Yoni Zohar’s art often depicts the struggles of people.
Over the past three years, the artist and former Israel Defense Forces medic has been documenting current events in Israel through paintings and charcoal drawings. In 2021, he was honored by President Isaac Herzog at Freshpaint, Israel’s largest annual art convention. And in 2022, he had a dedicated solo exhibit, “Voice of the Masses,” in Tel Aviv.
“With the judicial overhaul in Israel, I’ve been focusing on political work,” he explained. “As a painter, I capture Israel in a specific light.”
But Zohar, his wife Stacie Green Zohar and their two sons are no longer in Israel. A week after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, the family fled the country, traveling the Middle East and Europe before eventually landing in Baltimore. Now, the Zohar family is trying to get back on their feet through the sale of Yoni Zohar’s works, including several pieces inspired by Oct. 7.
“I started to feel strongly that we needed to get the kids out of Israel,” Stacie Green Zohar said. “I started to feel panicked in regular situations I never would have before, even during past conflicts like walking from my house to my mother-in-law’s house a few doors down.”
The couple previously lived in Chicago, but moved to Israel in 2016. In addition to Yoni Zohar’s work as a painter, Stacie Green Zohar is an independent actress who has worked on commercials and the creation of video simulations for the police and Tel Aviv University’s School of Medicine.
Following Oct. 7, Yoni Zohar was initially reluctant to leave Israel, as his mother lived nearby. But he joined his wife and sons at the last second. The family traveled from Israel to Dubai, then to Budapest, London and finally Baltimore, where one of Stacie Green Zohar’s friends and their current host lives.
“We spent a few days [in Budapest] walking around in a daze,” Stacie Green Zohar said. “It was surreal to be there with two small children who thought it was a fun trip. We were estranged from the situation in Israel, but very much inside of it emotionally.”
When the Zohar family arrived in Baltimore, they had no way to support themselves. It was then that Stacie Green Zohar had the idea to start selling prints of her husband’s art, something he had never done before. Previously, the only way to view Yoni Zohar’s art was by visiting exhibits they were displayed at.
Some of Yoni Zohar’s paintings depict daily life in Israel, while others represent the political turmoil the country has undergone over the past few years. Yoni Zohar has also started to produce pieces inspired by the Oct. 7 attack.
“I see myself as a storyteller, and this is another story that needs to be told,” he said. “It’s a tragedy that my art will probably document for the next few years. It’s affected every artist in Israel, across all mediums. It’s hard for us to even express ourselves right now, as we’ve been burned mentally and spiritually by all of this.”
Though the Zohar family underwent a difficult journey, they have both noted that they found Baltimore’s Jewish community to be very welcoming and sympathetic to their plight.
“There’s an amazing community in Baltimore, we’re so lucky,” Yoni Zohar said. “There’s a real sense of community and openness, and we feel very blessed and surrounded with love.”
Currently, the Zohars’ sons are attending Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.
“Their presence has made us feel even more connected to our brothers and sisters in Israel, and also has given us a chance to live out our values in a deeply meaningful way,” said Laurie Kott, director of admission at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School.
The family has also attended a few events at Beth Tfiloh Congregation. Yoni Zohar’s art was featured at the Edward A. Myerberg Center’s Chanukah art event, and they were invited to sell more of Yoni Zohar’s works at the JCC.
Stacie Green Zohar described the “amazing reception” her family received when they were looking for a school for their children to attend for the time being.
“I really had no idea how connected this community is to Israel, how Zionist it is,” she said. “It feels like the people here are in the war with us. … Every single person has family in Israel, has lived in Israel or has gone to volunteer in Israel.”