Artist Rachel Timor: Tales of the White City and the Land of Israel

Timor brings history to life through her work.

Rachel Timor (photo credit: TAMAR MATSAFI)
Rachel Timor
(photo credit: TAMAR MATSAFI)
 There is a little house in Neveh Tzedek that tells the stories of Tel Aviv. Well, actually, it isn’t a house anymore. Today it is a gallery, the Timora Space of Art, located at the corners of Shabazi and Neveh Tzedek streets and showcasing the works of artist Rachel Timor.
Her ancestors – “the mother of the father of the grandfather,” as she explains, built the house as a wedding gift for a son, some 140 years ago.
Some may be familiar with Timor for her work, others, for her affiliations with business and political players. Her works are varied – from steel sculptures to ready-made merchandise, to periods of surrealistic paintings – but the ones that really catch the eye are the grand sketches of street scenes hanging on the gallery walls, some straight black and white, others with occasional splashes of color and interjections of subtle humor.
The pictures tell the stories of previous generations of the White City: Dizengoff, Rothschild, the shuk, Nahalat Binyamin – people, cars, things....
When you are born and raised in a city, wandering its streets, taking in its colors and flavors, every slight change tells you something important about its inhabitants.
“I am influenced by the street,” says Timor, 72. “To look at the street and say ‘Ahh,’ to look at an angle and say ‘Oh, here they’ve changed something,’ I could work for the municipality, I notice it all,” she laughs. “I see how they changed the door of the entryway, or the balcony, and I write it down. I have a visual memory, I see a picture, but if you tell me a story it will not always be important to me in the same moment.”
Timor may not remember the stories she is told, but she herself is a master storyteller.
The blonde and trim, chic and urban artist, who soaks in the whisperings of the city, tells the stories that people walk by every day but few actually take the time to hear or see as they go about their daily lives. She brings these stories to life in the workroom, in the back of her studio, its white walls covered with old canvases, half-finished pictures, shelves with cans of paint and a large-screen TV.
Timor possesses a gentle energy and speaks softly, even as she exudes a clear passion for her work, what she tells and what she creates.
Her family, in Israel for nine generations, were exporters of Jaffa oranges, and of etrogim to Poland and the US.
She remembers her family living in Yad Eliyahu, and her father going out every morning to La Guardia Street to catch a bus to the citrus groves in Petah Tikva.
She remembers her mother calling her to the radio to listen to David Ben-Gurion speak. And she remembers Neveh Tzedek as it once was, with the house in which her mother was born and in which her mother’s sister lived.
“I used to come here to visit her, to this yard,” Timor says. “And I remember there was a shoe store there, and there was a bicycle repairman – his name was Yacoub (Jacob). He was Jewish but his friends called him Yacoub in Arabic. And Yacoub would sit and drink coffee and someone would come to fix his bicycle and he would tell him, ‘Come back in 20 minutes.’” She laughs. “You understand, he barely had strength to live, so they would have to wait till he finished his coffee and sandwich. Yacoub never received a person when they came. A quarter-hour would go by, a half-hour would go by.
There were windows here and I would see it, I would sit here and watch.”
Those were the days before Tel Aviv was full of tall buildings, Timor says, when you could stand on the corner of Shabazi and Neveh Tzedek, next to Esther’s grocery store and the Chelouche Shuk, and see the Mediterranean.
Timor’s work also delivers messages.
“Here I deal with the issue of the different,” she says, looking at a large picture – a beach sketch with more color than some of the others. In it, dozens of men and women mill around, the men in dark swim trunks, the women in red, one-piece swimsuits. And all are smiling the same painted-on smile. “Everyone is the same – all the women wear the same thing, all the men wear the same thing, and she is in a dress, just a dress, in a different color, and she is so different. And everyone is looking and laughing, there are a lot of people here, and the people are all laughing because everyone is laughing.”
As Timor grew up, her parents saw that her passion for drawing did not pass. They encouraged her to find a more practical profession, like her brother and two sisters. She married at 19, had two daughters, and divorced at 25. At one point, she worked selling construction machinery.
Timor also studied under artist Meir Mozes, who died in 1982. She describes his old-school approach to teaching.
“He was one of those teachers who traveled to his students. He would take a bus from Givatayim and knock on the door of my parents’ home at 7:30 every night. And he would ask, ‘What did you draw?’ and I would show him.” And she studied sculpture at the Avni Institute.
In 1973, during the period of the Yom Kippur War, Timor was approached by an acquaintance with the idea of holding an exhibition art sale to benefit wounded IDF soldiers. “It was during a recession, and still everything sold.”
This was followed by another exhibition, which sold out. And ever since, she has been making a living through art.
Today, Timor has a painting in the Vatican. Her works were regularly given as state gifts by prime minister Ariel Sharon and president Ezer Weizman.
And her gallery, she says, is full of so many pictures because she cannot bear to part with them.
But there are things that Timor does part with. She will tell you the lore behind the statues of Ben-Gurion standing on his head; she will detail the characters and props behind the Tel Aviv street scenes; and she will explain the inspiration behind the chair sculptures, ode to her now-deceased friend, MK Micha Reiser and Knesset elections past.
If you ask her to tell you the stories, Timor will gladly oblige.
Timora Space of Art is located at 32 Shabazi Street, Tel Aviv. For more information: 054-494-5477 or