Esther Rubin, the beautiful US-born writer who was married to the famous artist
Reuven Rubin, passed away in Tel Aviv on Monday at the age of 99 and was laid to
rest on Tuesday.
She was nearly as old as Tel Aviv, the city to which she
had come as an 18-year-old from the Lower East Side of New York just over 80
years ago. She could not have known, when she won a Young Judea essay
competition on what Palestine meant to her, that the country was going to become
an integral part of her life.
The first prize was a threemonth trip to
the Jewish homeland, and for young Esther Davis, as she was then, it was her
first opportunity to leave America.
Not only was she a talented writer,
but the young woman from the Bronx was also strikingly pretty and instantly
attracted attention when she boarded the SS Mauritania.
She caught the
eye of artist Reuven Rubin, who was returning home to Tel Aviv from New York,
where he had been exhibiting. Though nearly twice her age, he was smitten at
first sight and proposed to her within 10 minutes of having met her.
those days, she knew very little about art, and her concept of artists was that
they seduced gullible women and then left them. She declined the proposal, but
he was persistent.
She was able to keep him at bay until she fell ill
with typhus. Rubin nursed her back to health and was so attentive that she
realized he really was sincere when he said he loved her, and she agreed to
The wedding took place on a Tel Aviv rooftop.
prolific, prize-winning painter and sculptor, who was among the pioneers of the
new school of Israeli art, Reuven Rubin also had a brief stint as a diplomat. In
1948, he was sent back to the land of his birth as Israel’s first ambassador to
Romania, where he stayed for two years, painting whenever he could take time off
from his diplomatic duties.
There were not enough national flags in the
nascent State of Israel, and the Rubins arrived in Romania without a flag. The
enterprising Esther sewed the first Israeli flag that went up in the
Throughout the years, she kept meticulous records of her
husband’s artistic output, photographing every work and writing down details of
sale or bequest. The photographs, numbering in excess of 2,000, were placed in
albums, which in themselves have become illustrative encyclopedias of the life
and times of Reuven Rubin, and through his art tell the story of the state’s
Their home in Tel Aviv was a meeting place for artists,
art-lovers, people of culture and Tel Aviv’s social elite. On Saturdays, they
held an open house, entertaining artists, musicians and writers who would arrive
in the late morning and stay to lunch.
Among their good friends was Haim
Nahman Bialik, whose neighbor they became when they purchased a stately house on
what is today Rehov Bialik in Tel Aviv.
Many years later, they built a
second home in Caesarea.
Reuven Rubin died in 1974 and bequeathed the
house on Rehov Bialik and a corps collection of paintings to the city of
Aviv. The house subsequently became the Reuven Rubin Museum, and Esther
was there not only at the grand opening, but also for the opening of
exhibition. In addition to art exhibitions, the museum has become a
cultural and charity events, many of which were also attended by Esther
who in the interim moved back to Tel Aviv.
She loved to socialize. Even
when she could no longer walk and was confined to a wheelchair, she
travel all over the country to attend a dinner, a concert, a play
fashion show or the opening of an art exhibition.
Esther Rubin was still
partying until just a few weeks before her death, her mind as clear as a
her memory razor-sharp.
She lived a wonderful life, witnessing the
evolution of both a city and state, traveling extensively, meeting and
befriending people who shaped history and making her own important
When she was growing up in the Bronx, and when she wrote
her essay on what Palestine meant to her, she probably never dreamed
final resting place would be among some of the most prominent founders
cultural figures of Tel Aviv.
She was buried on Tisha Be’av in Tel Aviv’s
old and prestigious Trumpeldor Cemetery alongside her husband, whose
surrounded her in life and with whom she was reunited in death.
survived by her son and daughter-in-law, David and Carmella Rubin; her
and son-in-law, Ariella and Ami Giniger; and their families.
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