Award-winning artist Yoram Raanan lost decades’ worth of paintings during the “fire intifada” of 2016. Fortunately, the art was digitally preserved and is now available in a coffee table book.
Close to 100,000 Israelis were evacuated from their homes during the month of November 2016 due to wildfires erupting in various locations across the country, with over half attributed to Palestinian terrorism.
Among the losses from the fires that swept the country was the work of award-winning Israeli artist Yoram Raanan, whose studio in Beit Meir was burned to the ground with 40 years’ worth of work. Using digital images that survived, Raanan has produced a large-scale art book, The Art of Revelation: A Visual Encounter with the Jewish Bible.
Raanan made Aliyah (immigration to Israel) from the United States 40 years to the week before the blaze. For the past 25 years he has lived and worked in Beit Meir, a small community nestled in the wooded hills west of Jerusalem. This landscape, where King David wrote many of the Psalms, was part of the inspiration for Raanan’s paintings, which also drew on the Bible and other traditional Jewish sources. For three years before the fire, Raanan had sent one painting a week to The Jerusalem Post on a theme from the weekly Torah portion. He was holding the paintings for an exhibition.
On the night of November 24-25, 2016, a fire, thought to have been set by Arab arsonists, swept through Beit Meir. Raanan and his wife Meira, surrounded by the flames, barely escaped with their lives.
“I grabbed a backup of my computer as we fled the fire where many paintings were documented,” Raanan recalls. Five paintings were in the Raanans’ house, which was miraculously untouched.
Over the years Raanan had sold hundreds of paintings which are scattered in collections around the world. But the studio and perhaps 2000 paintings, most of which had never been photographed, were gone.
‘Good Will Come of This’
Meira recalls that Yoram’s first comment on seeing the studio go up in flames was “Good will come of this.” Raanan had been thinking of publishing an art book for some years. “After the fire,” he says, “we felt an urgency to share these paintings with the world.”
Following is an interview with Raanan.
Question: Can you tell us something about how you created the paintings?
Raanan: It would start as free form expression, with no thought, from the subconscious in a kind of bittul (nullification of self). Then I would find some sort of image that corresponded to something in the parsha (Torah portion) and run with it from there.
Question: Can you tell us something about the process of publishing the book?
Raanan: We have a fantastic fine art printer, Yair Medina of Jerusalem Fine Art Prints. He is staunch supporter of my work and has a great and patient staff who were really committed to the quality of the book.
Question: Meira, your “commentaries and explorations” on the paintings are part of the book. Can you say something about how they came to be written?
Meira Raanan: I spent hours interviewing Yoram about how the paintings evolved, what were his thoughts and feelings and insights. That jump-started my writing. I also spent hours researching the sources in the Torah.
The Art of Revelation contains full-color reproductions of 100 paintings, at least one for each Torah portion. For more information, check out Raanan’s website.