranging from $1.75 to close to $5.

The donuts were heavily filled with the taste of the fillings getting a range of reviews from amazing to just OK. The dough was very good, perhaps not as good as Oneg due to the freshness of when we arrived (jelly donuts decline in value as rapidly as a BMW). Overall an 8.

Traditional Kosher Bakery, 123 Lee Ave.

A very simple store with a simple name. It serves a number of non-baked items as well as some other baked goods including a cinnamon stick (OK) and a nut/craisin/cinnamon loaf which was terrific. The plain jelly donut had a very tasty raspberry jam but the dough was tough, heavy and thick. Overall, a 6.

Steinberg’s 701 Bedford Ave.

Steinberg’s exterior has no signage whatsoever. The store is clean and decent size with a pretty good selection of donuts. Some of the jelly donuts were assembled in sandwich-format rather than center infused.

The donuts had a very nice amount of filling, but unfortunately, not that tasty. The icing fell apart and onto the floor on first bite and the dough was not that fluffy. Overall rating of 5.5.

Kaff’s, 73 Lee Ave.

Kaff’s was one of the largest bakeries we visited in Williamsburg and they had a nice selection including two fancy choices with elaborate toppings. Regrettably, the dough was too heavy and the filling, while plentiful, was not on par with the presentation. Overall score of a 5.

G’shmak 164 Wallabout Ave.

G’Shmak was a real disappointment. While thrilled to have a halavah donut which had great flavor, everything else was lacking: The donuts had very little filling and the dough was very heavy. Huge piles of garbage near the entrance did not add to the experience. Overall rating 3.

Sanders 159 Lee Ave.

We stopped into this nice store – twice. Each time we were told that donuts were about to be ready, and each time kept waiting. On the second visit, the person at the store said that he had three small donuts in the back which he could give us, and after five minutes he confessed he had none and that we should return yet again. Nope. Gets a 0. The gluten-free cookies were also not great.

Boro Park

Boro Park bakeries had a much better consistency of high quality donuts than Williamsburg. I would recommend any of the four we visited. Here they are in rank order:

Gobo’s, 1524 New Utrecht Ave.

Gobo’s is a new addition to the Boro Park donut crawl and it did not disappoint. They have a different kind of jelly donut which is based on a churro, a cinnamon fried dessert. It was magnificent, with a slightly crunchy exterior, light and flaky dough, with a light creamy inside. An incredible treat and different than every other donut on the crawl.

The more traditional donuts were also very good with excellent dough, heavily filled. Toppings and icings remained on the donut. Overall rating of a 9.0.

Sesame, 5024 13th Ave

We typically go to the Sesame in Flatbush, but decided to try the location in Boro Park due to the proximity of our other stops. The bakery was a knock-out, just like the Flatbush location.

There are dozens of flavors to choose from, including unusual ones like pistachio. The donuts score at the top of the charts in every category: delicious and plentiful fillings, light and tasty dough, flavorful icing that is not overly sweet that stays atop the donut. An incredible treat, whatever flavor one tries. Scores a 9.0.

Taam Eden, 4603 13th Ave.

Ta’am Eden has long been a subtle favorite, a great counter-balance to Sesame. Both have fantastic dough and tasty fillings, but Ta’am seems to not want to overwhelm. The donuts seem smaller than Sesame and the filling doesn’t ooze out all over the place. But such amazing flavor, with new options like Passion Fruit and Pina Colada (seems like you can get some vitamins in donuts these days). The toppings were perfect in that they were very flavorful and remained in place. Overall an 8.5.

Weiss Bakery, 5011 13th Ave.

Weiss is simply an all-around great bakery. Compared to the other stores like Sesame which basically only serve donuts on Chanukah, Weiss adds donuts to its delicious repertoire, but doesn’t try to redefine its store.

The donut fillings are full and very tasty as were the toppings. The dough was not on par with Ta’am Eden or Sesame, and therefore got an overall score of 7.5. However, the store was handing out donuts to children who participated in a Boro Park scavenger hunt, worth an extra point for being a great member of the community!


Here is a chart summarizing the ratings for the 2019 Donut Crawl. Feel free to share the article and peruse and share the other articles on First.One.Through which focus on Jews, Judaism and Israel.

Happy Chanukah!


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Brooklyn’s Holiday Donuts

The Last of the Mo’Kichels

A Sofer at the Kotel

Ruth, The Completed Jew

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Chanukah and Fighting on Sabbath

Shuls, Jewish schools, community centers and kosher supermarkets have become battlegrounds in the United States over the past few years, much as they have been in the rest of the world for a long time. The spike in violent hate crimes against Jews has dwarfed those committed against any other group with recent murders in Pittsburgh, PA, Poway, CA and Jersey City, NJ.

