Yaakov Kirschen
Yaakov KirschenIsrael news photo: Yoni Kempinski

The political cartoon Dry Bones and its creator, Yaakov Kirschen, will receive the Israeli Museum of Caricature and Comics’ “Golden Pencil” award next week. The prize is awarded annually as a lifetime achievement award and a prize designed to encourage creative young artists and students.

Dry Bones has appeared for almost 40 years in newspapers around the world, in The Jerusalem Post and on a successful internet blog.

Kirschen, who made aliyah to Israel from New York in 1971, told Arutz Sheva that what makes Dry Bones unique compared to other political cartoons is that it is a political comic strip.

“When I started in January of 1973, comic strips were a strip of cartoons and editorial and political cartoonists did one-panel metaphors,” he said.

Dry Bones’ main character’s name is Shuldig, which is Yiddish for “guilt”. Kirschen said the reason he chose this name is that “when I came to Israel I recognized that with all the problems, there’s no one who would accept the blame, so I decided I would create a character who would accept the blame and say, ‘I’m guilty.’”

The name of the cartoon, Dry Bones, is based on the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones coming to life. The vision’s meaning is multi-layered in Jewish tradition, with rabbinic commentaries discussing wide ranging terms. Kirschen said that as non-religious Jew he recognizes that Ezekiel’s vision is difficult to understand from a secular point of view, “so what I’m doing in Dry Bones is simply filling in the pieces that Ezekiel didn’t have time to tell us.”

He said that unlike other cartoonists, he tries to attract Israel’s enemies “so that when they laugh at a joke they will, for that moment, see it from my point of view.”

“My goal in Dry Bones is to make people laugh,” said Kirschen. “When the news is so horrendous that I can’t get a laugh out of it, then I figured I’ve failed.”