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On a visit to the city of his childhood Vienna in 2003, Teddy Kollek (seated, centre) and his wife are greeted by the Mayor, Michael Häupl

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.[1] He was once called "the greatest builder of Jerusalem since Herod."[2]


Early years

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.[1] 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 [3] .

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.[4]

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:[5]

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[1] He was often called “the greatest builder of Jerusalem since Herod.”[6]

Kollek was re-elected five times, in 1969, 1973, 1978, 1983, and 1989, serving 28 years as mayor of Jerusalem.[7] 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.[5]

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.[8] The status of East Jerusalem has remained controversial up to the present.

Civic and cultural projects

Flyers in Jerusalem mourning Teddy Kollek, 4 January 2007

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").[9]

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.[5]

Awards and commemoration

In 1988, he was awarded the Israel Prize for his special contribution to society and the State of Israel.[10]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.[11] 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.[12] Kollek died on January 2, 2007[13]. He is buried on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem.

See also


"Jerusalem's people of differing faiths, cultures and aspirations must find peaceful ways to live together other than by drawing a line in the sand"[14]

Further reading

  • Ruth Bachi-Kolodny 2008, "Teddy Kollek. The Man, His Life and His Jerusalem", Gefen Publishing House. ISBN 978-9652294173


  1. ^ a b c Wilson, Scott (2 January 2007). "Longtime Mayor of Jerusalem Dies at 95". The Washington Post. pp. 2. Retrieved 2007-01-02.  
  2. ^ Zvielli, Alexander (2 January 2007). "Teddy Kollek and his life-long dedication". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2007-01-03.  
  3. ^ Bergman, Ronen (29 March 2007). "Kollek was British informer". Ynetnews. pp. 1.,7340,L-3382779,00.html. Retrieved 2008-07-30.  
  4. ^ "Legendary Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek to be laid to rest in Jerusalem". Haaretz. 3 January 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-03.  
  5. ^ a b c Erlanger, Steven; and Marilyn Berger (2 January 2007). "Teddy Kollek, Ex-Mayor of Jerusalem, Dies at 95". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-01-03.  
  6. ^ Zvielli, Alexander (2 January 2007). "Teddy Kollek and his life-long dedication". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2007-01-03.  
  7. ^ Rabinovich, Abraham (2 January 2007). "How Teddy put Jerusalem back together again". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2007-01-03.  
  8. ^ "Teddy Kollek, longtime mayor of Jerusalem, dies at 95". International Herald Tribune. 2 January 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-05.  
  9. ^ The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Magazine, Winter-Spring 2007, p.3)
  10. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1988 (in Hebrew)". Retrieved 2009-07-01.  
  11. ^ Lefkovitz, Etgar (2 January 2007). "Legendary Jerusalem mayor Kollek dies at 95". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2007-01-03.  
  12. ^ Kollek Teddy
  13. ^ "Jerusalem's Longtime Mayor 'Teddy' Kollek Dies at 95". VOA News (Voice of America). 02 January 2007. Retrieved 2 January 2009.  
  14. ^ Newsvine - Teddy Kollek, 95; Jerusalem mayor was a founding father of Israel - Los Angeles Times


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