The high priest of the tower of love has left the building.

Leonard Cohen, june 2008

Leonard Cohen, june 2008

I’m bidding farewell to a meaningful friend. Unknowingly, he gave me so much for so long and asked for nothing in return. His poetry keeps on casting meaning into hours, days, months and years of my waking  and less so times.

He touched me with his poetic feather and nailed me to the cross of humanity with his nails and hammer. All this, done from within a cloud of melancholy and love.

At an early stage I have realised that our intimacy was shared by millions around the world.

I find comfort and hope in the knowledge of that. 

Back in June 2008, I illustrated Yair Lapid’s weekly column with these two drawings. I’m signing it again, with hope and love. 





The touch of the high priest june 2008


Drawn last night; Clinton was with a lead.

US elections 2016

US elections 2016, ‘7 days’ Ydioth Achronot, Shlomo Artzi’s column

The world was on the verge of releasing a sigh of relief. I was left with the strong sense of the damage caused the American nation following the campaign, so I focused on that in my illustration for Artzi’s column.

At the time I was drawing, this was the only thing that carried the quality of certainty; America will carry the scars of these elections for many years, no matter who’d be the winner .

This morning however, another truth was reveled, the United States will now be governed by a different breed of custodian.


LUPA’s 10th anniversary

This one is an illustration I was invited to create for LUPA‘s 10th anniversary. LUPA is the largest digital online photo book retailer in Israel today.

The dark side of crowd funding

A cover for G magazine. The miracle of an overnight deadline…no time to procrastinate, no other choice but to perform and deliver the goods on time.

The muses harnessed to the mind, extracting ideas. The hand is hovering above the paper and the pencil is leaving its trail of a sketchy journey behind. Once an accommodation is obtained, between me and myself, and further more with the editors, my fantasy is committed by a now more restrained and disciplined hand, to an inky determined line. Then comes the colours, some wondering, hesitations. The file is saved, then saved again-sent. And I. I’m just like a chicken that had just laid its daily egg. Kikirrriky!

The dark side of crowd funding

The dark side of crowd funding

The dark side of crowd funding-Line

The dark side of crowd funding-Line



An extraordinary experience

The exhibition's Catalog cover Inside Izhar Cohen's head

The exhibition’s Catalog’s cover Inside Izhar Cohen’s head

My Tel Aviv exhibition – Inside Izhar Cohen’s head

A few months a go, While visiting my friends and family in Tel Aviv, I embarked on a journey that reached its peak on May 31st. It took me a while to compose myself and bring myself to write about it, as the opening involved a great amount of emotions.

Together with Monica Lavie, the chief curator of the Gutman Museum of Art in Tel Aviv, I went through a process of dissection of my operating system as an artist. Together with Monica I had visited my inner most regions of my consciousness and beyond. I would liken this journey to Dante’s Devine comedy, only in this case, the joke was on me. With all modesty, and with no intention to attribute the humanistic quality of Virgil and Dante, Monica accompanied me on that journey to hell and back. I am now writing this post from artist’s paradise.

The process begun with an undefined amount of images that were damped on Monica’s desk and we were both overwhelmed. After a while, a first criteria was laid out for the exhibition:  As the museum is named after the great Israeli Artist and author, Nahum Gutman, we’ve decided that the works which will be exhibited will be chosen from the images which were commissioned for Israeli clients. This decision eliminated a considerable bulk of works, and turned the task into a more reasonable affair. Having said that, I have ben active in the Israeli press all through the past 32 years, therefore, we had to restrict the boundaries of the exhibition further more. eventually, out of hundreds of images, around 60, met the nail that hang the frame that hosts the image. There were heavy ‘casualties’ which were left out of the selection, yet, the end result is most satisfying. At least it is for me.

The exhibition was exquisitely designed and mounted by Tucan Design Studio

For those of you who will not get a chance of visiting the exhibition in Tel Aviv in the coming six moths, here is a taster of what it is like.


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Why Do Death-Row Inmates Speak of Love?

What would be your final words?

What would be your final words?

What would be your final words?

Between December 7, 1982, and February 16, 2016, the state of Texas executed 534 inmates, 417 of whom issued a last statement. This January in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, psychologists Sarah Hirschmüller and Boris Egloff, both at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany, published the results of their evaluation of most of the statements, which they put through a computerized text-analysis program called the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count. The biggest finding was a statistically significant difference between the average percentage of positive emotion words (9.64) and negative ones (2.65). Is that a lot?

To find out, the psychologists compared this data set with a broad spectrum of written sources, including scientific articles, novels, blogs and diaries, consisting of more than 168 million words composed by 23,173 people. The mean of 2.74 percent positive emotion words for each entry was statistically significantly lower than that of the prisoners. In fact, these death-row inmates were more positive than students asked to contemplate their own death and write down their thoughts and even more positive than people who attempted or completed suicides and left notes. What does this mean?

Hirschmüller and Egloff contend that their data support terror management theory (TMT), which asserts that the realization of our mortality leads to unconscious terror, and “an increased use of positive emotion words serves as a way to protect and defend against mortality salience of one’s own contemplated death.” But if that were so, then why the difference between the inmates’ statements and those of suicide attempters and completers? Surely those about to kill themselves would be equally terrorized by the prospect of their imminent self-demise.

