The legendary former mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek, who served for an unprecedented 28 years, has died Tuesday at the age of 95.
As the mayor of Jerusalem for almost three decades, Kollek is seen as the one person responsible for transforming the city from a traditional historic and religious city, to a modern, prospering capital of Israel.
As mayor of Jerusalem from 1965 to 1993, Kollek saw the unification and expansion of the city during the 1976 Six-Day War. As mayor of the unified city, Kollek sought not only to unify the city geographically, but to unify it socially and ethnically given the diverse population of Jews, Arabs, religious, and secular.
Under Kollek’s tenure as mayor, the city of Jerusalem expanded greatly with additional neighborhoods being built to accommodate the growing population, as well as parks, community centers, schools, and religious establishments for the welfare of the city’s residents. Kollek also founded several key cultural sites including the Israel Museum and the Jerusalem Theatre complex.
Kollek was born in 1911 in a small town outside Budapest and grew up in Vienna. Kollek fled Europe to Palestine with his family in 1935, three years before the Nazis invaded Austria, and went on to be one of the founders of Kibbutz Ein Gev on the Sea of Galilee.
During WWII, Kollek served as an envoy in Europe, lobbying for Jewish interests, including meeting Adolph Eichmann, who agreed to transfer 3,000 Jewish youths to England during the war. Kollek also served as an envoy to Washington during the early years of the Sate of Israel, and served as a close advisor to David Ben-Gurion, a post which gave him his political skills to run for mayor.
Kollek was elected mayor of Jerusalem in 1965, and was reelected five times (1969, 1973, 1978, 1983, and 1989). In 1993, Kollek was defeated by current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who himself served as mayor for 10 years until 2003.
During his last years away from politics, Kollek was busy promoting Jerusalem, raising funds for the city, and helping connect the city to the Diaspora. He also served as honorary president of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. The honors he received include the Israel Prize - the highest civilian honor in Israel and Jerusalem’s modern soccer arena “Teddy Stadium” is named after him.
Kollek is survived by his wife Tamar, son Amos and daughter Osnat.