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Teddy Kollek, the legendary mayor of Jerusalem (1911-2007)

Teddy Kollek

Former mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek passed away at the age of 95. Kollek was elected to the position six times and served as mayor of Jerusalem for almost three decades - from 1965 until 1993. In 1988, Kollek was awarded the nation's highest civilian honor, the Israel Prize, for his contributions to building the modern Jerusalem.


The life of Teddy Kollek

Much of the face of modern Jerusalem is due to the efforts of former mayor, Teddy Kollek. He worked to develop the city, economically, culturally, and socially, and accord its proper reputation as the capital of modern Israel.

Born Theodor Kollek to a Jewish family in Nagyvaszony near Budapest, Austria-Hungary, and named after Theodor Herzl, Kollek shared his father Alfred's enthusiasm for Zionist ideas. He grew up in Vienna. In 1935, three years before the Nazis seized power in Austria, the Kollek family emigrated to Palestine - this was still the time of the British Mandate. ollek was eager to help build a new society and, in 1937, was one of the co-founders of Kibbutz Ein Gev near Lake Galilee.

Tamar Schwarz

In the same year he married Tamar Schwarz, who gave birth to two children, Amos (born 1947) and Osnat. From just before the outbreak of World War II, he served abroad in many capacities. Early in his career representing Jewish interests in Europe, he met Adolf Eichmann and arranged for the transfer of three thousand Jewish youth to England. From 1940-1947, he worked with the Jewish Agency in Europe, maintaining close contact with the Jewish underground movement, and was involved with the "Beriha" rescue operation.

Kollek with Ben-Gurion

From 1947-1948, as a representative of the Haganah in Washington, he assisted in amassing essential ammunition for the fledgling army of the state-to-be. He served as minister to Washington early in the 1950's but, close with David Ben-Gurion, Kollek returned to Israel in 1952 to head the Prime Minister's office until 1964. He was founder and director of the Israel Museum, the national museum complex which he felt would be so essential to Jerusalem's political prestige as a capital city.

In 1965, Kollek was elected mayor of Jerusalem, and served in that office for the next twenty-eight years. Presiding over the city when it was unified in 1967, Kollek was determined to develop Jerusalem not only as a geographically and municipally united city, but as a socially unified one as well. Indeed, many of Kollek's most intense efforts went towards bridging the gaps between the varied ethnic and religious populations. He recognized the Arab sector's needs within the Jewish capital. Similarly, he respected the religious values of the ultra-Orthodox community, yet ever resisting any attempt at religious coercion in city affairs. His overtures towards minority groups, particularly the Arab residents of Jerusalem, at times alienated many of his constituents, yet Kollek's openness and tolerance earned him the respect of many, both in and out of Jerusalem.

Under Kollek's tenure, and especially after the unification of the city in 1967, Jerusalem grew in size and in variety. New neighborhoods, both within the city and in outlying suburbs, were launched, and parks, community centers, and educational and religious establishments were supported. Tree-lined routes and landscaping have changed the city as dramatically as the rapid urbanization and new highways cutting across the hills and valleys. A founder of the Israel Museum, Kollek built other cultural institutions, including the Jerusalem Theater, which now covers an entire complex. Kollek also oversaw the rebuilding of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, as well as the restoration of many historical landmarks and the advance of archeological research. Many of Kollek's projects resulted from his persistent but successful fundraising, and in 1991 he established the Jerusalem Foundation, whose goal is to further the aesthetic and cultural development of the city.

In 1988, Kollek was awarded the Israel Prize for his special contribution to the country. Five years later, he decided to delay a planned retirement and run again for mayor, but lost to Likud candidate Ehud Olmert.

Listen to Audio interview with Mr. Kollek Teddy Kollek was interviewed by Arnold Forster . Recording is courtesy of former Knesset Member Tamar Eshel , who was the Political Advisor to Mr. Kollek and a member of the Jerusalem City Council.


(from Jewish Virtual Library, Wikipedia, IsraCast)


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