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"LET MY TONGUE CLING TO THE ROOF OF MY MOUTH

IF I DO NOT REMEMBER YOU,
IF I DO NOT SET JERUSALEM ABOVE MY HIGHEST JOY"

PSALM 137:6

 

Holy Land Headliners

Jerusalem's Dynamo Builder:  Teddy Kollek 1911-2007

 
Teddy Kollek was Jerusalem’s greatest builder since Herod the Great who rebuilt the Second Temple 2,000 years ago.  Born in Vienna, Teddy immigrated to Palestine in 1935 and was one of the founders of Kibbutz Ein Gev on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  That first year he contracted typhoid five times and endured several bouts of malaria.  In later years he fondly remembered those pioneering days at Ein Gev. “We came to an empty land; we started growing trees and we fished in the Sea of Galilee,” he said. “We saw our dreams materialize.”

During the Second World War, he was an intelligence liaison to British intelligence and laid the basis for intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Israel.  After the war, he procured supplies for Israel’s fledgling army, the Hagana.  Networking from his hotel in New York City, Teddy established connections which facilitated Israel’s purchase of weapons from the U.S. and from various countries in Central America.

After a 12-year stint as Prime Minister David Ben Gurion’s director general in the prime minister’s office, Teddy Kollek transferred his energies to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.  When most of Israel’s founding fathers considered an art museum a luxury the young state could not afford, Teddy raised the money to establish the national museum.  The immigrant from Vienna argued that while Israel needed to absorb immigrants and build its military power, it also needed expressions of culture and civilization.

“He really forged the landscape of modern Jerusalem as we know it,” says James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls.  “He saw the museum as the jewel in that landscape.  The idea of this modernist museum complex on the crest of Jerusalem was his.”
 
Lion from Hazor at the entrance to the Israel Museum

Mishkenot Sha'ananim and Montefiore's Windmill

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Entrance to the Israel Museum

Miskenot Sha'ananim

   
The Golem or the Monster Slide

Having fun at the Biblical Zoo

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Kids' Favorite:  the Monster Slide

Teddy's favorite:  the Biblical Zoo

 
In 1965 he was elected Mayor of Jerusalem and subsequently reelected five times until he was defeated by Ehud Olmert in 1993.  Throughout his tenure as mayor it was widely known that his home phone number was listed in the Jerusalem phonebook.  When he was home, which wasn't very often, given his long hours -- he answered the phone himself in his very gruff manner.

One well-known anecdote is about the time he arrived home in the wee hours of the morning and found a note from his wife Tamar lying on the kitchen table.  It said that a woman had called at 1.30 a.m. complaining about a pothole in her neighborhood which the municipality had ignored for over a month, despite her repeated phone calls and complaints.  He called the woman at 3.30 a.m. and promised that the pothole would be repaired that very morning.

Teddy was the first to arrive at city hall and let himself in with his own key.  Once a week he would randomly choose a neighborhood to check that the garbage had been collected and that shrubbery and flowers were being maintained.  He organized a committee of Dutch Friends of Jerusalem who annually donated thousands of tulip bulbs to the city.  He kept the municipal gardeners very busy!

Teddy’s fund-raising genius was legendary.  Many years ago I had a cousin who was working in the office of the mayor of Tel Aviv.  He told me that the mayor had invited a wealthy American shopping mall magnate to Tel Aviv’s city hall in the hopes of convincing him to sponsor an art project in the city.

It was my cousin’s job to greet the magnate and bring him up to the mayor’s office. On the way, the American tycoon told him that he had just had lunch with Teddy Kollek in Jerusalem.  My cousin raised his eyebrows and asked, “How was it?”  “Cost me half a million dollars!” replied the shopping mall magnate.

One prospective donor to the Israel Museum promised a major gift if Teddy would lose 40 pounds.  Teddy gained six, yet he convinced the donor that the Museum was too vital to the city to be penalized because of a willpower-less chairman.
 
