A book review
Like many young Jews in America, Sarah Glidden went on a Birthright Israel trip a few years back. Like her fellow trip participants, she was excited about her trip while still harboring a number of trepidations. Unlike most of her contemporaries however, she turned the whole experience into a graphic novel. Her journey is well drawn and the story is obviously of interest to anyone involved in or contemplating a Birthright Israel trip. I myself have led 10 Birthright trips and Sarah’s depiction is fair and accurate. The trip is not a militaristic propaganda session, nor does it represent a totally complete perception of the state of modern Jewry and Israel. But what do you expect from 10-days?
The tension in the story is based on the fact that Sarah, like many of her cohorts, is critical of the State of Israel, particularly its treatment of Palestinians. Her Muslim boyfriend, while supportive of her trip, is concerned that the experience will be full of propaganda. Sarah for her part, chooses a trip provider, Israel Experts, that she feels will be able to provide a more nuanced experience.
The journey theme in literature is often a metaphor for something greater – discovery, a process etc. and this is the aspect of Sarah’s story that makes it universally interesting. Sarah’s pre-conceived notions were sometimes confirmed, sometimes challenged and she emerges from the whole experience perhaps more confused but definitely more enlightened. Welcome to the Middle East where nothing is black and white.
I read How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less in one sitting – immediately after it was delivered. This is a testament to the compelling nature of the story – I was able to immediately relate to Sarah’s struggle and wanted to see how it would turn out. However, just like in life, there was no neat happy ending – only an understanding that objective realities are hard to come by!
OK and I also enjoyed seeing people I know and have met rendered in comic book format! Full disclosure time: I led two trips with Israel Experts and designed their Web site. They are an excellent trip provider and they don’t need my endorsement as their stellar record speaks for itself.