Context is key here. “Change the context slightly, and one often gets very different results in research on human behavior,” University of California, Berkeley, psychologist Frank J. Sulloway told me by e-mail when I queried him about TMT. “The really tricky thing with theories like this is not what to do with statistical refutations but rather what to do with supposed statistical confirmations. This problem previously arose in connection with psychoanalysis, and [German-born psychologist] Hans Eysenck and others later wrote books showing that those zealous psychoanalytic devotees testing their psychoanalytic claims systematically failed to consider what other theories, besides the one researchers thought they were testing, would also be confirmed by the same evidence.”

An alternative to TMT is one we might call emotional priority theory (EPT). Facing death focuses one’s mind on the most important emotions in life, two of which are love and forgiveness. Love is an emotional feature of human nature so potent it can be tracked with neurochemical correlates such as oxytocin and dopamine. In fact, as Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher argues in the revised edition of Anatomy of Love (W. W. Norton, 2016), love is so powerful an emotion it can be addictive, like chocolate and cocaine.

In this alternative context of EPT, I conducted my own content analysis of all 417 death-row final statements. I found that 44 percent either apologized for their crimes or asked for forgiveness from the families present at the execution and that 70 percent included effusive love language. For example:

  • To my family, to my mom, I love you.
  • I appreciate everybody for their love and support. You all keep strong, thank you for showing me love and teaching me how to love.
  • I want to tell my sons I love them; I have always loved them.
  • I would like to extend my love to my family members and my relatives for all of the love and support you have showed me.
  • As the ocean always returns to itself, love always returns to itself.

Not only were these men not terrorized at the prospects of death, 40 percent of them said they were looking forward to the next life in expressions like “going home,” “going to a better place” and “I’ll be there waiting for you.” TMT proponents counter that the terror is unconscious, revealed by expressions of positive emotions and afterlife beliefs. But is it not more prudent to presume that people say what they truly feel and believe in the seconds before their death and then prioritize those emotions and thoughts by what matters most? What would you say?

This article was originally published with the title “Death Wish”

Why Malthus Is Still Wrong

Why Malthus Is Still Wrong

Why Malthus Is Still Wrong

Why Malthus makes for bad science policy

If by fiat I had to identify the most consequential ideas in the history of science, good and bad, in the top 10 would be the 1798 treatise An Essay on the Principle of Population, by English political economist Thomas Robert Malthus. On the positive side of the ledger, it inspired Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace to work out the mechanics of natural selection based on Malthus’s observation that populations tend to increase geometrically (2, 4, 8, 16 …), whereas food reserves grow arithmetically (2, 3, 4, 5 …), leading to competition for scarce resources and differential reproductive success, the driver of evolution.

On the negative side of the ledger are the policies derived from the belief in the inevitability of a Malthusian collapse. “The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race,” Malthus gloomily predicted. His scenario influenced policy makers to embrace social Darwinism and eugenics, resulting in draconian measures to restrict particular populations’ family size, including forced sterilizations.

In his book The Evolution of Everything (Harper, 2015), evolutionary biologist and journalist Matt Ridley sums up the policy succinctly: “Better to be cruel to be kind.” The belief that “those in power knew best what was good for the vulnerable and weak” led directly to legal actions based on questionable Malthusian science. For example, the English Poor Law implemented by Queen Elizabeth I in 1601 to provide food to the poor was severely curtailed by the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, based on Malthusian reasoning that helping the poor only encourages them to have more children and thereby exacerbate poverty. The British government had a similar Malthusian attitude during the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, Ridley notes, reasoning that famine, in the words of Assistant Secretary to the Treasury Charles Trevelyan, was an “effective mechanism for reducing surplus population.” A few decades later Francis Galton advocated marriage between the fittest individuals (“What nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly man may do providently, quickly and kindly”), followed by a number of prominent socialists such as Sidney and Beatrice Webb, George Bernard Shaw, Havelock Ellis and H. G. Wells, who openly championed eugenics as a tool of social engineering.

We think of eugenics and forced sterilization as a right-wing Nazi program implemented in 1930s Germany. Yet as Princeton University economist Thomas Leonard documents in his book Illiberal Reformers(Princeton University Press, 2016) and former New York Times editor Adam Cohen reminds us in his book Imbeciles (Penguin, 2016), eugenics fever swept America in the early 20th century, culminating in the 1927 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, in which the justices legalized sterilization of “undesirable” citizens. The court included prominent progressives Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., the latter of whom famously ruled, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” The result: sterilization of some 70,000 Americans.

Science writer Ronald Bailey tracks neo-Malthusians in his book The End of Doom (St. Martin’s Press, 2015), starting with Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 best seller The Population Bomb, which proclaimed that “the battle to feed all of humanity is over.” Many doomsayers followed. Worldwatch Institute founder Lester Brown, for example, declared in 1995, “Humanity’s greatest challenge may soon be just making it to the next harvest.” In a 2009 Scientific American article he affirmed his rhetorical question, “Could food shortages bring down civilization?” In a 2013 conference at the University of Vermont, Ehrlich assessed our chances of avoiding civilizational collapse at only 10 percent.

The problem with Malthusians, Bailey writes, is that they “cannot let go of the simple but clearly wrong idea that human beings are no different than a herd of deer when it comes to reproduction.” Humans are thinking animals. We find solutions—think Norman Borlaug and the green revolution. The result is the opposite of what Malthus predicted: the wealthiest nations with the greatest food security have the lowest fertility rates, whereas the most food-insecure countries have the highest fertility rates.

The solution to overpopulation is not to force people to have fewer children. China’s one-child policy showed the futility of that experiment. It is to raise the poorest nations out of poverty through democratic governance, free trade, access to birth control, and the education and economic empowerment of women.

This article was originally published with the title “Doomsday Catch”

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