Worst year ever

The main reason for my visit to Holon was the exhibition, 2008: The Year That Was, which summed up the recently completed year by way of cartoons.

cartoon tsahi farmer AM PM 248.88 (photo credit: courtesy)
cartoon tsahi farmer AM PM 248.88
(photo credit: courtesy)
Hi, my name is Asi Gal. You may remember me from such comics related articles as Uri Moori and Drawing Together. Being Billboard's go-to comics guy, I finally made my way to the Israeli Cartoon Museum. Located on a quiet street in a building that resembles a wing of a library, the museum is small but cute. It appears that quite a bit of effort was made to make it the best possible museum in a budget that, I'm sure, wasn't too big. Along the way to the museum, you'll pass beautiful figurines depicting the history of Israeli comics. Once inside, there's a small, utilitarian store that offers mainly Israeli comics. Past that, one will find a small, rotating exhibit of animation artists and an amazing timeline depicting the development of caricatures and information on various historical figures, such as Darwin (presented as caricatures, of course). This is a good thing since children can laugh and learn - a positive thing since knowledge is power. The main reason for my visit to Holon was the exhibition, 2008: The Year That Was. The exhibit summed up the recently completed year by way of, you guessed it, cartoons - all of which have appeared in print this past year. Such major events include the Obama election, the economic crisis, Gilad Shalit (who gets a whole wall) and even the TV show Big Brother. All are portrayed through the satirical eyes of caricaturists from numerous different political viewpoints. While I've always loved cartoons, it was not until this visit that I took the opportunity to stare at those beautifully drawn pieces of satire and came to appreciate what a delicate art it is. Not unlike a gifted poet who must encompass enormous emotion into just a few lines, the caricaturist has to do the same with just a few strokes of the pen. Tsahi Farber, one of the exhibiting cartoonists, doesn't think that there's a way to explain the process of creating a cartoon that does it justice. "You can learn how to make the character more comical, but as for how to get an idea that translates the emotion you feel - this can't be taught," he says. "You have to have a certain impulse, a drive about a subject. From this, the ideas flow." For example, when he was asked to draw a cover for the Tel Aviv City Mouse guide to Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations, he was reminded of an Ali Mohar article. "The article spoke of Ben Gurion walking in Tel Aviv in the '50s, amazed by the foreign, western elements in it. Ben Gurion lived in the city then, and that culture was incomprehensible to his modest life style. So, I drew Ben Gurion looking out at Tel Aviv today from the apartment where he lived. He sees people with iPods and asks [his wife] Paula, 'was it all worth it?'" For this exhibit, Farber has another cartoon (pictured) depicting the religious objection to the AM-PM supermarket chain remaining open on Saturdays. As such, he drew two religious folks looking at a closed branch, with one saying to other that now they should check its mezuza. "I was upset with the religious coercion and wanted to show it," Farber says. "Perhaps a more religious cartoonist would have shown something more forgiving." Another example of his work shows Ehud Olmert looking at a document concerning nuclear arms while he accepts envelopes behind his back. "When the Olmert affair broke I was shocked. I wondered whether accepting bribes actually distracted him from governing this country." Farber also curates a show about Peretz Weinrich, a cartoonist from the state's early days. "In those days cartoonists had much more power," he admits. "Newspapers used to have a whole page just for them. Today you can form an idea, draw it and not be sure that anyone's gonna look at it. That's why it's good that the museum exists." The exhibition runs until April 18, though if you love cartoons the museum's worth a visit in any case. Entrance is a mere NIS 10. 61 Weizmann St., Holon, (03) 652-1849, cartoonmuseum.org.il