A Dutch Convert’s Illustrated Haggadah

Since the Middle Ages, Jewish scribes, printers, and artists have produced magnificent and varied illustrated Haggadahs, including the 14th-century masterpiece known as the Lombard Haggadah, with its anomalous picture of the slaughter of a pig. Rebecca J.W. Jefferson describes some of those found in the University of Florida’s Judaica collection, among them a Dutch Haggadah printed in 1695:

The Amsterdam Haggadah was illustrated by Abraham Bar Yaakov, a German pastor who converted to Judaism. Abandoning the standard use of woodcut images, Bar Yaakov created a series of copper engravings based on Bible illustrations by the Swiss engraver Matthäus Merian the Elder. In addition, he incorporated a pull-out map of the route of the Exodus and an imaginative rendering of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Bar Yaakov also added an image of the “four sons” standing together—one of the many elements of Haggadahs designed to engage and instruct children sitting through the long seder meal. Each son represents a different type of child, described by his attitude toward Passover: wise, wicked, silent, and one who does not even know how to ask questions about the holiday.

In medieval Haggadahs, the wicked son was usually portrayed as a combatant—the personification of evil for European Jews who had suffered recurrent mob raids and violent expulsions. In Bar Yaakov’s rendering, the wicked son is a Roman soldier precariously balanced on one foot and looking back toward the wise son, who is depicted as Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who battled Rome in the 3rd century BCE.

Read more at The Conversation

More about: Haggadah, Jewish art, Passover, Rare books

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict