In her last posts, Miri­am Libic­ki blogged on tak­ing Egged bus­es across Israel and on her process of draw­ing com­ic books. She has been blog­ging here all week for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ings author blog­ging series. 

I love exhibit­ing at com­ic book con­ven­tions. With­out a big pub­lish­er — and, maybe more impor­tant­ly, as a mem­oirist — the best way to intro­duce read­ers to my comics is to intro­duce myself to them, one at a time.

From my first comics, ripped out of my army diaries & turned in as assign­ments in art school, a year & a half after my dis­charge, my sub­ject mat­ter was con­tro­ver­sial. My very first writ­ing pro­fes­sor was dis­sat­is­fied with my exam­i­na­tion of the social pol­i­tics of burn­ing the clas­si­fied papers of a mil­i­tary infir­mary, & implored me to address the pol­i­tics of Israel’s exis­tence instead. His cri­tique, It might be worth you con­sid­er­ing who you feel is your intend­ed audi­ence — would it be your peers at Emi­ly Carr, a com­mu­ni­ty that is more famil­iar with the mil­i­tary sit­u­a­tion in Israel, or some oth­er group (or com­bi­na­tion)?” led to the cre­ation of the Job­nik manifesto.

(detail from the first page of the Job­nik Man­i­festo. To view the com­plete com­ic,go here.)

The man­i­festo was exact­ly what I didn’t want to write when I began putting my very per­son­al, very small sto­ries to pic­tures. I thought I could reveal Israeli life & human­ize Israeli sol­diers with­out being the spokes­woman for Israeli pol­i­cy & the lat­est news sto­ry out of the Mid­dle East. But if I was being forced into that role, I might as well own it. The four-page man­i­festo is now the fli­er I give away at cons, and a cor­ner­stone of my booth setup.

This is my booth setup:

I wear my Jew­i­ness & Israeli­tude not only on my sleeve, but across my chest and on a giant ban­ner behind me. I have def­i­nite­ly become a mag­net for everyone’s feel­ings about Israel & Judaism. Some peo­ple have real­ly… inter­est­ing feel­ings. What fol­lows are the parts of my table that get the most com­ment, & some adven­tures I’ve had try­ing to stay on everyone’s good side while being true to myself & not deliv­er­ing a free two-hour lec­ture on the state of mod­ern Zionism.

1. Desire Peace and Chase After It.”

This shirt design is a mashup of my mother’s favourite Psalm (it’s 34:14) with an infa­mous road sign on I‑5 near the Mex­i­co-Cal­i­for­nia bor­der. Many peo­ple take the t‑shirt as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to prac­tice their rusty after­school Hebrew. But even a com­plete­ly non­spe­cif­ic mes­sage of peace attracts polit­i­cal reaction-mongers.

An earnest young guy, who looked like he might be hid­ing a vel­vet kip­pah under his base­ball cap, knew what it meant & the source, but asked, What does that mean to you? What do you think it means, exact­ly, to chase peace?”

I was pret­ty sure he was fish­ing for my polit­i­cal stance, I imag­ined so he could clas­si­fy me as Good for the Jews or Bad for the Jews. It means — it means it’s not enough to sit around wait­ing for peace. You have to strug­gle for it.”

He gave up. I don’t think he end­ed up buy­ing any­thing, but I felt I told the truth while avoid­ing pigeonholes.

Oh,” said one mid­dle-aged guy after I trans­lat­ed. I saw it was Hebrew, so I assumed it must be Pales­tini­ans run­ning from bombs dropped by my fel­low Jews.”

I could not imme­di­ate­ly imag­ine a response. He smiled tri­umphant­ly & walked away.

2. Towards a Hot Jew: the Israeli Sol­dier as Fetish Object

This essay was my senior project in art school. I didn’t orig­i­nal­ly intend to bind & dis­trib­ute it as a com­ic, but it has become, as I say in my con­ven­tion pitch, my most pop­u­lar and most con­tro­ver­sial piece.” (I also say, Makes a great gift for the hot Jew in your life!”)

