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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, who presided over the reunification of Jerusalem and went on to lead the city for nearly three decades, was buried Thursday in an state funeral in the modern metropolis he helped forge.
"In 1949, David Ben-Gurion declared Jerusalem the capital of the State of Israel. Teddy Kollek made it so," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in his eulogy at the Mount Herzl cemetery.
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"He did not do so through the force of the memories, prayers and longing which were an inseparable part of the ethos of our people, but rather through the force of creation, construction, industriousness, enthusiasm, patience and impatience in the same measure," said Olmert, who defeated Kollek in his seventh bid for mayor in 1993, ending his 28-year tenure.
"There were mayors before him who built and worked and contributed to the city, and there will be after him. But there will never be another Teddy Kollek," the prime minister said.
"When you went to sleep, and when you woke up, only one thing was on your mind: Jerusalem," incumbent Mayor Uri Lupolianski said of Kollek.
The funeral, which took part on a dank and overcast morning, was attended by a who's who of the nation's leaders, as well as hundreds of friends, family members, diplomats and ordinary citizens who mourned the man known simply as Teddy.
"It is not only Jerusalemites and his friends in Israel and throughout the world who mourn his passing. An entire nation is bidding farewell to a dear and beloved leader," said Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik, who served as deputy mayor for education under Kollek.
"Today I remember the first day I met you. I stood before you and could barely talk, and now years have passed and I am once more standing before you, hardly able to speak," she said. "He was the youngest old man I knew."
The service began at 11:15 a.m. when Kollek's coffin, draped in the blue and white national flag, was carried into the cemetery by eight pallbearers from the Jerusalem Municipality.
Family members held one other as the casket was lowered into the grave and quickly covered with earth from white sacks piled nearby.
Earlier, thousands of people passed by city hall where his body lay in state.
"Teddy Kollek was my father, and he wasn't an easy father," his son, Amos, said in his eulogy, his shirt torn in mourning. "He set an example that was impossible to follow. There are no such people, not any I know."
"I want to say to my mother, 'You chose the best man possible, and he chose better, he chose you,'" Amos Kollek said, eliciting a fleeting smile from Kollek's widow, Tamar, who was supported by her daughter, Osnat. "I do not feel the need to say much about what my father did all his life, as this city speaks for itself and calls his name. Wherever you look, he's there."
Kollek was buried in the Great Leaders section under the shade of pine trees, next to the grave of Eliezer Kaplan, Israel's first finance minister, and not far from that of prime minister Golda Meir.
Many of those in attendance had known Kollek well and loved him for decades. Those seen near the grave included his former drivers and secretaries; present and former members of the Jerusalem City Council such as former MK Menahem Porush, Anat Hoffman, Pepe Alalu and Nir Barkat; cabinet ministers; incumbent MKs; Israel Museum director James Snyder; philanthropists Michael Steinhart and Charles Bronfman; and architect Moshe Safdie.
The VIP section included President Moshe Katsav, Olmert and Itzik, who bade a tearful farewell to Kollek, who launched her political career after she made a name for herself as a teacher's union activist.
There was Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, who was Kollek's municipal spokesman for a while and recalled that the mayor always insisted he be told when important foreigners were listed in The Jerusalem Post's arrivals column so they could be greeted. "Teddy's death is the end of an era. It shows us what a vacuum he has left behind," Yahav said.
Ari Rath, the Post's co-editor-in-chief in the 1970s and 1980s and a close friend of Kollek, knew him back when he worked in the US raising money and support for the fledgling state. Rath, who penned a eulogy to Kollek in Wednesday's Post, said after the funeral, "He was an important part of my life for 60 years!"
Asked what projects would be appropriate to memorialize Kollek - whose name was given during his lifetime to the city's stadium in the Malha quarter, because the donor insisted - former president Yitzhak Navon suggested something related to culture, parks and gardens.
Zvi Zameret, head of Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the living memorial to the second president of the state, said he was building a $12 million school for Jerusalem studies to teach children, soldiers, Diaspora leaders and others about the capital. Kollek, he said, played a very prominent role in the history of the city. "I will name the planned 300-seat auditorium for Teddy Kollek after someone donates the $2m. we still need to raise," Zameret said.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres, newly returned from the funeral of former US president Gerald R. Ford in Washington, said Kollek's everlasting lesson for the future of the state was his unwavering determination and perseverance in the face of challenges and despite his advanced age. "The battle has not ended, the dangers have not stopped, but the main lesson is that there are people who can be so young, who can be so bold and devoted," he said.
Peres said Kollek strove to make Jerusalem "beautiful like Vienna, but with a moral mission."
The foreign dignitaries in attendance included the president of the German parliament, Dr. Norbert Lammert, and the secretary of state in the Austrian Prime Minister's Office, Franz Morak.
German President Horst Koehler described Kollek's death as "a great loss" in a telegram to Tamar Kollek, while former New York City mayor Ed Koch called Kollek the "mayor of all mayors" in an interview with Channel 10.
As the service came to a close and mourners walked toward the grave, a cigar - a vintage Teddy classic - was thrown onto the freshly piled earth.