How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less

by Sarah Glidden

Other authorsSarah Glidden (Artist)
Book, 2016



Call number

YA 800 GLI



Drawn and Quarterly (2016), 217 pages


"Glidden, a progressive American Jew who is sharply critical of Israeli policies vis-á-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."

User reviews

LibraryThing member jnwelch
[How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less] by [[Sarah Glidden] is a graphic novel about a birthright trip to Israel that the author took in 2007. As you may know, there's a program that offers a free educational trip to Israel to North American Jews between the ages of 18-26. My wife did this
Show More
many years ago right after the 6 day war, and found the trip transformative. My knowledge of Israel is relatively slim compared to hers, so I looked forward to learning more about it through this book (that probably says something revealing about my learning habits - always go to the comic book first).

Glidden goes into the trip with strong feelings about Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the need to trade land for peace. She expects to be inundated with pro-Israeli propaganda when she gets there, and is prepared with a lot of skepticism and wisecracks. The artwork is engaging and well done as she travels all over Israel. She does encounter some of the expected propaganda, but more often finds herself engaged in nuance conversations that show her the problems, and potential resolutions are much more complicated than she suspected. Her sympathy to the plight of the Palestinians helps make this a more even-handed book than it might have been, and her reluctant acknowledgment of the legitimacy of views not matching hers brings credibility and liveliness to the memoir. It's not black and white, and underlying every inch of territory and beliefs in Israel is a vast amount of influential history. At times she finds herself overwhelmed with emotion as her political understanding evolves along with her concept of her Jewish identity.

She does a good job of making it entertaining for the reader, with fanciful interludes as she gets bored or tries to sort out the issues. In one she is representing both sides in a trial, and also is the judge. “This court is now in session to hear the case of ‘Birthright is trying to brainwash me vs. Birthright is actually pretty reasonable,” Judge Glidden announces to the Glidden lawyers. She mocks some of her fellow travelers, and herself when she does something awkward. Swimming in the salty Dead Sea is far from romantic, and she notices only the tourists do it, while the locals stay on the beach. At one point a Muslim shopkeeper points out how much like New York his section of Jerusalem is, with its varied mix of people. Turns out he used to live in New York and is a Yankees fan. He jokingly threatens not to sell her some earrings when he finds out she’s a Red Sox booster. It gives a welcome and different perspective on the many enmities and suspicions that lie in the background and can suddenly come to the fore.

It is not all tied up neatly in a package by the end, but the reader does better, if not completely, understand Israel. It is fun to follow Sarah as she starts to really get exposed to the country and its people, which in some ways takes off during a Purim parade. She begins to get beyond her tunnel-visioned political concerns and experience the country's vibrancy and diversity, and at the same time she starts realizing how at home she feels when surrounded by people like her. Along the way she encounters Americans who have relocated to Israel for those reasons.

Anyway, she packs a lot into a comic book, and I can see why it has gotten so many accolades. I've recommended it to my birthright trip-taking wife. I hope that this memoir triggers even more memories of her own trip to this fascinating area that could be considered the heart of much of our planet.
Show Less
LibraryThing member -Eva-
For some reason, Glidden seems somewhat naïve about the ways of the world despite illustrating how extensively she has traveled before this trip, but if you can see past that issue, this is a great visit to the current land of Israel. Although American, Glidden herself if so eager to see the
Show More
negative side of the Jewish State, the reader gets to follow along on an almost balanced view of the country. Note that this is a graphic novel about memories of a Birthright trip, and not a political treatise, so the issues are not dealt with in any depth, but for an "Israel Light" introduction, this does very well indeed. I especially appreciate how Glidden introduces several people whose opinions are contrary to what one would surmise them to be, based solely on preconceived notions, and she manages to illustrate how most people will surprise you once you make the effort to get to know them. And the ending is very apt when it comes to this particular country - there just aren't any easy answers.
Show Less
LibraryThing member mkboylan
Yep! It's a graphic memoir and I thoroughly enjoyed it. When [[Sarah Glidden]] is granted a free trip to Israel by Birthright Israel, she spends a couple of months studying the country and the conflict attempting to develop a balanced perspective.

The trip for her is part educational tour by
Show More
Birthright, and part personal tour as she makes arrangements to visit Israel on her own, as well as the Gaza Strip, as she moves from under the influence of Birthright. Glidden discovers differences between beliefs and perspectives in Birthright's tour guides as well as other people. Just when she thinks she has things figured out she receives new information that changes things. Her conclusion seems to be that this conflict is extremely complicated and she is unable to take a side. THAT of course, is part of her coming of age story.

