The multi-faceted mayor

In the 1970s, Kollek spoke at a breakfast meeting of journalists visiting from the US.

By JOSEPH HOCHSTEIN, PETER MATHIAS, MICHAEL EVANS, SHAI DORON
February 4, 2007 10:13

 
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A man alone By Joseph Hochstein 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. (mideastweb.org) Normal chaos was resumed By Peter Mathias Teddy was leading a group of us Jerusalem Committee members through the shuk of the Old City in about 1968 to inspect the newly installed sewage system, when noise erupted. It quickly became a raucous scene with a touch of menace as a crowd gathered round a shop. Teddy was recognized. The shopkeeper and his assistants poured out their grievances. A ring formed round Teddy, the shopkeeper and a sobbing Australian girl who had been held by one of the assistants when trying to run away and whose screams had produced the crowd. The shopkeeper claimed that he had caught the girl stealing fruit; she protested her innocence. Teddy asked the shopkeeper how much he thought had been stolen. He pulled coins out of his pocket and paid. The crowd evaporated and the girl fled. Normal chaos resumed. Teddy continued his walk as though nothing untoward had happened. I thought I had witnessed a microcosm of how the mayor had gained the confidence of his citizens, Jews and Arabs alike. Prime Minister of Jerusalem By Michael D. Evans In 1993, 2,300 people gathered in Dallas to honor Mayor Teddy Kollek - an event I organized. He told us that night that "I had the greatest chance any human being could have; try to rebuild Jerusalem... When the Messiah will come, He has to come to a beautiful city." At breakfast the next morning, I asked Teddy if he would like a VHS copy of the event that had been taped for national broadcast. Teddy smiled and said, "No, not really. There is something I would like; I would like the time cue cards that you used last night - the ones that said '3 minutes,' '2 minutes,' '30 seconds' and 'Stop.'" He didn't elaborate, but I do know that he had a low tolerance for wasted words. During our last meeting in Jerusalem years after he retired, Teddy opened the briefcase on his desk, and there were the cards. He laughed and said, "That was the best gift you could have given me; I use these all the time." As a Christian Zionist, I was not at all pleased when I found out that Teddy was going to help the Mormons build a campus on Mount Scopus. I showed up in Teddy's office to protest. "Teddy," I said, "you cannot do this." I told Teddy the Mormons teach that Salt Lake City is Jerusalem, and that they are the real Jews. I implored him, "Let us build a center there for Christian Zionism." Teddy said, "I gave my word, and I will not back down. Calm down; you're getting more upset than the Ultra-Orthodox." He was right; I was. I made up my mind that I would appeal to a higher power - prime minister Menachem Begin... I said to Begin, "Mr. Prime Minister, I need you to overrule Teddy Kollek, and let us build a center for Christian Zionism on that spot." Begin looked at me, and asked softly, "Can you keep a secret? It is true that I am the prime minister of Israel, but Teddy is the prime minister of Jerusalem." Dr. Evans, a New York Times bestselling author, has for decades served as a key liaison between millions of evangelical Christians and Israel. The zoo's No. 1 friend By Shai Doron Teddy was the initiator and founder of the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens - The Biblical Zoo - in the south-west of Jerusalem. He was the major fundraiser and strived to establish the zoo while in office. Out of office, he became the zoo's No. 1 friend. This was not because of a love of animals; it was, rather, because of the importance he attached to humans. Teddy recognized the social role the zoo could play in the city. And, indeed, it has become a meeting place for diverse populations - an island of sanity in this troubled city. No one was more pleased than Teddy to learn that, in 2005, the zoo was the No. 1 tourist attraction in Israel. But what made him even happier was that tens of thousands of Muslims from east Jerusalem visit yearly, that the most ultra-Orthodox Jews pour in and that dozens of groups of children with special needs come on a weekly basis. We were delighted to celebrate Teddy's 90th birthday with him at the zoo. The magnificent sculpture garden was founded for this event by the Jerusalem Foundation and friends from all over the world. How symbolic it is that the last time he went out, about three weeks before his death, with his wife Tamar, it was to the zoo. Now Teddy is gone. Our sadness is not only over his death but, mostly, for ourselves as it emphasizes questions about Jerusalem as an open and pluralistic city that believes in equality for all. Our elephants "Tamar" and "Teddy," named after the Kolleks, are still with us. We will find a way to commemorate his name at the zoo. And we will do all that we can to continue in Teddy's footsteps. The writer is the director general of the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem.

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