Friday, January 05, 2007

Teddy Kollek 1911-2007

I am aware that I need to write more about my trip to North America, but right now, there's other stuff on my mind.

For example, Teddy Kollek passed away this week. I gotta say, I'm not an overly political person most of the time, and prior to 1995, when I made aliya, I had little idea of what was flying here in Israel except that it's a piece of land the size of New Jersey, surrounded by multiple Arab countries, and yet somehow, the Arabs expect us to divide it and give parts to Arab entities.

What I remember about Teddy Kollek was a movie called "Goodbye, New York." It was a pretty hokey movie about a New York woman who goes to Paris to escape her humdrum life, and ends up accidentally landing in Israel. The movie was made by Teddy Kollek's son, Amos Kollek, and I remember my parents all but screaming when they saw Teddy on-screen. The woman, played by Julie Hagerty, had just had all her clothes stolen. She tells her whole sob story to a man on the street (Teddy Kollek) who responds by saying "So tell it to the mayor." Since the movie was released in 1985, (when I was 7) the significance had to be explained to me carefully. Since then, every time I've seen the movie (which is on tv surprisingly often), I've loved that scene more than all others - even the banana eating contest.

Anyway, so that was Teddy Kollek for me. In 1993, Ehud Olmert won the election, and when I made aliya, there were still bumper stickers around that said "Ohavim Otcha Teddy" - we love you Teddy.

A little more recently, I learned more about Teddy Kollek. He was an incredible man, and he did so much for Jerusalem. He built Jerusalem up in the years after the reunification (1967) and helped Jerusalem become a modern city.

Ehud Olmert said:

"David Ben Gurion declared Jerusalem the capital of the State of Israel in 1949. Teddy Kollek turned it into the capital, not by virtue of memories and prayers and longing, but by virtue of creation, construction, diligence, tolerance and the intolerance which lived in his body together.

"Teddy turned Jerusalem into the center of his existence. Yehuda Amichai wrote that it is sad to be the mayor of Jerusalem. He didn’t write it about Teddy, but about his predecessor. Teddy wasn't sad, he was glad to be the mayor."

This would be more significant to me if Olmert actually listened to himself once in a while. However, I doubt that statements like these will keep Olmert from re-dividing the city and moving Jews out of their homes even in Israel's capital.

So today, after Teddy Kollek has been laid to rest, I want to say thank you to him. Thank you for building a city we can be proud of. Thank you for your love and devotion to the holiest city on Earth. Thank you, and "Ohavim Otcha Teddy."

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