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October 17, 2002

Yaacov 'Zeev' Farkas, doyen of Israeli editorial cartoonists, dies

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Yaacov "Zeev" Farkas, called the founder of the political cartoonist's art in Israel, died Tuesday, hospital officials said Wednesday. He was 79.

In the years before television came to Israel, politicians and other public figures vied with each other to appear on his full-page spread in the weekly supplement of the newspaper Haaretz. "Anyone who appeared in the middle of that page, not on the margins, knew that he had arrived, that he was really somebody," his colleague Benny Zipper wrote in Haaretz.

The weekly cartoon, an intricate mixture of dozens of characters, objects and symbols around a central theme, appeared for decades, always including an oval-faced, jug-eared self portrait. After the weekly page was discontinued in the 1980s, Farkas continued drawing daily editorial cartoons.

Many public figures, past and present, have caricatures of themselves, drawn by Farkas, framed and hanging on their walls, Zipper wrote.

Born in Hungary in 1923, Farkas survived a Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, where thousands of Jews were killed during World War II. In 1947 he came to what was then British Mandatory Palestine and in 1952 became the editorial cartoonist for the newspaper Omer. He began drawing political cartoons for Haaretz in 1962.

He always signed his cartoons "Zeev," with a tiny oval-faced, jug-eared portrait of himself holding a huge artist's brush dripping with black paint.

His kindness was legendary. "He was never mean to anyone," Zipper wrote. In 1972 Richard Nixon wrote him a letter of thanks for a cartoon in Haaretz showing the beleaguered U.S. president carrying a cross and surrounded by enemies.

One of Farkas' most famous cartoons, published in 1979 at the time of the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt, showed the dove of peace posing as a magician and producing three tiny figures out of a hat -- Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin and President Carter.

In 1993 Farkas was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize for Journalism. His last cartoon appeared a year ago.

Farkas is survived at a daughter.