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Hagadat Hahaylim
The Rosen Hagadah, A Tribute to the Israeli Armed Forces

Hagadat Hayalim (literally, Soldier's Hagadah) is better described by its English subtitle (A Tribute to the Israeli Armed Forces). Although it may remind some of the Hagadot that were issued by the IDF years ago, those were intended to be used by soldiers who could not be given leave on Seder night. They were pretty and artistic, meant to entertain and interest the (mostly non-religious) soldiers who were being guided through a possibly unfamiliar ritual by army rabbis and their delegates.

Hagadat Hayalim is intended for the general population of Hebrew and English speakers who wish to celebrate the Seder with a traditional Hagadah, with a difference. The book is eye-catching due to the numerous pictures from Israel's political and military history, most in full, bright colors. Most pictures show soldiers from all branches of the uniformed forces in military, religious or cultural activities, from the inception of the country through the present intifada period. Other pictures show Israeli political figures, usually those also associated with the military, such as Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, in their civilian roles, as well as pictures from Independence celebrations throughout the years.

You may wonder what pictures of the military and political life of modern Israel have to do with the text of the Seder. The editors and designers (too many to mention here) have done an excellent job of finding a (sometimes amusing) connection between each picture and the adjacent text, like the picture of Yitzhak Rabin and his colleagues during the Call to Order in the Knesset on the page describing the Seder plate (“kriah l'seder”, get it?) or the pictures of sailors in the salty water around the sections of U'rchatz and Karpas.

Other pictures are just heart-warming, like the one of soldiers dancing with a new Sefer Torah next to one of soldiers receiving new ceramic vests from the Libi foundation. All of the pictures are excellently executed and attractive to the eye.

The text is designed for use both in Israel and the Diaspora, according to the Nusach Achid favored by the Army. The text is fully translated into colloquial American English, a la Artscroll. The oddest thing about the text is the inclusion of The Prayer for the Welfare of IDF Soldiers inserted in the middle of the Seder. I have nothing against the Prayer, but I think it would have been better placed at a different point, perhaps just before the concluding songs.

The book is hard-covered and printed on high-quality glossy paper, in a comfortable 20 cm high by 10 cm wide format when closed, or a square 20 by 20 cm when open. Instructions for conducting the Seder ceremony are minimal but sufficient for an experienced Seder leader. There is no commentary on the text, so the Seder leader will want to consult other sources when preparing for the evening.

All told, this will be a pleasant Hagadah to use for Seder participants who do not plan to stay up all night discussing the details of the Exodus. It is a page-turner's book for all ages: you will want to see each picture, and you won't mind seeing the pictures again next year.

Reviewed by Arthur Lampert []

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