Saying goodbye to Mr. Jerusalem

Teddy Kollek was there to transform Jerusalem’s unity from dream to reality.Teddy pronounced the name Jerusalem in his own special way – Yereshalayim. I believe that is closest to the way he called the city which was his life. He …

Teddy Kollek was there to transform Jerusalem’s unity from dream to reality.Teddy pronounced the name Jerusalem in his own special way – Yereshalayim. I believe that is closest to the way he called the city which was his life.

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, in his love 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 instilled in it a spirit of separation and fanaticism, and 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.

Jerusalem was a marginal, slightly neglected and isolated city, far from the hubbub of action at the center of life in this country in 1967. And then, a once-in-a-lifetime, historical drama occurred. Jerusalem returned to being one city.

This exciting moment, which was unique in the history of our people, almost waited for someone who could understand its dimensions and the opportunities 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, of fighting to establish a country, of running the Prime Minister’s Office – close to his great teacher, David Ben-Gurion – Teddy Kollek jumped at the historic opportunity created and flew up, spread his wings and transformed Jerusalem into what it has become:

An exciting, diverse, culturally vibrant city with wonderful museums and theaters, the pedestrian mall, education and sports centers, a city which is expanding and building new neighborhoods, one which 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 so 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 Kollek made Jerusalem his, 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 vis-a -vis the city, with 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, 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 even be more. 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, those from long ago, of kings, leaders, prophets and preachers at the gates, all of which fit into its wonderful, diverse and colorful music.

At the center of this experience, another name has been added, and from now on it will be an inseparable part of all that was and all that will be.

May Teddy’s memory be blessed – and live forever in this city.

(The above eulogy was given at Teddy Kollek’s funeral last week)