A Jerusalem lifetime

Architect and historian David Kroyanker receives the Teddy Kollek Award

jerusalemnew88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Since 1999, the Teddy Kollek Award has been awarded annually to a prominent national or international figure or organization that has made an outstanding contribution to the social, cultural, educational and physical development of the city. This week, in a ceremony at the Knesset, in addition to six recipients from abroad, a special "Lifetime Achievement Award" was given to architect and documentarian David Kroyanker. Attending the ceremony were former Speaker of the Knesset, Jerusalem-born Reuven Rivlin (Likud); Mayor Uri Lupolianski; and Dan Meridor and Ruth Cheshin, heads of the Jerusalem Foundation. The six international figures included Hans Baer from Switzerland, whose family ties to Israel date back to the days of Chaim Weizmann; Johannes Gerster, who founded the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Israel; Marion and Guy Nagar from England, who support the Musrara School of Photography; Jack Rudin and the Zusmann family from the United States; and Dr. Helmut Zilk, former mayor of Vienna and a personal friend of Kollek. Although he made no effort to hide his emotions, Kroyanker did acknowledge that he was not completely surprised by the honor. After all, he said, the enthusiastic responses to his books have provided a clear sign that the public appreciates his six monumental volumes, each dedicated to a different part of the city. Knowing that his work is appreciated by the general public, and not solely by scholars and professionals, is the best award, Kroyanker said. "When I began this survey of the history of the city's stones and buildings," Kroyanker recalled, "I was not aware of how large it would be. That was in the early 1970s. I was working in the municipal urban planning unit, under the supervision of Meron Benvenisti, who later became Kollek's deputy. "We were busy trying to save historic buildings here and there, and we soon realized that people had no idea about conservation and restoration of ancient buildings. Almost nobody seemed to know about the ethnological, historic or architectural importance of the different buildings in the city and its surroundings. We really did have to start from scratch." Kroyanker recalled the difficulties he had to overcome before publishers would agree to publish his books. As he became better known, the books were even translated into other languages and distributed worldwide. In Israel, they were best-sellers. Kroyanker said that he is often asked the reasons behind the city's current condition and possibilities for its future. He responds, he said, cautiously, because the reasons are complex and the future is unclear. Although widely regarded as the defender of the ancient splendor of Jerusalem, Kroyanker does not hesitate to advocate for new projects and modernity. Life, he says, must progress. Asked about the on-going exodus from Jerusalem, Kroyanker responded simply and candidly. "There are very beautiful places outside Jerusalem. True, the light here is very special, but this is not the only place where you can find such beautiful light. It's just that I belong here. Here, I have an intimate relationship with the houses and the streets. Outside Jerusalem, I am merely a stranger."