How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less

1.0 1
by Sarah Glidden

View All Available Formats & Editions

When Sarah Glidden took a “Birthright Israel” tour, she thought she knew what she was getting herself into. But when she got to Israel, she found that things weren’t quite so simple. HOW TO UNDERSTAND ISRAEL is Sarah’s memoir not only of her Israeli governmentsponsored trip through Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Masada and other famous


When Sarah Glidden took a “Birthright Israel” tour, she thought she knew what she was getting herself into. But when she got to Israel, she found that things weren’t quite so simple. HOW TO UNDERSTAND ISRAEL is Sarah’s memoir not only of her Israeli governmentsponsored trip through Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, Masada and other famous locations, but of the emotional journey she never expected to take while she was there. Her experience clashes with her preconceived notions again and again, particularly when she tries to take a non-chaperoned trip into the West Bank. Sarah is forced to question first her political beliefs and, ultimately, her own sense of identity, until she finds that to understand Israel she first must come to understand herself.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Glidden, a progressive American Jew who is sharply critical of Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Occupied Territories, went on an all-expense-paid "birthright" trip to Israel in an attempt to discover some grand truths at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. This graphic memoir tells the touching and often funny story of her utter failure to do so. As the tour group moves from the Golan Heights to Tel Aviv, Glidden's struggles with propaganda and perspective lead only to a morass of deepening questions and self-doubt. Her neurotic need for objective truths and struggle to reconcile historical perspectives is hugely gratifying for the reader. This is especially true when the group visits Masada, the site of an epic confrontation between a sect of Jewish rebels and a Roman siege army that culminated in mass suicide. Gruesome fanaticism or a stirring clarion call for the burgeoning Zionism movement? You be the judge. As befits a travelogue, Glidden's drawings have the look of something jotted down on the fly; if it weren't for a haircut here or a pair of glasses there, many of the characters would be indistinguishable. Yet the simplicity of the drawing is offset by bright, delicate watercolors that belie our heroine's unresolved struggle with history and heritage. (Oct.)
Library Journal
In the Israel-Palestinian conflict, who is right? Glidden thought she knew her mind. Of Jewish heritage but not religious, she held Palestinian sympathies. But after six weeks of reading and ten days on a "Birthright Israel" tour for young Jews, she wasn't so sure. And after 200 pages sweating out emotional and intellectual dissonances with her, perhaps neither are we. Taking a diary approach, Glidden pulls together maps, facts, figures, and ghosts of dead relatives and dignitaries who figure into Middle Eastern politics and the stories she heard during the tour. This part memoir, part political travelog spins out the history of Jewish attraction toward the area that is now Israel and the resulting hostilities involving Arab locals, interwoven with Glidden's personal intellectual journey. VERDICT This graphic novel has a Persepolis feel because of the way it depicts a hot spot through memoir, but it provides more about multiple sides of the issues. The pleasant watercolor conjures semirealism, contrasting ironically with the centuries of bloodshed staining that expanse of land. Strongly recommended for high school and adult collections in company with Joe Sacco's Palestine and Footnotes in Gaza and Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds.—M.C.
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—After years of questioning her heritage, arguing with her mother about what it means to be Jewish, and dating a "goy," Glidden succumbed to the lure of an all-expense-paid trip to Israel through Birthright, a program that offers Jewish young adults first-time trips to the country. At the onset, she declared, "I'm ready to go there and discover the truth behind this whole mess once and for all. It will be crystal clear by the time I come back." An experienced traveler and a skeptic, she details her two-month excursion through cities and deserts. Readers witness her personal conflict as she seeks to view Israel with an objective eye. One effective literary device is the use of illustrated flashbacks from both Glidden's and Israel's past. The ghosts of David Ben Gurion and Sarah's deceased younger brother accompany her for several panels during her journey. She encounters the worldview of non-Eastern European Jews, Israeli soldiers, and her traveling companions, and begins to realize her limited perspective as she wonders "how many other people on the trip I've completely misjudged." The author's inner voices as she struggles with her conflicting emotions are brilliantly portrayed during brief trials in "the court of birthright vs. brainwash," where she serves as the prosecutor, defense, and judge. The tongue-in-cheek title hints at both the subtle humor and the complex subject matter. Glidden's soft, watercolor palette and realistic art complement without overshadowing this thoughtful exploration of the role that cultural heritage plays in the search for personal identity.—Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Kirkus Reviews

This graphic memoir, the author's book-length debut, relates her eye-opening visit to Israel.

Before embarking on her "birthright" tour of Israel, Glidden explained to her non-Jewish boyfriend that "I'm ready to go there and discover the truth behind this whole mess once and for all. It'll all be crystal clear by the time I come back!" The narrative sustains that spirit of self-deprecating innocence throughout, making Glidden an effective guide through the trouble spots of the Middle East, though inevitably she returns home with more questions than answers, more ambivalence than assurance. Anticipating propaganda that would attempt to counter what she terms her "left-wing and progressive," pro-Palestinian sympathies, she met Israelis who shared some of her reservations and discovered that people whom she liked could have conflicting opinions on complex issues. "We ask only one thing of you and that is not to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, but to be pro-peace," she heard at a speakers' panel of Jews and Muslims who had both lost loved ones to the conflict. By the end of her two-month tour, she realizes that peace in the Middle East is the ultimate goal, but that achieving it will be a very challenging process. She attempts some inventive narrative techniques, but the author would have to show more insight or more of an edge to give readers more than they already know.

A primer for those who aren't aware of the complexity of issues and emotions underlying this seemingly interminable strife.

Lisa Bonos
…Glidden addresses the nuances and complexities of Israel's past and present through humor and history lessons in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and beyond. She manages to make a familiar journey fresh in this graphic format…Balancing seriousness with sarcasm, she captures the idiosyncrasies of Israeli culture and ponders the difficult questions of how Israel might pursue a peaceful and secure future.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher

"A memoir of a trip this left-leaning Jew takes to Israel, determined to have her ideas about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict confirmed. Of course, things turn out more complicated than Glidden had imagined. So do her deceptively simple line drawings… and the thinking that informs the vivid dialogue in a graphic nonfiction novel of subtlety and understated wit." -Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly

Product Details

DC Comics
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
15 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Sarah Glidden is a graduate of Boston University and lives in Seattle. Her comics have appeared in The Guardian, the Nib, Haaretz, and the Jewish Quarterly. In 2010, Glidden shadowed journalists from The Seattle Globalist as they reported from Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. Their interviews with refugees and internally displaced people form her second book, Rolling Blackouts.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It may be a strong assessment, but I think that the word "propaganda" is accurate.
DeepThoughts 10 months ago
Part memoir and part geopolitical expose, How to Understand Israel has taught me more about the Israel-Palestine conflict that just about anything else I've ever read. Finally I have a fair grasp of the complex historical background and the various layers of tension between the two groups. The author is frank about her own uncertainties and changes of opinion as her "Birthright Trip" proceeds, which makes this book much more approachable than the numerous academics texts on the same subject. For anyone who thinks that graphic novels are all about superheroes, prepare to be surprised. How to Understand Israel is smart, compassionate, and well worth the read.