Capital builder

Marking the end of the 30-day mourning period for Teddy Kollek, PM Olmert reflects on the loss.

kollek cigar 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
kollek cigar 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Teddy Kollek pronounced the name "Jerusalem" in his own special way - Yereshalayim. He certainly knew how to pronounce Jerusalem properly, if he wanted to. However, he did not. Because Teddy wanted to shape Jerusalem in his own way, in his spirit, at his own initiative, in accordance with his dreams, his loves and also his hates. He also had such things in him - quite a few. He did not like those who walked on the grass, littered the streets of the city and imbued it with separation and fanaticism; those who marred its views and mutilated its surroundings. To put it mildly, he also did not like those who did not love Jerusalem as he loved it - and there were quite a few people like that as well. In 1967, Jerusalem was a marginal, slightly neglected and isolated city, far from the center of life in this country. Then, a once-in-a-lifetime, historic drama occurred. Jerusalem returned to being one city. This exciting moment, unique in the history of our people, was almost waiting for someone who could understand its dimensions and the opportunities it created. Teddy Kollek was that man. At an age when people already begin to think of retirement, after an exceptional career of building up a kibbutz, fighting to establish a country and running the Prime Minister's Office, close to his great teacher, David Ben-Gurion, Teddy jumped at the historic opportunity created. He soared, spread his wings and transformed Jerusalem into what it has become. An exciting, diverse, culturally vibrant city with wonderful museums and theaters, the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall, education and sports centers, a city which is expanding and building new neighborhoods, one that is becoming a center of national and international life. IN 1949, David Ben-Gurion declared Jerusalem the capital of the State of Israel. Teddy Kollek made it so. He did not do it 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 - depending on the situation prevailing in the city. Teddy made Jerusalem his. He made it the center of his existence and infected personalities around the world, who could not resist his personal charm and total dedication to realizing his goals for the city, his enthusiastic spirit. The poet Yehuda Amichai wrote: "It is sad to be the mayor of Jerusalem." He did not write those lines about Teddy, but rather his predecessor. It was not sad for Teddy. He was happy to be mayor, and knew to spread his happiness to those around him. There were mayors before him who built and labored and contributed to the city. There were those who came after him, and there will be yet others. But there will never be another Teddy Kollek. Once in a lifetime - in our lifetime - the city of Jerusalem was unified. And, luckily, Teddy was there to transform the unity from dream to reality. Jerusalem, unlike any other city in the world, is treasured in infinite memories from long ago - of kings, leaders, prophets and preachers at the gates. All of them fit into its wonderful, diverse and colorful music. At the center of this experience, another name has been added, now to be an inseparable part of all that was and all that will be. As we mark the end of the traditional 30-day mourning period, may Teddy's memory be blessed and inspire generations to come to cherish Jerusalem.