Jewish communities all over the country are debating how to respond.

In 2015, New York City managed to push through a bill over the objections of several progressive politicians and organizations, to reimburse private schools – including Jewish day schools – for their security forces. That effort may have saved dozens of lives.

Synagogues are now debating whether they need to hire police officers to guard their houses of worship, or at least have people within the community be on alert, perhaps armed.

Many synagogues have turned to a group called the Community Security Service (CSS), which has been actively working with Jewish communities around the country for several years to help them prevent and prepare for emergency situations. As stated on their website:

“CSS provides a wide range of security services at no cost to the Jewish community. From securing thousands of events every year to helping secure facilities, we are the community security experts. Our teams are part of the community, trained by the community, here to protect the community, acting as a key force multiplier for law enforcement. CSS thrives to preserve our way of life and respect Jews from every walk of life. Our organization is supported by Jewish leaders, organizations, and law enforcement. Through our organization, the Jewish community receives the highest level of security training, our teams become the eyes and ears of the community, partnering up with law enforcement to help secure our community in an undisruptive, seamless way.”

Yet even with the training of the CSS and the spike in deadly attacks, many rabbis remain uncomfortable with Jews carrying weapons or using radios on the Sabbath, as it is considered a prohibited activity on the holy day.

It is therefore worth recounting the story of Chanukah, at least a particular one of the lesser known stories.

While many people are familiar with the story of the Maccabees defeating the Syrian-Greeks in battle and purifying the Temple of their pagan rituals, not all of the battles went well. As recounted by Josephus (37CE – 100CE), the Jewish historian in The Antiquities of the Jews in Book 12, Chapter 6, after the priest Matthias began the revolt, he and his sons fled into the desert:

“Many others did the same also; and fled with their children and wives into the desert; and dwelt in caves. But when the King’s generals heard this, they took all the forces they then had in the citadel at Jerusalem, and pursued the Jews into the desert. And when they had overtaken them, they, in the first place, endeavoured to persuade them to repent, and to choose what was most for their advantage; and not put them to the necessity of using them according to the law of war. But when they would not comply with their persuasions, but continued to be of a different mind, they fought against them on the sabbath day: and they burnt them, as they were in the caves, without resistance; and without so much as stopping up the entrances of the caves. And they avoided to defend themselves on that day, because they were not willing to break in upon the honour they owed the sabbath, even in such distresses. For our law requires that we rest upon that day. There were about a thousand, with their wives and children, who were smothered, and died in these caves. But many of those that escaped, joined themselves to Matthias, and appointed him to be their ruler. Who taught them to fight, even on the sabbath day; and told them, that “Unless they would do so, they would become their own enemies, by observing the law [so rigorously,] while their adversaries would still assault them on this day; and they would not then defend themselves: and that nothing could then hinder, but they must all perish, without fighting.” This speech persuaded them. And this rule continues among us to this day; that, if there be a necessity, we may fight on sabbath days.

Over 2,100 years ago, Jews observed the Sabbath to such a degree that they allowed themselves to be slaughtered rather than put up any resistance. More men, women and children died during one of the first Sabbaths of the Maccabean revolt, than died at Masada 200 years later. But few remember the story.


Judas The Maccabee Defeats His Enemies,
painting by Julius Schnoor von Carolsfeld (1794-1872)

During this Chanukah which is celebrated against a backdrop of terrible violence against Jews, let us remember all of the stories of the holiday, and make sure that every Jewish place of worship is completely prepared to handle any situation which may arise.

Wishing you a happy and very peaceful Chanukah.


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The New York Times All Out Assault on Jewish Jerusalem

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The War Against Israel and Jewish Civilians

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The Reform Movement’s Rick Jacobs Has no Understanding of Tolerance

The Holocaust Will Not Be Colorized. The Holocaust Will Be Live.

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Brooklyn’s Holiday Donuts

Okay, so my family has a bit of an obsession about food. It’s a statement that’s always true, and it gets worse on holidays.

On Chanukah, we make an annual pilgrimage to different areas of Brooklyn, NY to sample the great donuts. Well, not really “sample” as much as devour. Here are the highlights so you can participate in the fun.

Sesame. 1540 Coney Island Ave.

The store is located on the diagonal corner from the large Pomegranate kosher food store. The donuts are simply delicious. The shelves are often wiped clean and people must wait for the fresh donuts to be brought in from the oven around the corner.

