Teddy Kollek is well known in Israel and around the world as the great builder of modern-day Jerusalem. As a follower of Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, Kollek turned Jerusalem into an international center of culture that carries a message of peace and tolerance to the world. Kollek grew up in Vienna. He was active in the Zionist youth movement "Blau-Weiss" where he met his future wife Tamar Schwarz. He immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1935, where he was among the founders of Kibbutz Ein Gev on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Shortly before the outbreak of WWII he began to undertake various roles overseas. Representing Jewish interests in Europe, he met with Adolf Eichmann and organized a rescue mission that brought thousands of Jews from Austria to England and from there, on to Eretz Israel. He worked with the Jewish Agency in Europe from 1940-1947 and was among the organizers of the underground "Bricha" (escape) as well as other efforts, that brought Jews and Holocaust survivors to Eretz Israel.
In 1947-1948, Kollek served as the head of the Hagana (defense force) delegation in New York, acquiring arms and ammunition for the impending State's new army and transferring them to Eretz Israel through any means possible.
Kollek served as a delegate at the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. in the early 1950's, establishing a working relationship between Israeli intelligence and the CIA. In 1952 he was asked by David Ben Gurion to serve as the first Director General of the Prime Minister's office, a position he held until 1964. In 1965 he founded and managed the Israel Museum, Israel's national museum in Jerusalem. Kollek was elected mayor of Jerusalem in 1965 and continued to serve in that capacity for 28 years. He first managed the divided city and continued to do so after it was united in 1967. Kollek was determined to develop Jerusalem as a city that was not only united from a geographic and municipal standpoint, but also one that was socially united. In fact, the majority of his vigorous efforts were directed toward bridging the gaps between the city's diverse ethnic and religious populations. Thanks to his patience and openness, Kollek was greatly revered, both in the city and elsewhere. He believed that good relations between different populations could be brought about only through conciliation and then eventually sincere friendship would develop.
Under Kollek's guidance, and especially after the city was unified in 1967, Jerusalem blossomed in size and diversity. New neighborhoods were established within the city itself and in surrounding suburbs, as were many parks. Tree-lined roads were constructed. The cityscape changed dramatically, as urbanization and new highways [hat cut through mountains, hills and valleys changed the landscape and modernized Jerusalem.
Kollek emphasized high quality and equal education for the city's various communities. To that end, he established youth centers and community centers throughout the neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
In addition to the Israel Museum, Kollek built other public institutions, such as the Biblical Zoo, the modern City Hall compound in Safra Square, the football stadium, the Jerusalem Theater and more. He oversaw the reconstruction of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City and the restoration of many historical sites, and furthered archeological research in the city.
After leaving the mayor's office in 1993 Kollek continued working full time to raise funds and add to the building of Jerusalem, through The Jerusalem Foundation, which he had founded in 1966. He was actively at work until 2005, when he was 94.
In 1988, Teddy Kollek was awarded the Israel Prize for his unique contribution to the State of Israel. He also received many honorary degrees in Israel and around the world.
Osnat and Amos Kollek