Political and Social Cartoon from Israel; 'Dry Bones,' by Ex-U.S. Resident Ya'akov Kirschen, Is a Comic That Has Been Compared to 'Doonesbury.'

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HAVING YOUR COMIC described as "the 'Doonesbury' of Israel" might be heady praise for most cartoonists, but Ya'akov Kirschen is a little uncomfortable with the implication that he followed in Garry Trudeau's footsteps.

"I didn't even see 'Doonesbury' until 10 years after I moved to Israel," said Kirschen, who left his native United States in 1971.

Also, he believes that his comic sort of predates "Doonesbury," which was launched by Universal Press Syndicate in 1970. While "Dry Bones" officially began in 1971, Kirschen said, it was an outgrowth of some of the U.S. work that he did in the late 1960s. Of course, "Doonesbury" was an outgrowth of the "Bull Tales" strip that Trudeau did as a Yale University student in the late 1960s.

It was another Universal creator, editorial cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who most influenced Kirschen to develop a comic strip filled with political and social satire.

"Feiffer showed that you could communicate really heavy concepts and make political statements by using hip cartoons," Kirschen said. "He could get away with it by not having the balloons and panels, but he was really doing a comic strip:'

While "Dry Bones" looks like a strip, the Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate decided during the 1980s that it had enough of an editorial cartoon sensibility to be included in the "Views of the World" roundup of editorial cartoons. Since then, the comic has run in such newspapers as the International Herald Tribune, London Times, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald and New York Times and Newsweek, Time and Forbes magazines.

In 1991, CWS also began syndicating the comic individually to Englishlanguage Jewish newspapers. "Dry Bones" now has about 30 of these clients in the United States, Canada and Australia.

And the strip is published widely in Israel, where Kirschen recently switched his home base from the Jerusalem Post to Jerusalem Report magazine.

Kirschen, who was interviewed during a recent visit to the CWS office in New York, focuses much of his "Dry Bones" commentary on Israeli politics.

"Nothing in Israel is real unless it's political," he said. "The real world is the world of politics."

An anti-Vietnam War Democrat during his U.S. days, Kirschen tweaks both the conservative Likud and more liberal Labor parties in Israel

"'Dry Bones' is in neither camp," he said. …