Ever eat a lemon jelly donut fresh from the oven? It’s out of this world. The hazelnut? Amazing. The Lotus and regular jelly donuts were also terrific.


Selection of jelly donuts from Sesame

Grab a cardboard box for six when you enter the store. It’s easier to handle than the large box for a dozen as you try to grab some fresh donuts as the store workers bring in the next batch. (We had two six-packs and another plastic container for two more).

Bagels N Greens. 1379 Coney Island Ave.

This store is for people looking for elaborate donuts with multiple and complex toppings. Excellent flavor at a steeper price. They also have a nice lunch menu and chairs to sit – unique among the bakeries listed here. I suggest factoring in some healthy food somewhere in the donut crawl so your kids don’t think you’re totally insane.

Ostrovitsky’s. 1124 Avenue J

Nice, clean and well lit, the holiday donuts are just one of many great things to sample here (also try the chocolate horn – yum). The Rosemarie chocolate donut was marvelous. The place is often busy, with an organized line, but definitely worth the wait.


Line at Ostrovitsky’s worth the wait

Gombos Heimishe Bakery. 328 Kingston Ave

Gombos is in Crown Heights. Over the holiday, it is ALL about the donuts; there is nothing else really going on here. Prices are the cheapest and the selection and taste is quite good. They have a good mix of dairy and pareve donuts. The place is a bit of a balagan (crazy disorder) but a required stop if you have kids and/or buying dozens of donuts.


Some of the donuts at Gombos


Those are the top four bakeries if you’re looking for exceptional donuts and a great holiday experience. Here are some others that were sampled and worth visiting:

Weiss Bakery. 5011 13th Ave

Excellent bakery. Try the rugelach or chocolate horns. The donuts are okay, not required eating during the holiday.

Taam Eden Bakery. 4603 13th Ave

Right down the block from Weiss Bakery is Taam Eden. Very nice selection of donuts at good prices.

Schreiber’s Homestyle Bakery. 3008 Avenue M

Quite close to Sesame, is a small (not as clean as one would like) but definitely delicious bakery called Schreiber’s. In addition to the pretty good and very tasty selection of donuts, are lace cookies which among the best in Brooklyn.

Mansoura Bakery. 515 Kings Highway

Mansoura is a Syrian bakery and does NOT carry donuts. They do carry some amazing baklava and other Sefaradi dishes. Note that it’s not so close to the other bakeries.


Baklava at Mansoura

Enjoy the holiday AND the food!


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Today’s Inverted Chanukah: The Holiday of Rights in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria

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The Reform Movement’s Rick Jacobs Has no Understanding of Tolerance

The various religious denominations in Judaism have coexisted peacefully in the United States for over one hundred years. Each denomination has very different viewpoints on the Torah and on acceptable practices and customs in matters of religious life. The choices each make are distinct, and they do not seek to control or influence how the other denominations choose to interpret or handle their religious lives. As such, the tolerance that each exhibits for the other is just a consequence, not a goal. The groups are not fighting over the same remote control. They lead parallel lives.

It is with this in mind that I note the various themes and calls for “tolerance” over the past months from Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union of Reform Judaism.

Consider Rabbi Jacobs Chaunkah message.

Jacobs opens his message with a note from Dr. Shaye Cohen who claimed that the battle of the Hasmoneans “marks the first time in recorded history that a war was begun in defense of religious liberty and individual freedom of belief.” An interesting point from a Harvard professor with a PhD in Ancient History.

However, the comment was quickly misinterpreted by Jacobs. In the following paragraph he wrote that “The Maccabees fought the first battle for religious tolerance in history. (emphasis added).” That is a complete distortion of Cohen’s comment and of history.

judas_maccabeus_before_the_army_of_nicanor
Judah the Maccabee in battle

The story of Chanukah related to the Syrian Greeks trying to Hellenize the Jews over 2100 years ago. The Greeks did not seek to introduce another alternative form of religious practice into the Holy Land. They sought to replace Judaism by defiling the Jews’ religious places.  The fight was an ALL-OR-NONE proposition.

The reaction by the Hasmoneans was similar in nature. The fought back for “religious liberty” and to rid the land of pagan practices. They countered the defilement of the Temple with purifying the Temple. They responded to the introduction of pagan practices with its expulsion.  The last thing that Chanukah celebrated was “religious tolerance.” It was a battle between all-or-nones.

