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Painting the Air Force Release date 13.05.2019
Danny Shalom, a painter, pilot and historian, painted the history of the IAF from its beginning and to this day. Here's proof that a picture does indeed paint a thousand words
Adi Leshem

"I grew up in Lod, and the city's airfield was my playground when I was young. I would go there, sit by the aircraft and watch them from up close", said Danny Shalom. I interviewed Shalom - painter, pilot and historian – in the Rishon LeZiyyon flight museum, which he himself established, while in the background we heard the sound of aircraft taking off and landing.

Photo courtesy of the interviewee

"I come from a family of painters. My mother and some of my brothers used to paint. I followed in their footsteps, and felt a special connection to artistically documenting the history of aviation in Israel", he continued. "The field of aviation painting is incredibly developed overseas, but not so much in Israel. This was the reason I decided to make it my main field".

Every Painting a Story
To this day, Shalom has published 18 books about Israeli aviation, four biographies and over 300 aviation- and space-related paintings. "These are all paintings I made over the years. Some I drew on the computer, and others I drew using gouache and oil", he said as he showed me his collection. "It's important to me that when they see this painting, the people who participated in these events say 'yes, this is exactly how it went'. This is why I do a lot of research before I start painting".

1967 Operation "Focus" | Painting: Danny Shalom

"I find historical precision to be a critical component, seeing as each painting is a story. I learn the aircraft's tail number and camouflage colors, the weather conditions at the time and even the tiniest details, such as the color of the pilot's helmet", he elaborated. "In addition, I often interview the participating aircrews".

Months of Precision
"This is one of my most complex paintings", said Shalom and pointed to an incredibly detailed painting titled Tanta G'. Its inner workings included "Phantom" aircraft, air-to-air missiles, "MiG" jets and bombed runways. "One of the Egyptian Air Force's biggest airfields during the 1973 Yom Kippur War was the prestigious Tanta airfield. The IAF struck it three times during the war and I decided to draw one of those", he described.

"Barak" aircraft over southern Lebanon | Painting: Danny Shalom

"I spoke to one of the participating aircrews in order to recall the event as correctly as possible. He gave me notes regarding almost every detail, from the aircraft's takeoff angle and to the places where smoke was coming from", Shalom recalled. "A several-month-long correspondence helped me successfully finish the painting". Shalom chose to dedicate the painting to Maj. (Z"L) Asher Snir and Maj. (Z"L) Aharon Katz from the 119th ("Bat") Squadron.

War Paint
To this day, many IAF service members approach Danny Shalom with painting requests, including senior commanders such as former IAF Commander, Maj. Gen. (Res') Amir Eshel. "It's important for me to contribute to the IAF in the field of artistic documentation", he said. "The force's commanders understand the importance of such a thing, and I'm always glad to have people approach me".

The first interception of a MiG-21 aircraft | Painting: Danny Shalom

"In my opinion, it's critical that artistic documentation of the air force's activity becomes common", Shalom concluded. "Preservation of history doesn't amount to just writing documents, interviewing people and recording them – paintings and photos play an important part as well. Like they say, a picture can paint a thousand words. This is what I do".