Teddy Kollek - biography
Theodor "Teddy" Kollek (Hebrew: טדי קולק) (May 27, 1911 – January 2, 2007) was mayor of Jerusalem from 1965 to 1993, and founder of the Jerusalem Foundation. Kollek was re-elected five times, in 1969, 1973, 1978, 1983 and 1989. After reluctantly running for a seventh term in 1993 at the age of 82, he lost to Likud candidate and future Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert . During his tenure, Jerusalem developed into a modern city, especially after its reunification in 1967. He was once called "the greatest builder of Jerusalem since Herod."
Teddy Kollek was born in Nagyvázsony, 120 km from Budapest, Hungary as Kollek Tivadar. His parents named him after Theodor Herzl. Growing up in Vienna, Kollek came to share his father Alfréd’s Zionist convictions.
In 1935, three years before the Nazis seized power in Austria, the Kollek family immigrated to Palestine, then under British mandate. In 1937, he was one of the founders of Kibbutz Ein Gev, on the shore of Lake Kinneret. That same year he married Tamar Schwarz. They had two children, a son, the film director Amos Kollek (born in 1947), and a daughter, Osnat.
In the 1940s, on behalf of the Jewish Agency (Sochnut) and as part of the "The Hunting Season" or "Saison" Teddy Kollek was the contact person for the British Mandate MI5, providing information against right-wing Jewish underground groups Irgun and Lehi (known as "Stern Gang"). He was code named "Scorpion" by the British. The MI5 file on "Scorpion" was declassified after Kollek's death and for a while made headlines in the Israeli press.
During World War II, Kollek tried to represent Jewish interests in Europe on behalf of the Jewish Agency. In 1947–48, he represented the Haganah in Washington, where he assisted in acquiring ammunition for Israel’s then-fledgling army. Kollek became a close ally of David Ben-Gurion, serving in the latter’s governments from 1952 as the director general of the prime minister’s office.
Mayor of Jerusalem
In 1965 Teddy Kollek succeeded Mordechai Ish-Shalom as Mayor of Jerusalem. On his motivations for seeking the mayor’s office in Jerusalem, Kollek once recalled: I got into this by accident[...] I was bored. When the city was united, I saw this as an historic occasion. To take care of it and show better care than anyone else ever has is a full life purpose. I think Jerusalem is the one essential element in Jewish history. A body can live without an arm or a leg, not without the heart. This is the heart and soul of it.
During his tenure Jerusalem developed into a modern city, especially after its reunification in 1967 He was often called “the greatest builder of Jerusalem since Herod.
Kollek was re-elected five times, in 1969, 1973, 1978, 1983, and 1989, serving 28 years as mayor of Jerusalem. In a reluctant seventh bid for mayor in 1993, Kollek, aged 82, lost to Likud candidate Ehud Olmert. On November 13, 1972, Kollek appeared alongside New York Mayor John Lindsay on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Relationship with the Arab community
In the Six-Day War of 1967, East Jerusalem, which had been under Jordanian control since 1948, was taken over by Israel. As mayor of a newly united Jerusalem, Kollek’s approach toward her Arab inhabitants was governed by pragmatism. Within hours of the transfer of authority, he arranged for the provision of milk for Arab children. Some Israelis considered him pro-Arab. Teddy Kollek, under the orders of Ben Gurion, ordered the destruction of the Moroccan Quarter in 1967 which made 100 Arab families homeless.
Kollek advocated religious tolerance and made numerous efforts to reach out to the Arab community during his tenure. Muslims continued to have access to al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram ash-Sharif (the Temple Mount) for worship, and Kollek criticized Jews for establishing new neighborhoods in contentious parts of the city. On one occasion, he protested outside the office of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir for this reason. Kollek’s views toward the annexation of East Jerusalem softened after leaving office, he himself conceding that self-rule for the Palestinian community in East Jerusalem should be considered. The status of East Jerusalem has remained controversial up to the present.
Kolleck was seen by many as a bridge-builder between the Arab end the Jewish communities. Towards the end of his reign as a mayor of Jerusalem, he stated that Israel's Arab population had remained "second and third class citizens" and that neither he nor other Israeli leaders had done anything to improve the Arab's rights or quality of life:
“We said things half-mindedly and never fulfilled them. We’ve said again and again that we will make Arabs’ rights equal those of the Jews – empty words… both [PM] Eshkol and [PM] Begin promised equal rights – both broke their promises… they [Palestinians] were and remain second and third class citizens.” Q: And this is being said by the mayor of Jerusalem, who labored for the city’s Arab citizens, built and developed their neighborhoods? “Nonsense! Fables! Never built nor developed! I did do something for Jewish Jerusalem in the last 25 years. But for eastern Jerusalem, what did we do? Nothing! What did I do? Schools? Nothing! Pavements? Nothing! Culture centers? Not one! We did give them sewage and improved the water supply. You know why? You think [we did it] for their own good? For their quality of life? no way! There were a few cases of Cholera and the Jews were scared that it might reach them, so we installed sewage and water.” In his later years, Kollek stated: "We failed in the unification of the city."
Civic and cultural projects
Kollek dedicated himself to many cultural projects during his lengthy term in office, most notably the development and expansion of the Israel Museum. From 1965-1996, he was president of the museum, and officially designated its founder in 2000. When the museum celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1990, Kollek was named "Avi Ha-muze'on" ("father of the museum").
Kollek was also instrumental in the establishment of the Jerusalem Theater, and served as the founder and head of the Jerusalem Foundation. Through a leadership which spanned decades, Kollek raised millions of dollars from private donors for civic development projects and cultural programs. Kollek once remarked that Israel needed a strong army, but it also needed expressions of culture and civilization.
Kollek was considered the "number-one friend" of the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, which occupied a 15-acre site in Romema from 1950-1991. Though the zoo attracted many visitors to its exhibits of animals, reptiles and birds mentioned in the Bible and was successful in breeding and protecting endangered species, it was considered small and inferior to zoos in Tel Aviv and Haifa. Kollek promoted the idea of moving the zoo to a larger location and upgrading it to a state-of-the-art institution. Around 1990, under the auspices of the Jerusalem Foundation, the Tisch family of New York agreed to underwrite the expensive undertaking. The zoo re-opened as The Tisch Family Zoological Garden in Jerusalem on a 62-acre expanse near the neighborhood of Malha in 1993. Kollek helped the zoo raise money to build the elephant enclosure and to bring in female elephants from Thailand at $50,000 apiece. The zoo named its male elephant Teddy and one of its female elephants Tamar in honor of the mayor and his wife. For Kollek's 90th birthday in 2001, the zoo feted him and the Jerusalem Foundation unveiled a new sculpture garden dedicated in his honor.
Awards and commemoration
- In 1985, Kollek was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.
- In 1988, he was awarded the Israel Prize for his special contribution to society and the State of Israel.
- In 2001, he was honoured with the title of Honorary Citizen of Vienna.
- Teddy Stadium in Malha, Jerusalem, is named for him.
Kollek continued to be active in retirement, maintaining a five-day work week into his nineties, even as he became increasingly infirm. He and his wife lived in their walk-up Rehavia apartment until the mid-1990s, when they moved to Hod Yerushalayim, a retirement home in the Kiryat HaYovel neighborhood. Kollek died on January 2, 2007. He is buried on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem.