Teddy’s light and water show

The legendary mayor is immortalized at a park in his name at the junction between east and west Jerusalem. And one gets the feeling he would have liked that.

The Hassenfeld Family Fountain 370 (photo credit: courtesy)
The Hassenfeld Family Fountain 370
(photo credit: courtesy)
The names of Teddy and Jerusalem seem to have been inextricably intertwined for an eternity. The charismatic Teddy Kollek, and his 28-year tenure as mayor of Jerusalem, from 1965 to 1995 – which took in the tumultuous period during and around the Six Day War – are commemorated in all sorts of ways in the capital. This includes the imposing edifice of Teddy Stadium, home of football team Beitar Jerusalem, in Malha.
The brand new Teddy Park, which officially opened for business last week, is a tribute of a very different nature to a man who achieved global recognition, and who raised millions of dollars for all sorts of projects, cultural and otherwise, across the city. The new facility is located in Mitchell Park, across the road from Jaffa Gate, with the striking Hassenfeld Family Fountain as its external centerpiece.
The statistics on the fountain make for impressive reading. It incorporates 256 water jets, arranged in a 16-by-6-meter square, which shoot the water up over six meters into the air. The aquatic calisthenics are illuminated by some 1,800 lights, with a stirring sonic backdrop provided by a recording of the New Jerusalem Orchestra, under the direction of Yair Harel and Omer Avital. The operation of the three elements has been craftily synchronized by the Barcelonabased JML company and, naturally, the show is most effective after sundown.
The most Teddy-centric component of the new park can be found indoors, inside the Kenneth and Ann Bialkin Visitors’ Center, which houses a 3D hologrambased film installation that tells the story of Kollek’s work as mayor all over Jerusalem, with English, Hebrew and Arabic narration. While the park is a singular salute to a unique figure in the annals of the capital, it is refreshing to note that everything in the park is of a ramrod official nature. The walls around the film installation show Kollek chewing the fat with all sorts of celebrities, from the movie industry and other walks of life, and there is a delightful shot of the great man getting 40+ winks at some IDF ceremony, flanked by chief of staff Moshe Levy and another highranking army officer.
One gets the feeling that Kollek wouldn’t have minded that print being on display at his park. “We didn’t want to create a sort of cult worship site for Teddy Kollek,” notes Jerusalem Foundation architect Roy Singer, the person who oversaw the design of the park and orchestrated its execution. “We also wanted to show his lighter side.”
According to Mark Sofer, president of the Jerusalem Foundation, the location of the park was carefully considered. “We chose, together with the Kollek family, to immortalize Teddy’s name at a meeting point between the east and west of the city, in a place which represents Teddy’s lifelong aspiration – to see Jerusalem’s residents living together, side by side, in collaboration and good neighborly relations.”
Although Kollek was born in Budapest and grew up in Vienna, he would no doubt have appreciated the Middle Eastern aesthetic slant. The Federman Family Wishing Well certainly looks at home in this part of the world, and there are plenty of olive trees, Cercis siliquastrum – commonly known as the Judas tree – and pistacia, and over 6,000 plants placed strategically around the fountain. The New Jerusalem Orchestra soundtrack to the watery spectacle includes a Yemenite liturgical song, a traditional Arabic score, a rendition of a text from Psalm 126 composed by Avital, an Amharic song and an emotive performance of Eretz Zavat Halav, taken from Avital’s musical collaboration with Israel Borochov, Debka Fantasia, composed by Elyahu Gamliel and arranged by Avital.
Other standout features of the park include a 2.5-meter-high globe sculpture designed by British artist David Breuer-Weil, and a a unique sundial crafted by Israeli artist Maty Grunberg, on the Mishkenot Sha’ananim side of the fountain.
Singer notes that the liquid centerpiece offers more than visual pleasure. “The fountain will work every hour during the day, and kids will be able to run through it and cool off,” he says, “and adults can do the same. You can’t find a fountain like this anywhere in the world.”
A visit to the fountain’s underbelly reveals an intricate maze of large water tanks and around 30 kilometers of piping. And it is not only the efficient and impressive machinations of the aboveground display that were front and center during the planning stage. “The water is reused,” explains Singer, “so we don’t waste too much. There is a certain amount of spillage and evaporation, but not much.”
A member of the maintenance staff added that the fountain components come from Israel as well as various countries around the world, including China and Canada. Kollek, who did his utmost to place Jerusalem in the center of the global stage, would have liked that. •