70 Hungarian postcards to the 70-year-old Israel

Wolf, with the dripping paintbrush
Jenő Farkas –  Jakov Ze’ev Farkash

By Bea Kallos - 2018-03-12

Translated from the Hungarian original: Bea Sara Goll

At the age of 12 he was drawing comics, even though he was color-blind. His high school teacher called him the worst painter of the class. So then there is only journalism for you! But they kicked him out from there because of the laws against Jews. You’d think it can only go upwards from here!


But what followed was not exactly a piece of cake either. At the beginning of the war, he was in forced labor on the Russian front, where he worked as a carpenter, the vocation he had trained for. Later on, he was deported to Buchenwald’s and Dachau's hell. After the liberation, he had found himself in a refugee camp where he learned about Zionism and soon set out to move to Palestine. Like many others, he had first spent time in a prison camp in Cyprus, being sent from camp to camp. During this period he drew a diary.


In 1947, he finally arrived on Israeli land with his wife Miriam. After his arrival, he was recruited to the 7th Brigade and in 1948 actively participated in the battles at Latrun.


Life in Israel was not easy either. At first he had worked as a construction worker, building roads, primarily, while also trying to sell his drawings and paintings. His first managed to publish a cartoon in the newspaper Omer. At that time, he met Ferenc Kishont, who, under the name Efraim Kishon had been working in the editorial office of Maariv at that time. This proved to be a pivotal point in his life.


In 1952, with Kishon’s help, he started working as a cartoonist at the paper - he made a new drawing every day.

The "Nevertheless" cartoon collection with Kishon's foreword

Kishon had suggested that he choose a simple, short but lovable and witty artist name. At that time, he began to use Ze’ev: this means, just like his Hungarian surname, Wolf in Hebrew. Playing with the word ‘wolf’ was not strange, since he had often been called Lupus in Hungary (which means ‘wolf’ in Latin), and in the Cyprus camp they called him Jona Wolf in Yiddish.


In 1953 he became co-founder of the Dalil newspaper, and in 1955 he was the artistic director and editor of Davar HaShavu’a [Davar this week]. Since 1958, he was the leading cartoonist of the weekly magazine, with his comic strips and drawings on two double pages each week, as well as he provided illustrations for the articles. In 1962 he came to the Haaretz, where he illustrated all imaginable genres with his cartoons, from the news to the opinion pages; one year later, he had his own Friday column, called Al kol panim [Nevertheless]. These full-page drawings were usually works showing several small stories connected by a core theme, always with a self-portrait in the corner with a dripping paintbrush in his hand. Ze’ev worked for more than 40 years at the Haaretz; only in 2001, just shortly before his death, he had left the newspaper.

His works have been praised and promoted by the New York Times, Le Monde, Time, Newsweek or Der Spiegel.


Ze’ev was not only a cartoonist, but an illustrator; in dozens of Israeli books, among them, of course, in the books of his friends, Joszef (Tomi) Lapid and Efraim Kishon's books. Together with caricaturist Kariel Gárdosh (Dosh), they were the “Hungarian mafia” who worked in all areas of the press. Their sense of humor was raised by the likes of Karinthy and other Hungarian sources: Ze’ev also worked for the Israeli Army (IDF), and he also illustrated the dictionary of IDF terms, published in 1998.


Ze’ev had greatly influenced today's Israeli cartoonists, his closest students Michel Kichka and Nimrod Reshef. If you mention political cartoons to someone who had lived these years in Israel, he will respond immediately: Ze’ev!

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