Greg Marinovich  /  AP file
Former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek in his office in Jerusalem in December 1996.
updated 1/2/2007 6:52:20 AM ET 2007-01-02T11:52:20

Theodor “Teddy” Kollek, who was Jerusalem’s mayor for 28 years and was widely regarded as a champion of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence in the holy city, died on Tuesday aged 95.

“He passed away this morning,” a municipal spokeswoman said.

Kollek became mayor of Jewish West Jerusalem in 1965, two years before Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in a Middle East war. He was re-elected five times before losing in the 1993 election to current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

“We proved that Jerusalem is a better city united than divided,” the Vienna-born Kollek once said in an interview.

Known as “Teddy” to both friend and political foe, Kollek launched more ambitious building and restoration projects than any city father since the 16th-century Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who built the Old City walls.

Before becoming mayor, he ran the office of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father, for 12 years.

Work with Palestinians
Born in Vienna on May 27, 1911, Kollek immigrated at the age of 24 to found a kibbutz, or communal farm, in the Galilee.

In World War Two, he helped Allied intelligence to contact the Jewish underground in Nazi-occupied Central and Eastern Europe. He later headed undercover operations in the United States for the Hagana Defense Force, the main Jewish paramilitary force in British-run Palestine.

Within days of the end of the 1967 war, Kollek ordered the stone wall which had divided Jerusalem to be torn down, and worked energetically to win the respect, if not always the affection, of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem.

Many Israelis admired him for his relentless efforts to prevent the city’s growing ultra-orthodox Jewish community from imposing its lifestyle on secular Jews.

At the same time, he promoted special housing projects for the ultra-Orthodox to give them enough room for their traditionally large families and locate them far from main roads to prevent desecrating their Sabbath rest with traffic.

He married Tamar Schwartz in 1937. They have a son, Amos, a film-maker, and a daughter, Osnat.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.


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