I have AN ambition," says Teddy Kollek. "I want to be mayor exactly 3,000 years after King David made Jerusalem the capital of Israel."

The anniversary will come in nine years, when Kollek will be 77 years old. He leans forward conspiratorially.

"I don't necessarily mean that in a literal way. But it's a good way to get in how long we've been around."

It's been 14 years since Kollek assumed that post, caretaker of the city held holy by the three monotheistic religions. It required a certain amount of finesse for an unabashed Zionist like Kollek to carry it off.

He is an outspoken politician who, in his drive to assert the Jewish right to Jerusalem, has incurred the wrath of Israel's ruling party as well as countless politicians abroad. He snubbed Vice President Walter Mondale until Mondale, in his private capacity and counter to American policy, agreed to cross into the Arab part of the city. But he was the only major Israeli official who agreed to meet Jesse Jackson on his Middle East mission last month.

He can charm the pants pocket off a prospective donor to one of his cultural causes and the next minute reduce an assistant to tears with a torrent of verbal buse. Earlier this year, Kollek so enraged in ulra-orthodox rabbi that the rabbi placed a Jewish curse on him.

His bursts of temper have earned him the enmity of many he has to work with. When religious demonstrators attached police in 1972, he angrily told a religious politician the rioters "should have their bones broken."

When a parent from the wealthy Rehavia neighborhood protested loudly over school conditions, they mayor countered with an equally loud, "Kiss my a--."

When a telephone operator at the Jerusalem Religious Council refused to put his call through, he ordered the treasurer to cut off all funds to the council.

Once he broke a glass table top by pounding furiously upon it because a new secretary continued to call him "Mr. Kollek" instead of Teddy.

He is the holy terror of the holy city, and in his personal interpretation of the mayoralty it is politics that is predominant: Virtually everything he does has political overtones.

There were 48 dishes on the table, including the leg of lamb in its thick bed of rice and pine nuts, but there were only six people to eat it all.

"My friend, there's enough food here to feed the entire municipality," said the mayor.

"they told us 10 people were coming, so we cooked for 20," said the host.

Neither seemed perturbed.

Teddy Kollek looked around at his guests, none of whom seemed to know where to begin, and with his fingers ripped a chunk of meat off the roast lamb and bit into it.

The occasion was lunch at the home of a minor Arab functionary who had helped avert a terrorist bombing. The reward, of his choosing, was the opportunity to play host to Kollek. In agreeing to allow a journalist to accompany his contingent, Kollek made it clear that details of the terrorist incident, and the Arab's actions, were off limits.

"You would certainly not mention his name," he said sternly, "or describe him so he could be identified. We had a case like that once -- the man was shot dead on the street."

All the guests were in short sleeves, but the mayor, sensitive to his mission, wore a lightweight sportcoat.

The host stood by the table, bringing soft drinks and passing the food ("It's forbidden to eat with the guests," he explained for the fourth time). His wife, who has cooked the meal, stayed in the kitchen.

Kollek led the conversation like a symphony changing the subject and the language to suit his partner. To his host he spoke of roadbuilding: "It'll take 10 years until we get a decent road out here, good schools, sewage. At least you have running water now; you never did before, right?"

To an author the talked publishing: "Naturally my book didn't sell so well -- the publisher didn't place a single ad for it." To a journalist it was public relations: "You want to know what's bad luck? Fifteen years ago, to make a gesture, Jack Javits decided to hold his son's bar mitzvah in Israel. And that's the week the New York Times went on strike. Now that's bad luck.

The reason for the lunch was never mentioned.

On the way back to the car, one of the guests ventured that she had never eaten so well in her life. Kollek struck a pose of mock dismay, arms bend upward, jaw dropped: "Would I invite you to a lunch that wasn't nice?"

The mayor sits in his office, wallpapered with maps of Jerusalem. At 68, he looks 15 years younger, and his vigor is that of a man in his prime. Here, where custom and climate dictate a midday nap, he works a 12-hour day, and then receives guests at home.