For me, the main part of the memoir is Glidden's emotional struggle. That is often where graphic books shine for me - facial expressions, etc. Additionally, the beauty of Israel is very well painted in watercolor. I am new to graphic books; this is about the 6th one I have read. Recommended for those interested in Israel/Palestine conflict, perhaps as a beginning.
Show Less
LibraryThing member zzshupinga
This is a powerful autobiographical tale of a young woman exploring her heritage and overcoming her own preconceived notions of what is real and what isn't. Sarah turns her art and view onto herself as she makes a journey into Israel in an attempt to discover the Israel of today. I've got to be
Show More
honest I can't do justice in trying to do a brief blurb about the book, but I'll try.

Sarah is Jewish and lives in New York. From afar she reads and keeps up with the Palestine/Israel conflict. But in order to truly understand it and see if her own opinions/beliefs are right, she and a friend join a heritage tour group. They travel to Israel and here Sarah holds "trial" in her mind at various stops, weighing what she is hearing with what she believes to be the truth. But along the way she discovers something...about the people that surround her and even more about herself.

Sarah does an excellent job of being honest with herself and her opinions. And this is a must read for anyone, regardless of age, gender, or religion.
Show Less
LibraryThing member SadieOldenkamp
The main character goes on a birthright trip to Israel to get a supposed "balanced" view of the conflict issue. However, she brings along her anti-Israel baggage with her from the start. When pro-Israel characters offer their reasons [some logical others emotional or religous] for allowing Israel
Show More
to be an independent state the book shows her conflict yet strong urge to resist seeing things from their point of view. It was interesting seeing her experiences with Jews and the conflict question before she decided to go on her trip, and understand the reasons for her bias. The most anticipated moment for me was when she was planning to go "past the curtain", and actually visit the Palestinian part of the country. I wanted to see what they would say and how she would react to their point of view. SPOLIER ALERT!: It was incredibly frustrating as a reader when she chickened out because she was terrified that she wouldn't be safe despite many people telling her that she would be fine. After going all that way, and not bothering to visit the one place she wanted to see? ARGH??! Furthermore, she didn't really bother asking the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims who were on the Israeli side of the border what they thought of the conflict, because apparently it would be "rude" or she didn't know how to phrase the question. Therefore despite the whole work the main character's mission to find a "balanced" view of the conflict she never got the Palestine's side of the story, and just harrased the Pro-Israel characters of the book. The title really should have been "How to be an obnoxious know-it-all American in 60 days or less." However, against my better judgement I must admit that it was a pretty good read, if only for her emotional struggle over the willing to be slightly more open minded. It doesn't have a lot of info on the real day-to-day non-tourist aspects of Israel, so I have to warn that anyone looking to learn more about the culture from this graphic novel will be disappointed.
Show Less
LibraryThing member EBT1002
This is a nice little graphic memoir and a decent primer for understanding the history of Israel and the conflict between Jews and Palestinians. It depicts the month-long "Birthright Tour" of 26-year old Sarah, a non-religious American Jew with pro-Palestinian beliefs. We accompany her on her
Show More
travels around Israel, and we learn more about the complex and nuanced issues facing that region. Glidden also explores some of her internal strife and self-doubt as she comes to see that there are multiple perspectives and that her firmly held beliefs are not impervious to challenge. She also learns that she can feel close to someone, respect that someone, and hold an opposing perspective.

I'm glad I read this and I do recommend it. It dragged on a bit and Glidden's characters do not emerge from the page with as much richness as, say, those in Art Speigelman's Maus, but that's a high bar to set and I hope Glidden's work reaches an expanding audience.
Show Less
LibraryThing member mikewick
Another stellar graphic novel proving that the medium has an essential place in storytelling, this comic is the first full-length effort by Sarah Glidden and should be shelved alongside Joe Sacco's works and Maus in terms of its importance for fostering an intelligent discussion of the troubles
Show More
between Israel and Palestine. It doesn't touch on the extreme alienation and despair of Sacco & Spiegelman's works because Glidden's story is of an American-born Jew who takes the birthright trip with the intention of reinforce her preconceived pro-Palestinian ideas that most college students sporting a keffiyeh share. As the trip progresses, her prejudices begin to break down through a very emotional process as she begins to formulate her own opinion. While the ending of the book leaves us with the same question Sarah was asking herself at the beginning, the process of reading it allows us to encounter and embrace our own uncertainty of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Show Less
LibraryThing member lilibrarian
The story of the author's travels in Israel on a Birthrite trip, where young Jews are taken on tours to learn about the country. She tells how seeing the country and meeting the people challenged her pre-existing ideas.
LibraryThing member bookworm12
This graphic novel follows one woman’s travels with a tour group through Israel in 2007. I thought the subject matter was fascinating, but the negative and combative attitude of the author (and main character) was exhausting.
LibraryThing member branimal
What a weird book for me to read.

