Jerusalem Ex-Mayor Teddy Kollek, 95, Dies
JERUSALEM, Jan. 2 â€” Teddy Kollek, who as mayor of Jerusalem for nearly three decades did more to build and develop the city as Israelâ€™s capital than any other figure while promoting coexistence with a sometimes hostile Arab population, died Tuesday in Jerusalem. He was 95.
(August 4, 1985)
The Jerusalem Foundation, the fund-raising organization he established, announced his death.
Mr. Kollek, a former aide to David Ben-Gurion, Israelâ€™s founding prime minister, became mayor of small, Jewish West Jerusalem in 1965 and nearly resigned after a difficult first year. But after Israel conquered the cityâ€™s eastern sector in the 1967 war, he threw himself into the project of a reunited Jerusalem and was re-elected five times before losing in 1993, at age 82, to Ehud Olmert, now the prime minister.
Mr. Olmert always chafed at Mr. Kollekâ€™s reputation as an indefatigable fund-raiser, institution builder and preacher of coexistence, but he praised him on Tuesday, saying, â€œHis name will always be an inseparable part of Jerusalemâ€™s glory.â€
The late Yitzhak Rabin called him the greatest builder of Jerusalem since Herod the Great. Mr. Kollek was a founder of significant markers of the modern city and state: the Israel Museum, the Jerusalem Foundation, the Jerusalem Theater, the CinemathÃ¨que, the Kahn Theater and other cultural institutions.
Uri Lupolianski, the current mayor, said Tuesday, â€œTeddy was Jerusalem and Jerusalem was Teddy.â€ It was a high compliment from a leader of the cityâ€™s ultra-Orthodox community, with whom Mr. Kollek sometimes fought.
Mr. Kollek was a man of will, charm and energy who loved being a friend of the rich and the famous, including Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra. He tapped many of them for money for his beloved city.
He was above all a Labor Zionist who set about trying to unite the two halves of Jerusalem the best he could. â€œHeâ€™d say, â€˜Iâ€™d love the city to be empty of Arabs, but since they are here we need to serve them, because if we treat them badly they will hate us more,â€â€˜ said Tom Segev, an Israeli historian who ran Mr. Kollekâ€™s office for two years in the late 1970s.
Within hours of the takeover of East Jerusalem, Mr. Kollek went to the military commander and demanded milk for Arab children. â€œHe was the symbol of the unification of Jerusalem, and he was considered pro-Arab,â€ Mr. Segev said. â€œBut he was simply pragmatic.â€
Mr. Kollek felt he should have done more for Arab residents, said Yisrael Kimche, an urban planner. â€œHe himself said he did not do enough for East Jerusalem,â€ Mr. Kimche said. â€œHe did not bring equality in city services between east and west. He tried, but not hard enough.â€
In 1967, Mr. Kimche said, â€œthe gap between east and west was vast.â€
â€œThree times a week there would be running water in the east,â€ he said. â€œMany neighborhoods there did not have sewage or phone lines. Eventually needs were mostly met, but there was never a budget large enough to cope.â€
Meron Benvenisti, who worked closely with him, said Mr. Kollek saw Jerusalem â€œin terms of Vienna, a mosaic of different cultures where the tension is benign, invigorating, not threatening to destroy the city.â€ But what Mr. Kollek called heterogeneous, others, like Mr. Benvenisti, called dangerously polarized.
Israelâ€™s annexation of East Jerusalem has not been recognized internationally, and the 190,000 Jews who moved into it are considered illegal settlers by much of the world. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
In his 28 years as mayor Mr. Kollek worked 18-hour days, prowling the city and keeping his home phone number in the public directory. He would often return home to a pile of messages taken by his wife, Tamar. Sometimes he would return the calls, even at 3 a.m., telling people that he would get their problems fixed.
After 1993 he devoted much of his time to the Israel Museum and to the Jerusalem Foundation, which he set up in 1966 to raise millions of dollars in private financing for city projects, including parks, sports facilities and the restoration of archaeological treasures.
â€œHe really forged the landscape of modern Jerusalem as we know it, and he saw the museum as the jewel in that landscape,â€ said James Snyder, the museumâ€™s director. â€œThe idea of this modernist museum complex on the crest of Jerusalem was his.â€
Mr. Kollek will be buried Thursday in a state funeral in a section of Mount Herzl Cemetery here reserved for Israelâ€™s leaders.
He was born Theodor Herzl Kollek on May 27, 1911, in a small village near Budapest and named after the Viennese founder of the Zionist movement. He grew up in Vienna, where his father was a director of the Rothschild bank.
â€œI came from a multiracial society,â€ Mr. Kollek once recalled in an interview.
By the age of 11 he was already a Zionist, and as the Nazis came to power he organized an underground to smuggle refugees into Palestine. He emigrated to Palestine in 1935 and helped found the Ein Gev kibbutz. That first year he contracted typhoid five times and suffered several bouts of malaria.
Still, he remembered life at Ein Gev as paradise. â€œWe came to an empty land, we started growing trees, fishing on the Galilee,â€ he said. â€œYou saw your dreams materialize.â€
In 1937 he married Tamar Schwartz, whom he had met in Vienna. They had two children, Amos, a filmmaker, and Osnat, an artist. His wife and children survive him, as do five grandchildren.
Mr. Kollek was sent to England in 1938 to work with a Zionist youth movement, but he spent most of his energy getting Jews out of Nazi-occupied countries. In 1939 he went to Vienna carrying British entry permits for Austrian Jews. There he met a Nazi who seemed like a minor clerk, and after 15 minutes the official agreed to release 3,000 Jewish children from concentration camps.
Mr. Kollek said he never saw the man again until 1961, when the â€œclerkâ€ was brought to Israel to face the charge of crimes against humanity. It was Adolf Eichmann.
In England, Mr. Kollek met Ben-Gurion, who became his mentor. During World War II, Mr. Kollek said, it became clear that â€œa country of our own was an absolute necessity to save the Jewish people from extermination.â€
He made frequent trips to Cairo, where he met Jewish soldiers serving in the British Army and used his connections to smuggle British arms to Palestine, then under the control of Britain. He was later criticized for giving the British the names of 1,000 members of the Jewish underground whose terrorist tactics were meant to force the British out.
â€œIâ€™m proud of it,â€ he said later. â€œIâ€™d do it again. The Jewish Agency, our government at the time, was respectable and on the way to becoming a state. We had one large defense organization, the Haganah.
â€œThere were splinter groups â€” Stern, Irgun â€” who killed, blew up the King David, hanged British sergeants,â€ he added, referring to the Jerusalem hotel.