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Long-serving Jerusalem mayor Kollek dies at 95

By Jeffrey Heller
Reuters
Tuesday, January 2, 2007; 9:00 AM

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Former Jerusalem mayor Theodor "Teddy" Kollek, a tireless preacher of Israeli-Palestinian coexistence in a holy city of deep religious and nationalist divisions, died on Tuesday aged 95.

"Teddy was Jerusalem and Jerusalem was Teddy," the current mayor, Uri Lupolianski, said after his office reported the death of one of Israel's most famous political figures.

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, serving 28 years, before losing in 1993 to Ehud Olmert, now Israel's prime minister.

"Kollek's name and the glory of Jerusalem will forever remain inseparable," Olmert said in a statement mourning his former political foe, who will be buried on Thursday in a section reserved for Israel's leaders in the city's Mount Herzl cemetery.

Kollek, born in Nagyvazsony in what is now Hungary, and raised in Vienna, launched more ambitious building and restoration projects in Jerusalem than any city father since 16th century Turkish Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who built the Old City walls.

Instantly recognizable in his suit and open-necked shirt, Kollek would set out on morning "inspection" walks through Jerusalem's diverse neighborhoods. He publicly listed his home telephone number, saying the mayor should be available to all.

"We proved that Jerusalem is a better city united than divided," Kollek once said in an interview.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem shortly after the 1967 war in a move not recognized internationally. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and have largely boycotted Israeli mayoral elections in the city.

"(Kollek) was a respectable Israeli figure," said Khatem Abdel-Qader, a prominent Palestinian resident of Jerusalem and a leader in President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement.

"But while it's true Kollek sought coexistence ... he did not believe for a single moment that Palestinians in the city have political rights -- only social rights," Abdel-Qader said.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Through decades of conflict, Kollek advocated religious freedom for all faiths in Jerusalem, while insisting the city Israel regards as its "eternal and indivisible capital" remain under the overall control of the Jewish state.


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