Glidden paints a picture of Israel through the eyes of a skeptic

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Sarah Glidden thought she was leaving her art studio in Greenpoint for a 10-day trip through Israel, but it turns out she was embarking on a deeply personal and spiritual journey.

As she moved from the disputed territory of the Golan Heights to the Dead Sea to the ancient fortress known as Masada, she struggled to separate fact from fiction and balance propaganda with her preconceived notions about what it means to be Jewish, what to make of Israel and who’s in the right in “the situation” with the Palestinians.

Glidden funneled every last raw emotion into “How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less” a 208-page graphic novel by DC imprint Vertigo that’s out Nov. 9.

Using lush watercolors and a delicate palette of six main colors, Glidden paints an honest, quirky, witty and poignant picture of the trip she took in 2007 through Taglit Birthright Israel — a program funded by various Jewish organizations to strengthen the connection between Israel and Jews throughout the world.

Part memoir, part travelogue, Glidden says the book “should be validating for people to see someone else” in the middle of a full-blown identity crisis.

“I just tried to be aware of my faults and show them as much as possible,” said Glidden. “I know I’m not perfect. No one is. So I wrote the book kind of laughing at myself, at how naive I was and how annoying I could be at times. I think we all have flaws and sometimes its easier to relate to someone when you are reminded that we’re all in this together, stumbling around and being imperfect human beings.”

Her struggle came to a tearful crescendo in Tel Aviv at Independence Hall, where Israel declared itself a state in 1948. Her group listened as an Israeli citizen talked about what it’s like to live under the specter of terrorism and how each Israeli dutifully serves in the country‘s military.

Glidden’s world shifts when realizes she’s not sure if she’s finally seeing things from Israel’s point of view — a view she had rejected from the start of the trip. Or maybe she‘s being manipulated. It’s all too much and she flees, but once outside on the street, she happens upon some Israeli soldiers. “They’re so young,” she says, and the moment moves her to tears.

“You know, it sounds very cliché to say this, but you always learn a lot about yourself when you travel,” Glidden said. “When you’re not set into the rut of your comfort zone, you start thinking about who you are in relation to the rest of the world. This time around, I really went through a lot of thinking about how my political beliefs define my identity.”

“How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less” is available at Bergen Street Comics [470 Bergen St. between Flatbush and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (718) 230-5600]; Desert Island [540 Metropolitan Ave. near Union Street in Williamsburg, (718) 388-5087]; Galaxy Comics [429 Fifth Ave. between Eighth and Ninth streets in Park Slope, (718) 499-3222, and 6823 Fifth Ave. near 68th Street in Bay Ridge, (718) 921-1236]; St. Mark’s Comics [148 Montague St. between Henry and Clinton streets in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 935-0911]; and Barnes and Noble [267 Seventh Ave. between Fifth and Sixth streets in Park Slope, (718) 832-9066]. For info, visit

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