May 27, 1911
Teddy Kollek was born in a Budapest suburb. He was named “Tivadar” in Hungarian after Theodor Herzl, the founder of the Zionist movement. Kollek’s early life was spent in Vienna. In 1934, the Kollek family immigrated to Palestine to escape the spread of Nazism in Austria. In Palestine, Teddy settled in the North and helped to establish Kibbutz Ein Gev on the shores of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Living near the water had a negative effect on his health and after a bout with typhus, he moved to Jerusalem to recover. This was the beginning of his relationship with the capital city he would later transform.
In 1938, Kollek was sent to England by the Habonim movement to promote Zionist activities and to encourage aliyah. While there, the affable Kollek befriended several British politicians who helped him obtain 3,000 British entry visas for Jews in concentration camps. In 1939, Kollek met with Adolf Eichmann in Vienna. He later recalled, “I walked through a large, elegant, wood-paneled room up to a desk and there he was: a neatly dressed, clean-shaven young man in a brown uniform with the swastika on his arm… he kept me standing throughout the interview.” Despite keeping Kollek standing, Eichmann agreed to Kollek’s request and 3,000 young Jews were transferred from concentration camps to England. Working in the Jewish Agency from 1940 to 1947, Kollek continued to help Holocaust survivors illegally immigrate to Palestine through the Jewish underground in Europe.
In 1940, Kollek met David Ben-Gurion in England. Ben-Gurion became his mentor and ultimately convinced Kollek to run for mayor of Jerusalem in 1965 after working in the Prime Minister’s office for thirteen years. Kollek won the election and over the next twenty- eight years he modernized and thoroughly transformed the city. He was an especially gifted fundraiser for city projects, raising funds from donors worldwide for projects that included the Israel Museum, the Jerusalem Theater, and the Cinematheque.
Kollek passed away in January 2007 at the age of 95.
The Jerusalem Foundation has a short film about Kollek that can be viewed HERE.
In the photo, Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek greets two Princesses from Thailand during a reception in 1977.