Everyone who had known Saba Avraham was blessed with the knowledge that his magnificent legacy would live on within them and all the generations that follow.
In part one of “A True Jewish Hero,” published in The Jerusalem Post Magazine on February 24, I followed the story of Avraham and Naomi Timor’s escape from the Holocaust, and their lives as religious, Jewish pioneers in pre-State Israel.
The travails of the War of Independence forced them to abandon their home in Neveh Ya’acov, Naomi giving birth in Jerusalem to her fifth child while Avraham, as Hagana commander of Neveh Ya’acov, courageously led his men to safety on a midnight life-or-death escape to Mount Scopus.
Despite the birth of his daughter, and everything he had already been though, Avraham accepted the appointment of Hagana commander of Mount Scopus.
Only with the first break in fighting did he manage to get to Jerusalem to see his new child. The moment he arrived, though, he was sent to command Unit 16, a battalion defending Jerusalem. In the meantime, authorities decided to resettle all the refugees from Neveh Ya’acov, Atarot, Kibbutz Be’erot Yitzhak and Nehalim in Wilhelmina, a German Templer colony near Lod which had been abandoned by its founders.
When Avraham at long last managed to check out Wilhelmina, he found all the inhabitable dwellings had already been taken. What was available was a wreck without floor tiles, roof tiles, doors or windows.
All his worldly goods left behind in Neveh Ya’acov, he made a list of what was needed to make his new home habitable, then returned to Jerusalem to request permission from military authorities to take what he needed from other abandoned and destroyed homes. Using an army-loaned vehicle, he loaded the supplies and transferred them to Wilhelmina.
One day later, in the cold of December, he moved Naomi and his six children to the house, using old blankets to take the place of windows and doors, and old mattresses to make a floor. It was no surprise that the children became ill soon after. Shiraleh’s flu, especially, is ingrained in the collective family memory. Slowly, in his spare time, using only his bare hands, Avraham made the house livable, even though the bathrooms remained outside.
The family’s economic situation was dire.
The bare minimum needed to maintain a family of eight at that time was 80 lirot a month. The army, which had no budget, was paying Avraham five lirot a month. Combined with the five lirot per month government allowance for each child, the family had only 35 lirot a month to live on. In April ’49 Avraham had no choice but to be demobilized.
In Wilhemina, he began his new farm with two goats, named Rasputin and Nimrod, two sheep and a family vegetable garden. Naomi continued to use her knitting machine, and worked as a nurse in the local clinic. Avraham shared responsibility for the security of the community and took on building jobs on the side. But he was soon called back by his commanders to help found the fledgling Israel Defense Forces.
In April 1950, Avraham was appointed commander of the Lod Bloc at a salary that allowed the family a normal existence. In 1952, the family moved to a new moshav established just north of Wilhelmina. It was named Nehalim, in remembrance of the community abandoned in the Galilee. The family received one of 78 housing units arranged by the Jewish Agency. Every home came with five acres of land and another two acres of orchards to be worked collectively. The Jewish Agency also supplied them with chicken coops, barns, a donkey, two cows, some ducks and a few turkeys, which no one actually succeeded in raising, Avraham admitted.
In the Fifties and Sixties, Moshav Nehalim suffered along with the rest of the moshavim in the area from constant thefts of their equipment and livestock by Palestinian infiltrators. The loss of their precious goats is remembered with sorrow to this day.
Because the Timor family was considered a large one, they were allowed to build an extra-large, 80 sq.m. home. Naomi chose the location because it contained a swimming hole which the family used every summer afternoon to give swimming lessons.
The planning and building of the house was entirely in Avraham’s hands. It consisted of four rooms, a large porch and indoor plumbing. But because the family were among the first to move into the new moshav, there was initially no electricity and no roads. They raised field crops, animal and chicken feed, as well as corn and sweet potatoes. There were blooming orchards of pecan trees. And soon the family, too, was blooming, adding another two sons: Moishe (after his heroic uncle, commander of Gush Etzion who had fallen in battle) and Ra’anan.
Avraham continued to receive military promotions. But it was Avraham’s enormously successful large-scale project of restoring precious military equipment to use that finally caught his commanders’ special attention, and he was soon appointed second in command of military supplies, a job that lasted 10 years.
With Avraham busy in the army, Naomi and the children took on managing the farm. Naomi continued to work as a nurse in the local clinic, all the babies in Nehalim coming under her care. In addition, she continued knitting clothes, garments that to this day are treasured and used by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
On the verge of being promoted to lieutenant- colonel, Avraham reluctantly made the painful decision to leave the military, understanding that if he chose to remain, his military pension wouldn’t be enough to support the family, and that he’d be too old to do anything else. He took a job with the Ports Authority, and was put in charge of expanding Haifa Port, among many other important jobs, working there until his retirement in 1980.
But the IDF was reluctant to let him go. In the framework of reserve duty, he worked with Ariel Sharon during the Six Day War, reaching the Suez Canal. In the Yom Kippur War, he was called up to help manage civilian and industrial supplies in Modi’in.
It was perhaps after his retirement that Avraham Timor became most active, volunteering his time in the Modi’in Local Council, the council’s day-care center for the elderly, and heading the synagogue committee in Nehalim, which under his tireless direction managed after many years to build a beautiful new synagogue to serve the yishuv.
The beautiful love story of Avraham and Naomi ended in 1994 when Naomi was killed in a tragic car crash. She was 80 years old.
After his beloved wife’s passing, the last job of Avraham (Wexler) Timor began, ending only with his death last month. With military precision, he gathered his 120 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren together twice a year, using his pension to finance gatherings in hotels and youth hostels. In addition, he set up funds to help young family members with scholarships and mortgages. He arranged family outings, weekends, birthday parties and presents for grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He also managed to attend every military ceremony involving his offspring as they successfully finished IDF courses, or received promotions.
One year he had eight grandchildren serving in the IDF at the same time!
On Sunday morning, March 4, the 30th day after his death, the family of Avraham and Naomi Timor gathered around his grave to honor and mourn him. With their arms around each other and tears in their eyes, every one who had known Saba Avraham was blessed with the knowledge that his magnificent legacy would live on within them and all the generations that follow.
But it is not just his family that must shed a tear of sorrow and pride. All of us, every single Jew living in his or her homeland, a place that has known war, terror and want, must look around us at the beautiful country we were bequeathed by the men and women pioneers who in their passionate love and madness chose to risk their lives and all they had to fulfill their dream, thus making our lives and dreams here possible. May his memory and all those of his generation who fought and worked with him, and who have gone to their final reward, be blessed. May we be worthy of their sacrifices and continue their work.
This article was first published in the Jerusalem Post on 9 March, 2012.