‘Dry Bones’ cartoonist’s new book looks back at early Israel

A collection of classic cartoons by Yaakov Kirschen is a nostalgic gaze at days gone by, when times were simpler, if no less absurd

By RACHEL NEIMAN/ISRAEL21C
December 9, 2017 21:03
2 minute read.
‘Dry Bones’ cartoonist’s new book looks back at early Israel

Since 1973, cartoonist Yaakov ‘Dry Bones’ Kirschen has been commenting on the absurdities of life in Israel. (photo credit: Courtesy)

What’s your favorite “Dry Bones” cartoon? Ask any English-speaker who came to this country after the mid-1970s and you’ll no doubt get an answer. Is it the one about sniffing cottage cheese? Getting a wintertime buzz from your kerosene neft heater? Measuring your apartment size by counting the balata floor tiles?

For more than four decades, cartoonist Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen has been commenting on Israeli absurdities, from the small ironies of daily life to the major geopolitical SNAFUs.

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Recently, Kirschen took a break from current events to look back in his new book, Young and Innocent: The Way We Were, a collection of classic “Dry Bones” cartoons originally published in The Jerusalem Post, where he started his career in Israel in 1973.

During the week, “Dry Bones” occupied a unique four-box layout on the newspaper’s back page. For the weekend edition, the cartoon covered a full-page layout that often highlighted one of its most popular themes: “You Know You’ve Been Here Too Long When...”

The book harks back to a time when beating hyper-inflation by staying in overdraft was a way of life, toilet paper was akin to sandpaper, and no kitchen faucet was complete without a plastic nozzle.

The logic in any of those things will be difficult for older Israelis to explain to the younger ones, but there’s sure to be some shared laughs along the way.

According to the entry in the US National Cartoonists Society directory, Kirschen is “another Brooklyn boy.”

After graduating from Queens College in 1961, he began working for the Norcross Greeting Card Company, writing and drawing the newly popular “gag” greeting cards.

Fired for “loud and jocular behavior,” Kirschen began freelancing for Cracked magazine before moving on to create cartoons for Playboy.

In 1971, he moved with his family to Israel, changed his first name from Jerry to Yaakov, and in 1973 began drawing the daily editorial strip known as “Dry Bones,” a reference to the end-of-days vision of biblical prophet Ezekiel.

Since then, his award-winning “Dry Bones” cartoons have been internationally syndicated, reprinted in the New York Times, Time magazine, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal and other major publications.

The “Dry Bones” story has been covered by CBS, CNN, Forbes and many other media outlets.

Kirschen continues to draw his daily cartoons on his blog, Facebook fan page and in Jewish newspapers worldwide.

Young and Innocent: The Way We Were is available from Amazon. www.israel21c.org


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