How to understand Israel in 60 days or less

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.

Founder of Jewlicious? Publisher? Man I hate titles. I coined the name Jewlicious and I slave over the site. I live in Jerusalem and I need to get some breakfast.

6 Comments

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  2. Erika Davis

    10/25/2010 at 6:33 pm

    I think this is on my list of new books to purchase! Thanks for the article

  3. Michael Margolies

    10/26/2010 at 3:13 pm

    “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 the Palestinians.” I find this incrediby depressing. I didn’t read the story, but why wouldn’t she be critical of the Palestinians, who (1) nver declared they wanted a state in Gaza or the West Bank when Egypt and Jordan ruled there (2) aren’t the only refugees in the ME, there being something like 650 – 800,000 Jewish refugees who escaped or where thrown out from the Arab countries between 1948 – 67, (3) along with their Arab cohorts have announced time and again they will “throw the Jews into the sea.” Etc. etc. etc. I could go on with 20 examples. Has Sarah put these questions to her boyfrined, (and I have no problem with his ethnicity) or is blame (even if not true, aside from an odd incident here or there), only a one way street with the Jews, eh Israelis always the guilty party? Sixty yrs. after Isrqel’s independence and some young people are apparently uninformed. She ought to read “From Time Immemorial”, a great book, by Joan Peter’s, a non Jew. I hope Sarah isn’t one of those people who think that a “pro Israel” book is by definiton propaganda.

  4. Michael Margolies

    10/26/2010 at 3:24 pm

    Four spelling mistakes, actually typos, sorry. I edited for content, not grammer. I rushed, always a mistake. Kind of like rushing to judgment on Israel, when one doesn’t have the time or inclination to study all the facts, leaving them open to propaganda.

    Nver = never
    indredby = incredibly
    boyfrined = boyfriend
    Isrqel’s = Israel’s

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  6. Adam

    11/29/2010 at 8:28 pm

    I will definitely read the book, as I have read so many about Israel, not all about the conflict. I find it ironic that her boyfriend was concerned that her trip would be filled with Jewish propoganda supporting Israel, when she is bombarded with Pro Palestinian propoganda in the press and at Universities across America. Would her bf only be satisfied if the trip towed the PA line of Jews are evil and arabs are good?

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