Click here to watch a short film about the life of Teddy Kollek
Teddy Kollek was born on May 27, 1911 in a small town on the Danube River. He was named after the father of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl.
Kollek, who passed away at the age of 95 was one of the most influential figures in the history of Jerusalem and Israel. His truly exceptional, life-long commitment to Israel began before he even emigrated from Vienna in 1935, at the age of 29.
While in Vienna, Kollek was involved in the Halutz pioneering movement in Europe. Once in Israel, he dedicated himself to “building a new society” and helped to found Kibbutz Ein Gev in 1937, the same year he married his wife Tamar. During World War II, he served as a liaison between the Haganah and the Allied intelligence agencies in order to assist Jewish underground organizations in occupied Europe.
During Israel’s War of Independence, he headed the Haganah’s clandestine operations in the US and the first Israel Defense Mission to America. At the same time, he forged contacts and friendships with individuals willing to support the young state of Israel, some of whom later became major contributors to Jerusalem.
With the establishment of the State, Teddy Kollek was appointed head of the American Desk of the embryonic Israeli Foreign Ministry. While subsequently serving as envoy to the United States, he headed the first fundraising campaign of the Israel bonds.
In 1952, he was appointed by then Prime Minister David Ben Gurion as director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, a position in which he served for twelve years. He developed a keen awareness of the complexities of life in Jerusalem during this time and, in 1964, spearheaded the opening of the world-renowned Israel Museum in the capital city.
When Prime Minister Ben Gurion asked Kollek to run for mayor of Jerusalem in 1965, he was hesitant, but finally agreed. That year, he won his first mayoral election – a position that he held for twenty-eight years.
In 1967, Teddy Kollek became the first mayor to preside over the reunified Jerusalem. The city was bursting forth with energy, excitement and countless challenges. Mayor Kollek faced the truly formidable task of uniting Jerusalem – not just on the map, but in the hearts and minds of the city’s diverse residents. He faced this challenge with the same vision and far-reaching activism that characterized all of his mayoral tenure.
Mayor Kollek realized that a divided city could not survive. He embraced the active push and pull of a city that is both ancient and modern. He acknowledged each person’s right to live in and be an active part of Jerusalem’s vibrant community. And he reconfirmed his conviction that every resident of Jerusalem – regardless of faith or national background – is entitled to equality of services and quality of life. Relying only on instinct – rather than precedent – to guide him, he succeeded in transforming Jerusalem during one of her most difficult eras.
He helped to place the modern face on the ancient city. He recognized and guarded the sacredness of each holy site within Jerusalem’s boundaries, spearheaded the development of new neighborhoods, built public parks and schools, and created world-class cultural institutions. And he reached out and reminded the Jerusalem community, the Israeli community and even the international community that Jerusalem is a city of timeless beauty and significance.
Teddy Kollek's wife Tamar passed away in 2013. They are survived by their two children, Amos and Osnat, and five grandchildren, Shira, Amir, Dikla, Avigail and Noa.