Israel mourns ‘Mr Jerusalem’
LEGENDARY JERUSALEM mayor Teddy Kollek died on Tuesday morning, aged 95. His state funeral on Mount Herzl, in the section reserved for Israel’s leaders, was scheduled to take place yesterday.
Long-time friend and political ally Shimon Peres eulogised Mr Kollek as “the greatest builder in Jerusalem since Herod”. Mr Kollek was the cap-capital’s mayor for almost three decades, from 1965 to 1993, when he was beaten by Ehud Olmert.
Aside from the growth of new Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem following the Six-Day War, Mr Kollek also supervised the building of the Israel Museum, of which he was among the founders; the Jerusalem Theatre; the Jerusalem Cinematheque; the Teddy soccer stadium; Safra Square — and many other projects. In 1988, he was awarded the Israel Prize for special contributions to the people and the State of Israel.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Prime Minister Olmert said: “When he [Mr Kollek] was elected mayor, Je-Jerusalem was a divided city with a status unworthy of itself. When he left the mayor’s office in 1993, Jerusalem was a great, modern and united city. Teddy Kollek sang Jerusalem’s praises around the world. He decisively influenced the city’s way of life, culture, vistas, institutions as well as the relationships of its residents. His name will always be an inseparable part of Jerusalem’s glory.” Mr Olmert also described Mr Kollek as one of Israel’s “great founding fathers”.
Uri Lupolianski, the present mayor of Jerusalem, said: “Teddy was Jerusalem and Jerusalem was Teddy. With his
Teddy Kollek: born in Hungary, he became synonymous with the city of Jerusalem as its long-serving mayor spirit and personality, he symbolised the true unified Jerusalem.”
Mahdi Abdul-Hadi, a Palestinian academic and longtime Jerusalem resident, said Mr Kollek’s relations with Jerusalem’s Arab citizens following the Six-Day War and the unification of Jerusalem were complex.
Mr Kollek tried to build bridges with Jerusalem Arabs, but he also built Jewish neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem and razed Arab homes in the Old City to create the plaza in front of the Western Wall. “Previous mayors were nobody in Jerusalem. They sat around in their offices not knowing what Je- rusalem meant,” Mr Abdul-Hadi told the Ha’aretz newspaper. “Teddy Kollek knew what Jerusalem meant to the world... Very few people will grasp that opportunity and grasp that moment, that event, and take advantage of it.”