Plaque of Appreciation by the Jaffa Gate

Tower of David Museum

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Sign by the Jaffa Gate

Tower of David Museum

   
Replica of the cracked Philadelphia Liberty Bell

Damascus Gate Plaza

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Liberty Bell Park

Damascus Gate Plaza

 
In 1966 Teddy created the non-profit Jerusalem Foundation which was the machine which raised money and supervised thousands of new projects around the city in every neighborhood, for every resident.  He built a soccer stadium called the Teddy Stadium and next to it, the Jerusalem Mall.

In other building projects, the Old City walls were doubled in height by exposing their lower courses and they were surrounded by promenades and gardens.  Below the Old City Citadel by the Jaffa Gate, he built a crafts center, an outdoor amphitheater in the old Herodion reservoir, a cinematheque in Gehenna (the Hinnom Valley), and a center for youth orchestras (with a donation from Herb Alpert and his family).  The old Turkish khan (an inn) was transformed from a rubbish-filled warehouse into a charming theater.  In an interview on his 70th birthday in 1981, Teddy said the key was “attention to detail and follow-up. That’s how things get done.”
 
Ophel Excavations

Biblical Oryx acclimating once again to Jerusalem

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

First Century AD Sidewalk

Biblical Oryx in Jerusalem

   
When Teddy was defeated in the 1993 election, he continued fundraising for the city from his office at the Jerusalem Foundation.  When tourism came to a complete halt after 9/11, I sought a job at the foundation because of my great admiration for Teddy.  Then I got to see him often, usually in the elevator as I was leaving to go photograph one of his projects to report to donors on how their money had been spent.  If I didn’t see him, I would always know he had been around by the whiff of Cuban cigar smoke in the elevator.
 

Gila and Teddy Kollek at his 91st birthday party

Photo:  Gila's Archive

May 27, 2002, Teddy's 91st birthday

 
We had a party for him at the Jerusalem Foundation on the occasion of his 91st birthday.  I sat next to him and told him that I had guided thousands of pilgrims who had admired his work of beautifying the city, restoring its archeological treasures and preserving its historical buildings.  And I asked him, “What is the project you are most proud of?”  Without hesitation he replied, “The zoo.”  I have to admit that I was surprised.  My colleagues told me they thought he was joking.  But within a year, I understood his answer.

In 1993 he had raised the funds to move the old Biblical Zoo to a new expansive lovely location on the outskirts of the city.  In a city often wracked by strife and divisions, the Biblical Zoo is a relaxing, fun destination for secular, orthodox, ultra-orthodox Jewish, Christian and Moslem city residents as well as immigrants and tourists, all intermingling.  Once while photographing various projects around the zoo, I counted nine different languages, not including the monkey screams and elephant squeals.
 

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A new-born giraffe behind the mother's legs

The Jerusalem Citadel

Flamingos at the Biblical Zoo

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Non-biblical giraffes

The Jerusalem Citadel

Flaming Flamingos

 
Endlessly dedicated, pragmatic and optimistic, Teddy Kollek would have agreed with Sir Ronald Storrs, the first British mayor of the city (1918 to 1926) who said, “There are many positions that afford their holders more power and fame, but in a sense I cannot explain, there is no promotion after Jerusalem.”

Teddy died on January 2, 2007 at the age of 95 and a half.  He is assured an eternal prominent place in the annals of the holy city.
 

Copyright 2007 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

 

Coming to Jerusalem in 2014?  Would you like to find the venues where you can quietly be transported back in your imagination to the time of Jesus?  To David?  To Abraham?  Are you a camera buff who would like to bring home a collection of exotic photos no one else has?  Are you eager to eat hummus or kubbeh elbow-to-elbow with the "natives" -- or is dining in the style of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba more to your taste?

Make every minute matter while you "Explore Jerusalem's Soul" with Gila's ultimate guide.  This up-to-date PDF (Adobe Acrobat) 46-page guide gives you the Top Ten places to meditate on the Bible, the Top Ten lesser-known churches worth visiting, the Top Ten most rewarding roof-top views and the Top Ten places for Middle Eastern soul food.  Many of the Top Ten are places built, renovated, restored, preserved or were  frequented by Teddy Kollek.  More on Gila's Jerusalem Guide....

More Holy Land headliners and celebrities


GILA YUDKIN TCHERNIKOVSKI 64A JERUSALEM ISRAEL
gila@itsgila.com

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Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin