70 Hungarian postcards to the 70-year-old Israel


Teddy Kollek, the Mayor of Jerusalem

By Juli Kristóf - 2018-03-28

Translated from the Hungarian original: Bea Sara Goll

Oh, that Hungarian virtue - oh, that Hungarian spirit! Who could be a more worthy representative of that in Israel than Teddy Kollek? Teddy Kollek, who was born in Nagyvázsony, yes, in Nagyvázsony in 1911 - and who passed away in 2007 in Jerusalem.

Let’s tie these 96 years together - into a bundle, and try to fill it with events: with happenings, results, ideas and vitality. Ben Gurion's advisor, disciple, secretary - throw these in, and you’d think it's already half full.

Rescuer of Jews during the Holocaust. That will certainly be enough.

After the Second World War: arms smuggler supporting the bourgeoning Jewish State from New York, arranging for the procurement and delivery from a telephone booth or the Copacabana's nightclub.

Diplomat, information smuggler. In 1956, he obtained a copy of the secret speech in which Khrushchev condemned Stalin. Marking the end of the dictator's terror, altering the process of the Cold War.

Founder of kibbutzim.

Friend of the Stars - Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra were close acquaintances.

Founder of the Israel Museum. And the Khan Theater, the Cinametheque, the Jerusalem Theater.

Not finished yet. It's still not finished. Indeed, now comes the best of it.

Jerusalem. “Teddy himself was Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was Teddy himself,” said Uri Lupolianski, Mayor of the city at the time of Kollek's death. The bundle is bursting at the seams - is it possible for it to hold 28 years of being the Mayor? How do you fit in the fact that the city grew up in Kollek's hand?

How do you fit in taking over the lead in the ruined, lifeless, truncated West Jerusalem in 1965 - and how does he add yet another role in 1967 when the eastern part was recaptured? Believing that the cultural-ethnic mosaic of Jerusalem should be kept in order for the city to survive.

And how to get in the small, but more meaningful than anything else – the anecdotes. For example, that three days after uniting the city, in 1967, Kollek demanded from the military leadership to feed the Arab children with milk.


Or that his telephone number could be found in the Jerusalem phone book till the end of his life. His wife had recorded the incoming calls on countless small bits of paper, and upon returning home in the evening, Kollek began to return the calls. Some of the callers he only reached at two o'clock in the morning - but he did.


We are indebted to him - all of us. During his 28 years of rule in Jerusalem, Kollek created a political climate that resulted in unlimited support for him among most people in the city in all ethnic groups. He cared for everyone. The Orthodox and non-religious, Muslim, Jews, Christians. He was doing his job with the elegance of a Viennese gentleman with ease, a sense of responsibility and the willingness to serve. We ought to thank him - for the above, for everything, but mainly because he showed us how to do it differently. It's a shame we've forgotten that since then.


And if we want to thank him – let’s not break our heads for a long time, in what language we should be addressing him. It will be alright to do so in Hungarian. All other languages; Hebrew, German – despite his Zionism and Viennese upbringing – he only spoke them poorly till the end of his life. This is our huge, heroic Hungarian hero, the Teddy of Jerusalem.


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1969 - fotó: Milner Moshe / GPO