Reform’s View of Tolerance in Israel Today

Judea and Samaria

Rabbi Jacobs misunderstanding of tolerance stretches from his interpretation of history in the Holy Land from over 2000 years ago until today.

In November 2015, Jacobs addressed his reform movement’s biennial in a keynote address. In this important speech about the direction of Reform Judaism he said (at 24:30) “Our Reform Movement, we have long opposed Israeli settlement policy in the West Bank (applause). The occupation threatens the very Zionism we hold dear.” He declared that his religious movement opposed Jews living in parts of the Holy Land. Seemingly not very tolerant.

He continued: “- the living expression of a Jewish and democratic state. It causes pain and hardship to the Palestinians and alienates Israel from friends and allies around the world. Only two states for two peoples, both states viable and secure, living side-by-side in peace, will bring this tragic conflict to its long-awaited end (loud applause).” Jacobs argued for a tolerance achieved by separation. A divide into two distinct states. However, he really meant a specific state of Arabs which should have no Jews, and a second state of Israel with both Jews and Arabs (the “progressive” two state solution is 1.5 states for Arabs and 0.5 states for Jews).

It was a curious twist on tolerance, for a “progressive” to condemn a Jewish “settler” that sought to live in peace alongside Arabs.

The Kotel

Rabbi Jacobs comments in November 2015 seemed to come into conflict with his actions a few months later.

In July 2016, Rabbi Jacobs marched into the occupied territories and demanded rights for Reform Jews.

rick-jacobs-kotel
Union for Reform Judaism president Rabbi Rick Jacobs, center, participating in a prayer service at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, July 4, 2016. (photo: Courtesy of the URJ)

Rabbi Jacobs came to the Old City of Jerusalem to pray and advocate for new privileges for non-Orthodox Jews. He did not seem to care or notice that much of the world considers the Old City of Jerusalem to be occupied Palestinian territory. That same territory which he thinks should be under Palestinian Authority, a political agency which advocates against Jews living anywhere in the area and seeks to stop the “Judaization” of Jerusalem.

His mind-bending views on “tolerance” continued as he led and advocated for egalitarian prayer at the Kotel.

The Kotel is the Western Wall of the Jewish Temple Mount. It has was the area set aside by Suleiman I 450 years ago for Jews to pray, after he kicked them off of the Temple Mount itself. Since 1967, the area has functioned as an Orthodox synagogue, and only Orthodox prayer practices are allowed there.

Jacobs seeks to change that and demands the legality of non-Orthodox practices at the Western Wall.  He is not satisfied with non-Orthodox prayers happening at the Southern Wall (which is actually bigger and prettier), away from the Orthodox services. We wants the Orthodox to tolerate his practices at the Kotel.

This is quite a different approach than Jacobs applies in other situations.  Jacobs normally advocates for peace via separation; tolerance via parallel paths.  Yet when it comes to the Kotel, (in an area he thinks shouldn’t even be part of Israel), he has demanded to impose his practices in the space of others.

Real Tolerance in Israel Today

The story of Chanukah was a fight for “religious liberty.” The all-or-none approach of the Greeks was countered with an all-or-none purge by the Jews. Neither side sought “religious tolerance.”

Remarkably, Modern Israel has taken a different approach.

  • While the Arabs of the Middle East sought to stop Jewish immigration – even at the dawn of the Holocaust – Israel opted to grant 160,000 non-Jews Israeli citizenship when it declared a state in 1948.
  • Even though the Arabs expelled all of the Jews from the Old City of Jerusalem in 1949, after Israel reunited Jerusalem in 1967, it handed religious control of the Jewish Temple Mount to the Islamic Waqf.
  • Even though the Arabs continue to advocate for a Jew-free state, Israel has allowed all Arabs in Jerusalem to apply for Israeli citizenship since it annexed the eastern part of the city.

In a world where the all-or-none approach is typically met with an all-or-none response, Israel has shown remarkable tolerance and acceptance of “the other.”

Rabbi Jacobs chose to distort the meaning of Chanukah and turned it into a call for advocacy on behalf Muslims in Burma in a global fight for religious tolerance. It is a nice message, but one not found in Chanukah, and disconnected from his attitudes towards Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem.

Let’s celebrate the holiday of Chanukah and the miracle of Modern Israel. It is a story that liberals can enjoy without distorting history and the English language.


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Rick Jacobs’ Particular Reform Judaism

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The Many Lies of Jimmy Carter

The Impossible Liberal Standard

Israel, the Liberal Country of the Middle East

Squeezing Zionism

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Today’s Inverted Chanukah: The Holiday of Rights in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria

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