How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less # 2 by Sarah Glidden

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How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less #2: The Golan Heights
By Sarah Glidden

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less follows Sarah Glidden’s trip to Israel on Birthright, with the recently published chapter two taking her into the Golan Heights, or, as the artist proclaims in the book, “disputed territory proper!” As thoughtful and enjoyable as chapter one, the second installment presents the comic Glidden again with a healthy blend of enthusiasm, reverence, and skepticism—a combination that makes the book properly political without being obnoxious and adequately fun without avoiding politics.

While in the small pages of the mini, extremely complex issues are sometimes boiled down to too small a size, Glidden keeps her character questioning and thinking, which in turn keeps us doing the same. And of course, if the story focused entirely on the politics and history, it wouldn’t be nearly as compelling.

What Glidden does best is mingle history and personal experience, mostly in great visual sequences. A prime example occurs when the group is engaged in discussion at a visitors’ center in front of a large diorama of the Golan Heights. As the group’s guide tells them stories about the Six Day War, Glidden’s character imagines the action taking place inside the diorama. Then, in a subtle transition, she swiftly turns the territory inside the diorama into the terrain that her bus is traversing in the space of three panels, making her trip a part of the land’s history.

Similarly, in my favorite sequence of the mini, when Glidden can’t sleep, she imagines herself as the latest in a long line of sleepers on the small square of land where her hostel bed sits. She pictures the Natufians, early Jews, Roman soldiers, Ottomans, Arabs, and 20th century Jews in a dreamlike page that hits home the excitement of experiencing a place that feels as profoundly old as Israel.

Ultimately, that seems to be where Glidden is heading with the series—toward focusing on the simple fact of Israel’s wondrous existence, which is often overshadowed amid the scores of complicated political issues and violence. But, I can only speculate; where she ends up and the lessons she draws remain to be seen in the rest of the chapters—six more, which are coming together with the previous two in complete book form, from Vertigo.

–Jillian Steinhauer

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One Comment to “How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less # 2 by Sarah Glidden”

  1. Jonathan Baylis | September 27th, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Just bought the first two issues and thought they were great!
    She just got a Vertigo deal to complete the series.
    Easily my favorite mini this year.
    creator/writer, So Buttons comics