Teddy Kollek

Teddy Kollek headshot
Named after Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, Teddy Kollek (1911-2007) was born in Nagyvázsony, a Hungarian village where his father was stationed as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. He was raised in Vienna and while in high school, joined the Zionist youth movement “Blau Weiss” where he met Tamar, six years his junior, whom he would marry in 1937. In 1935 Kollek immigrated to Palestine, then under British Mandate and, with a group of other Austrian Jews, he moved to the East Bank of the Sea of Galilee in 1937. He worked as a fisherman and as mukhtar (or head) of Kibbutz Ein Gev, which they had founded. In the early 1940s, Kollek started working for David Ben-Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency. During World War II Kollek was an intelligence agent who kept close contact with Britain’s MI5. In 1947-48 he headed the Haganah Mission that acquired arms for Israel’s War of Independence.

In 1949 Teddy, Tamar and their son
Amos, born in 1947, moved to Washington, where Teddy’s main job was to establish contact between Israel’s Mossad and the CIA. In 1952 they returned to Israel and Kollek became Ben-Gurion’s Director of the Prime Minister’s office, a position he held until 1964 when Ben-Gurion retired. In 1960 his daughter Osnat was born. In 1965 Kollek successfully ran for Mayor of Jerusalem, a position he held for 28 years until 1993, having been re-elected five times.

After June 1967, when Israel conquered East Jerusalem, Kollek worked on uniting the city. As a successful fund-raiser, second only to Shimon Peres in Israel, he initiated the Israel Museum, the Jerusalem Theater, the Biblical Zoo, the Jerusalem Foundation and the soccer stadium that was named after him. Kollek brought distinguished artists, painters, movie actors, writers, directors and singers to Israel, including Frank Sinatra, Liz Taylor, Saul Bellow, Isaac Stern, Zubin Mehta and Alfred Hitchcock. Famous and loved all over the world, Kollek refused to become a politician, saying “From Jerusalem there is no promotion.” He died in Jerusalem at age 95.

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