Only occasionally, when he dozes off during other people's speeches, does the fatigue show. Despite lined face and thick waist, there is still something rakish, flirtatious about him: "Would I invite you to a lunch that wasn't nice?" Wink.

Now, as he ponders the future of Jerusalem, the intricate solutions to a frustrating puzzle, his voice is weary. "Losing Jerusalem," he says, and the bloodshot eyes search the ceiling for an appropriate metaphor, "I would put it on a pair with the Holocaust."

As he makes this staggering comparison, there is a perceptible undercurrent of irritation in Kollek's voice. He is tired of explaining the same thing to so many people.

Twelve years of his 14-year reign as mayor have been in the reunified city, and he prides himself on his relations with the Arab population. While he is sensitive to their plight, he also thinks his administration has meant a giant step for their material well being. "We sometimes rub our victory in too much," he commented once. "The city is going to stay united. We don't have to say it six times a day -- and we do."

The sensitive issue of Jerusalem has been pushed aside in the ongoing negotiations among Israel, Egypt and the U.S. The State Department has never recognized Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem and to this day maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv, refusing to recognize Jerusalem as the capital.

Nor are the city's Arabs wholly satisfied with the sitution. "Mr. Kollek is very humane," says Ibrahim Dakkak, a Jerusalemite who heads the engineer's union on the West Bank, "but only as far as Israelis are concerned. When it comes to Arabs, I think he is just as bad as Mr. Menachem Begin. His sentiments cannot be hidden under his wonderful smile."

Futhermore, relations are practically nil between Kollek and the Likud government. "I think Mr. Begin is a terrible prime minister," says Kollek, "but he has done the greatest thing in history [by signing the peace agreement with Egypt] and I am praying for his health. He has to take it a few steps further before someone else can take over."

Are you consulted about the negotiations over Jerusalem, he is asked. "No," he says. It is the only one-word answer in an hour-and-a-half-long interview.

I would not yield . . . control of the Jewish or the Christian holy places if I were the premier of Israel. -- Jimmy Carter, speaking to Jewish leaders, May 1976.

"It's a charade, you know," says Kollek. "It starts this way. The Americans say they haven't recognized East Jerusalem. Well, it's ridiculous, they haven't recognized West Jerusalem either.They say East Jerusalem is Arab territory. The moment they say it Sadat must take a slightly stronger position, and the Palestinian Arabs must take a slightly strnger position than even Sadat.

"And Mr. Begin, you know, doesn't hel with his very vocal phraseology -- "the indivisible capital of Eretz Israle,' 'this city that never will be divided again.'

"All this unnecessary talking brings about a difficult situation. It leads to a war of words. It gives the impression that this is a beleaguered city. The public declarations and the reality are so far apart.

"I believe that 99 percent of the population are satisfied with the way this city is run. The State Departments of this world are causing the trouble -- especially the one in Washington."

Jerusalem. The broad stone steps of the Old City descending into darker, murkier alleyways, the fetid smell of too many people living too close together, the sides of beef hanging in the passages, which children brush as they make their way to the shops. The flies. The women, veiled in black, bundles of vegetables steady on their heads. The steamy pungency of Turkish coffee, permeating the dark cafes where men sit endlessly, playing backgammon.

And the western, newer part of the city, where stone building squat in procession down the boulevards, where pine trees and bougainvillea fight a ceaseless battle with rubble and concrete dust. The bustle of downtown, the crowded, tiny shops, the sea of baby carriages, the constant shouting match: Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, French, English.

Within a 10-minute walk of each other lie the holy places that have made the city the focal point of three religions:

The Holy Sepulchre, itself the scene of feuds between Christian sects, where the guard leads a visitor through the candle-lit vaults to a dark opening at the crypt and says in a hushed, awe-filled voice: "There."

The "Wailing Wall," the western wall of the Second Temple, where rocking, praying Jews dressed in black coats and furry hats stuff bits of paper into the crevices of the ancient stones with the same incantations that have been offered for over 2,000 years.

