In the 1970s, Kollek spoke at a breakfast meeting of journalists visiting from the US. The organizers asked me to chair the program and introduce Kollek. He arrived late, alone. As I rose to make the introduction, he cut me off.
"So, what are your questions?" were his first words to the group. He took it from there.
Some years later, Kollek gave a guided tour of his city to visitors attending an international conference on local government. I was there as a member of the conference staff. As before, Kollek came alone, without the typical entourage of aides.
He walked briskly along a hillside, and not everyone in the group was keeping up. I saw a chance to ask for an appointment to interview him for a book I was researching. He could shed light on Haganah activities in New York in 1947-48. "I'll give you five minutes," he said and kept striding.
I protested. Speaking slower and with less impatience, almost like an exasperated parent, he explained that he wasn't going to devote more than five minutes to talking about the past. What mattered now was the present and the future, he said.
Another time, when he was pushing 80, I ran into Kollek at the arrivals terminal at New York's JFK airport. He was alone, and no security guards were in evidence. He was standing at a baggage carousel, waiting for his luggage. He stood there with no sign of impatience, and with no VIP treatment. He said hello, and when his luggage arrived he wrestled it off the carousel by himself and walked off alone.
He was still the mayor of Jerusalem then, but he wasn't flaunting it.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>