If not for Alaina, this wouldn't have even touched my radar.. at all. For starters, I'm not religious in the slightest so that alone is enough to turn me off of this book. Also, I have no fundamental knowledge of what's going on in Israel. Well, I know that there
Show More
is what appears to be a conflict with no end in sight, but other than that - nothing.

Don't confuse my lack of knowledge with a lack of interest, however, as I've always been interested in "what's going on over there". When the topic comes up in any conversation (which trust me is rare), I usually refrain from giving an opinion in an effort to mask my ignorance. While I'm not a fairly political guy - and I'll be the first to proclaim my apathy towards international issues - I'd like to have some sort of basic understanding. So when this book was recommended (and combined with the attractive title), I gave it a shot.

Now, I don't want to give anyone the impression that after I put this down I declared myself an authority on all Palestinian/Israeli matters. If anything, I doubt I'll ever fully understand it. I can say that Glidden at least gave me an idea of what all this fighting is over and that's a whole lot better than what I knew before hand.

Her story is an interesting one and while at times I found her overly dramatic, I can't say that I can tell her how she should act in this kind of environment. I really respect that while she admitted to having a huge bias upon starting her journey, she ended without beating over your head who is "right" and who is "wrong".

Why the 3 stars? I guess because when you break down the star system, 3 stars translates into "I liked it". So while I thought the artwork was beautifully done, I can't see this really having an impact on me in the long term.
Show Less
LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
22. How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

A Birthright trip is an all-expenses paid trip to Israel for those who have a Jewish ancestor, and my understanding is that such trips are intended to make Americans of Jewish background more "friendly" to Israel.

This book, a graphic
Show More
memoir, gave me a good understanding of what a Birthright trip is like. It conveys a brief sense of the problems faced by Israel, including the issue of its Palestinian population, but overall its consideration of the issues is rather superficial, possibly because a Birthright trip by its very conception will be somewhat one-sided in outlook. (Also because of its graphic memoir format I did not expect the book to delve too deeply into the difficult issues in the Mideast.) I recommend the book as a personal depiction of the Birthright experience, but not as a serious piece of journalism on Israel.

3 stars
Show Less
LibraryThing member SGTCat
I think anyone could pick up this graphic novel and enjoy it, but I don't think anyone could have much of an understanding of the conflict after reading it. But, this comic isn't really meant to explain the conflict. It's more of a diary of a birthright trip to Israel from the point of view of a
Show More
woman who has become personally, emotionally caught up in the conflict and what it means for her in terms of her Jewish identity. I'd read something about that before, that Israel's changing nature presents a challenge to Jews outside Israel. When I finished looking at the last page, I think I had a little more insight into what it might be like for a Jew to confront the realities of Israel after being steeped in the literature of a century of Jewish conflict in the region.
Show Less
LibraryThing member PamelaAmyotte3
How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less
By: Sarah Glidden
Awards: N/A
This non-fiction autobiographical graphic novel focuses on Sarah Glidden, a young Jewish woman living in the United States. She has strong opinions about the problems in the Middle East involving Palestine and Israel. When her
Show More
mother encourages her to go on a birthright trip to Israel with her best friend, her worldview is changed forever. The title of the novel is definitely accurate because it does successfully teach about the complicated Israeli problems in less than 60 days. The reader joins Sarah in agreeing with her views full heartedly, but later seeing that the issues are more even more complicated than what the reader and Sarah originally thought. It focuses on both sides, and isn’t biased toward either way of looking at things. It does a good job of letting the reader come to their own conclusions, while giving them the information that is needed to be able to fully understand the issues in a very non-threatening and entertaining way. The artwork is simple, but it beautifully adds to the story. Unlike most graphic novels, the artwork is actually in colour. Not only does it describe the beauty, and mysteriousness of Israel with words, but readers are able to see it for themselves. I would recommend this book for anyone who has any questions about Israel and are too afraid to ask. I would also recommend this book for teachers, who have to teach this delicate topic in social studies class. I would give this book 4.5/5 stars.
Show Less


Original publication date

Page: 0.1718 seconds