Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Born by Fire

Gershon Burstyn

Losing decades’ worth of work in a devastating inferno could have been the ultimate tragedy. But for artist Yoram Raanan it’s become a kiln for renewal

Thursday, June 21, 2018

 Mishpacha image

No, his life isn’t over. In fact, the klalah was a brachah, the curse a blessing in disguise. Yes, he lost all his work, but he also earned a new beginning, a time to restart, refresh, and renew. If it sounds too good to be true — it almost is (Photos: Elchanan Kotler)

A s his studio burned to the ground, Yoram Raanan couldn’t help but notice the beauty.

His wife had stirred him from sleep in that same studio, where he often slept, just minutes before. A wildfire was approaching from the east, she told him, and they had to get out fast. So he grabbed his tallis and tefillin, a USB drive and his car keys, and walked out the door of the studio, the one he had been building for 25 years.

Inside there were about 2,000 paintings, everything from tiny experimentations to wall-sized masterpieces. They were hanging on the walls and lined up dozens-deep in the corners; propped up on easels and waiting their turn on a framing table; carefully organized in steel shelving units and resting on bookshelves. Everywhere there was light and color, an explosion of blues and reds; ethereal light filtering down from the Shamayim and angles fluttering their wings; Avraham Avinu embracing his beloved son, and Klal Yisrael arrayed at the fiery mountain awaiting their wedding night.

There was a book collection over 50 years in the making, tomes in art history first purchased as a teen, and a record collection with hundreds of jazz classics. There was also turpentine, oil paint, linseed oil, a huge pile of firewood chopped for the winter chill, and boxes and boxes of gefet — olive pulp left over from the pressing — all to make the lighting easier.

As Yoram Raanan walked out of his studio in Moshav Beit Meir outside Jerusalem, for the last time, he passed two giant date palms, saplings not even knee high when he first put them in the rocky ground two decades earlier. But at that moment, he wasn’t thinking about any of that. All he could do was stare at the fire, the embers rising in the air, and wonder at the orange glow streaked across the sky.

“I found it very poetic, to tell you the truth,” says Raanan, 65, sitting in his new studio on a recent afternoon. “It was just… the sparks and the leaves were just starting to ignite and they were sort of fluttering down, the eucalyptus leaves flying down like, you know, little angels. And I just thought it was very poetic, very beautiful.”

“I’m trying to be much more authentic in what I’m doing. There is less ‘should’ now, less trying to please, less posing. Bitul is becoming much more part of my life”

An artist sees beauty where others see destruction. And Yoram Raanan saw rebirth where others would have seen devastation.

It has been 15 months now since everything was destroyed, at least $2 million worth of work, the inheritance he was saving for his children and grandchildren. But Raanan seems happy and contented on this day, sitting comfortably in a wooden chair, back straight, eyes bright. If Yoram Raanan were a bird, he would be a wise old owl, observing the folly of the world and giving a little chuckle.

No, his life isn’t over. In fact, the klalah was a brachah, the curse a blessing in disguise. Yes, he lost all his work, but he also earned a new beginning, a time to restart, refresh, and renew. If it sounds too good to be true — it almost is.

“It’s just things,” he says.

Even as he and his wife raced out of the moshav that night, he turned to her and told her everything would be for the best.

“And she said ‘What? What are you talking about?’ ”

“I said, ‘You’ll see that a lot of good is going to come out of this.’”

And it has.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 714)

Related Stories

No Fighting City Hall

Shimon Breitkopf and Shlomi Gil

As Jerusalem gears up for municipal elections at the end of the summer, Agudah MK Uri Maklev reflect...

Safe Anchor or Risky Waters

Yael Schuster

A frum workplace would seem to offer a safe harbor from the stormy challenges of the secular job mar...

Damage Control

Ariella Schiller

The pros all say: Get in front of the crisis, grab the narrative, and be honest. A behind-the-scenes...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
At Our Doorstep
Rabbi Moshe Grylak In Israel, intermarriage still has some shock value
The Wrong Conversation
Yonoson Rosenblum How can we reattach Jews to the Jewish story?
Heart on Your Sleeve
Eytan Kobre Being pro-phylactery can be downright prophylactic
The Silver Lining
Alexandra Fleksher Who is brave enough to buck the dangerous trends?
Top 5 Uniquely Jewish Words
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin For some concepts, Yidden have the best words
10 Questions for Avi Kehat
Rachel Bachrach The Chesed Fund, for desperate people who need a fortune
On Speaking Terms
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman He learned firsthand, “What goes around comes around”
Stressed Out
Jacob L. Freedman “We’re going to aggressively help you take care of you”
Mona Knew to Pick a Winner
Riki Goldstein “Shloime, let’s sing this on Motzaei Shabbos”
Four Stanzas You Don’t Just Sing
Riki Goldstein “This is not a niggun that you just sing!” he exclaimed
A Part of Me
Riki Goldstein The fruit of two years’ preparation and collaboration
Worth the Hassle?
Riki Goldstein Travel can be challenging for musicians and bands
Know It All
Faigy Peritzman The wiser I get, the more I realize how little I know
No Time to Breathe
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When we don’t have a minute to spare is when we pause
On Dry Ground
Rebbetzin Shira Smiles Every day we thank Hashem for the miracle of dry land