Some peo­ple are hor­ri­fied at such sym­bols of vio­lence being sex­u­al­ized at all (obvi­ous­ly, this is not at super­hero-ori­ent­ed com­ic cons). Many, many peo­ple want to tell me about Israeli sol­diers they have lust­ed after. Most peo­ple, before read­ing it, have no idea if it’s a pro-Israel or anti-Israel screed, but are sure it’s one or the oth­er. (Some peo­ple still feel that way after read­ing it.)

Anoth­er yeshiv­ish-look­ing kid said to me with a big smile, Thanks, but this book isn’t for me. I’m a Zionist.”

That time, I was quick enough to say, Me, too.” We actu­al­ly had a decent talk after that.

When Hot Jew” was first pub­lished dig­i­tal­ly, I got called an anti-Semi­te on the inter­net for the first time. One patri­ot­ic Amer­i­can Jew sent me a scold­ing email, say­ing, I’m 17 years old­er than you, and I remem­ber the pride Jews felt in the peri­od after the Six Day War,” and that my essay was par­rot­ed from what I imag­ine is the North­west lefty-aca­d­e­m­ic milieu that you live among.” That per­son went silent after I wrote back that I had not only lived in Israel, but served in the IDF.

I have yet to be called a Jew-hater by any­one who has com­plet­ed IDF service.

Which brings us right up to…


So I get it from the right for Hot Jew,” & I get it from the left for job­nik! I try to hand out my man­i­festo to any­one who stops long enough to make eye con­tact. But since they can’t read it all while stand­ing at the table, I have a brief spiel too, about how I was raised in Ohio, came to Israel on a year pro­gram, fell in love (with every­thing and every­one), made aliyah, joined the army, and was total­ly unpre­pared for it.

Some peo­ple come over very seri­ous at the joined the army” part. Were you unpre­pared for it because of cul­ture shock, or because of the actions of the IDF?” asked a young white guy in Toronto.

I acknowl­edged that it was real­ly the cul­ture shock; when I thought of bad actions of the IDF, I thought of gov­ern­ment poli­cies, & mil­i­tary strate­gies that were evil or heavy-hand­ed, not the ground troops, I mean, I know there are vio­lent racists among enlist­ed sol­diers, but I didn’t know any, or I don’t think I did…

An olive-skinned col­lege-age girl asked me why I vol­un­teered for army ser­vice, at SPX. I explained that ser­vice is com­pul­so­ry for Israelis, so if I was mak­ing aliya at age 18, I felt it showed the seri­ous­ness of my com­mit­ment to join the army like a real Israeli.

Is join­ing the army the only way to be Israeli?” she asked.

I admit­ted that many Israelis do civil­ian nation­al ser­vice, and some get out on health grounds. But it seemed to me that the best way to prove my non-tourist-hood was to enlist.

She was very calm but per­sis­tent. It slow­ly became clear that she was Pales­tin­ian-Israeli (or Israeli Arab, or 1948 Pales­tin­ian). My inno­cent youth­ful crush on Israel was sud­den­ly a big hole I had dug for myself. I didn’t have too much to say after that. I hand­ed her a man­i­festo and abor­tive­ly described my oth­er comics.

I felt so bad after­ward that I waved her down, an hour lat­er, when she passed back through the aisle. I said I was sor­ry I didn’t ask her name, or about her own sto­ry. As she told me about her peace activist work in D.C., I found myself blurt­ing out all the names & orga­ni­za­tions of friends of mine in peace & coex­is­tence groups, until she rec­og­nized a name (or pre­tend­ed to). I felt even more ridicu­lous. But bet­ter a clue­less defen­sive well-mean­ing col­o­niz­er, I guess, than a vio­lent racist.

Miri­am Libic­ki has been writ­ing and draw­ing the self-pub­lished com­ic book job­nik! since 2003. She has been blog­ging all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

Miri­am Libic­ki is a graph­ic nov­el­ist liv­ing in Van­cou­ver Cana­da. Her 2008 Israeli Army mem­oir job­nik!” has been used in over a dozen uni­ver­si­ty cours­es. She teach­es car­toon­ing and illus­tra­tion at Emi­ly Carr Uni­ver­si­ty of Art and Design. She also makes a line of hand-silkscreened shirts and met her hus­band while fol­low­ing a nerd-folk band on tour.