The Dome of the Rock built just above the wall, where hundreds, sometimes thousands of Moslems heed the muezzin's wail and kneel, barefoot, on the worn Persian carpets.

Above all: Sunset. The city glows hot, the stone buildings turn rose and violet. Who could voluntarily relinquish such a city?

Kollek arrives in his office at about 6:30 each morning and passes his first hours in comparative solitude, walking people up with his phone calls. Slowly, the secretaries and aides arrive, the letters pile up, the schedule gets overbooked. Expletives are heard as the mayor peruses the morning papers.

Rarely does he spend more than a few hours at his desk: the day is filled with meetings -- with the city council, neighborhood groups, visiting dignitaries, the constant flow of journalists.

Critics have complained that his efforts at public relations are invariably, at the expense of the city: "There's something wrong with his priorities," says Meron Benvenisti, Kollek's former deputy, now at Harvard and no longer on speaking terms with his former boss. "He doesn't care much for the institution of the city, he's impatient with the byzantine bureaucracy. He can't get a single donation for the sewage system, but he can get four parks."

To criticism of this sort, Kollek respons, "The fact is that everyone prefers doing what he does well."

While he strives to bring legitimacy to the city, he has also brought it glamor. His cultural projects -- the Israel Museum, the Jerusalem Music Center, a writers' and artists' retreat, an Aspen Institute session, the Jerusalem Book Fair -- have attacted big names from the arts, ranging from Arthur Rubinstein and Pablo Casals to Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor, and even to the leftist writer Simone de Beauvoir, who, after her visit, made a moving speech supporting the unity of Jerusalem .

Kollek has also escorted practically every show business figure, short of Vanessa Redgrave, around the city. One famous photo, which he included in his autobiography, shows him seated on the floor next to Marlene Dietrich, his nose approximately even with her perfect calves. That photo in particular did him no good with his coalition partners, the religious parties.

When he's finished with the meetings and the tours, Kollek is apt to bring home with him the last person or group on his agenda, and his wife is expected to be ready to entertain them. Tamar Kollek is used to serving as unofficial secretary and coordinator, and soother of the feelings of offended constituents.

The Kollek's phone is listed in the directory, Kollek, Teddy and Tamar. Jersusalemites do not hesitate to call, but they do so at their own risk.

One night at 11:30, when the mayor was in consultation with an aide in his study, an angry caller demanded of Tamar Kollek why a certain concert was given in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem. After inquiring pleasantly whether the issue merited a late-night phone call to the mayor at home, Mrs. Kolleck took down the complaint and passed it on to her husband. When the aide left, at 2 a.m., Kollek called the woman back and, with impeccable Viennese charm, explained why the concert could not be held in Jerusalem.

Of the constant interruptions and the way his job has consumed his personal life, Kollek says simply, "My family took it and understood it. My friends I have lost. But I've also lost patience for them." The Kolleks have a son and a daughter, both grown.

One other woman has stuck by Teddy Kollek through crisis and thunder, and she is Shula Eisner, his English-language secretary. Reached at 1 a.m. by telephone ("Can't talk now," she said repeatedly to daytime calls), she recounted with cheerful obscenity the start of her 14-year career with the mayor, who was, at the time, working at the Israel Museum, one of his pet projects.

"Actually, I just thought it would be nice to work in the museum; I was 19 and looking for any old job. One my way into the building, I passed a girl coming out in tears; I thought nothing of it at the time, but it turns out she had just been fired by Teddy.

"While I was filling out the forms, I heard his Hebrew-language secretary tell him, 'You better get along with this one, I'm getting tired of training new ones.' Of course I was terrified.

"Then he called me in and asked me my name, and when I told him Shulamith, he said, 'Well, I can't yell such a long name down the hall,' and that was the end of my name." If you ask her name today, she will tell you "Shula."

"At the beginning," Eisner said, "I found it hard to take his abuse. Once he was giving me hell for a mistake I didn't make and I finally worked up my courage and asked him 'Why are you yelling at me, I didn't type it,' and he answered, 'Because there's nobody else in the room.'"

Teddy Kolleck grew up in Vienna in a steadily increasing atmosphere of anti-Semitism. Born in 1911 to a middle-class businessman and the daughter of a merchant, he spent his early years traveling with his mother around Austria and Germany to wherever his father was billeted as an officer during World War I.

The young Teddy (he was named for the father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl) was tall and blond and easily mistaken for a gentile. But his family was observant, and assimilation was out of the question. A jew in Vienna had to make a choice, and Teddy made his at age 11, when he joined the first Zionist youth movement.

At first it was Hebrew songs and romantic stories about Palestine. Gradually it grew into a preoccupation. The parents of the young Viennese Zionists, who spoke a refined German rather than Yiddish, were aghast to see their children quitting school for agriculture and communal living.

The young Kollek, who yearned to go to Palestine, was put to work by his movement as an emissary and group leader, and spent his late teens and early 20s traveling around Czechoslovakia, Romania and Germany, making recruits. During this time he met his future wife, Tamar, who was 17 and newly won over to the Zionist cause. Romance blossomed, but they shunned the bourgeois institution of marriage.

Not until 1935, when he was 24, did Kollek get his certificate to go to Palestine. By that time, the larger stores in Vienna were refusing to sell to jews. He went alone, and in a hurry. Tamar came along some time later, and he married her despite his socialist ideals because her tourist visa was about to expire. They were among the founders of the Galilee kibbutz of Ein Gev, and Kollek became its first mukhtar . o

While the socialist life proceeded apace in Palestine, Hitler's armies marched. Kollek's parents escaped first to Prague, and then, in 1938, crossed the mountains at the Czech border on foot on their way to Palestine. In November of that year was Kristallnacht , the night of crystal, named for the glass that glittered in the streets of Germany during a massive pogrom that signalled the start of the slaughter of European Jewry.

Kollek was drafted again by his movement to save what young European Jews he could by getting them visas to Palestine. This work took him, in the spring of 1939, to a meeting with Adolf Eichmann, who agreed to his plan for getting Jews out of Austria on English entry permits. "He gave the impression of being a minor clerk," Kollek wrote of the encounter, "aggressive, not loud and not impolite. But he kept me standing throughout the interview."

A more important introduction for Kollek during this period was David Ben-Gurion, whom he met during a training session in London. At first the refined Kolleck was shocked by the inflammatory leader, who called the British "pigs" and said that only might would help the Jews. But he was also fascinated. Ben-Gurion became his mentor.

Kollek eventually returned to Palestine and moved through a series of intelligence and diplomatic posts, one of which involved the smuggling of war material to Palestine. Through the efforts of an overzealous associate, he found himself, at one point, with an aircraft carrier on his hands, which he was thankful to be able to sell for scrap.

After the establishment of the state of Israel, and a term as economic minister of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, he decided to take time out to study economics at Harvard. But he never even got to register: Ben-Gurion called him home to take over as director-general of the prime minister's office, a powerful position akin to the American presidential cheif of staff. Kollek held the job for the next 12 years, resigning a year after Ben-Gurion stepped down.

In 1965 Ben-Gurion finally broke with the Labor Party and established never run for anything in his life, was persuaded to stand for mayor of Jerusalem on the new ticket; typically, what excited him about the contest was the idea of one man facing an established machine. The position of mayor was unappealing in itself ("What will happen if you win?" his son asked him, "you'll be in charge of the garbage?") and Jerusalem at the time was a small border town, population 180,000, with a provincial air.

To Kollek's alleged suprise, the new party won as many seats in Jerusalem as did Labor, and he was able to establish a coalition with the religious parties. So, "for the wrong reasons," Kollek assumed the title of mayor. Within two years, the walls came tumbling down, and the job took on proportions to suit the man who held it.

Overnight Teddy Kollek became the mayor of 80,000 unwilling Arabs. And he was still in charge of the garbage.

So it was that, 14 years later, several factions converged on a Jerusalem community center: the housewives, in buns, long-sleeves, kerchiefs and eye shadow; the toughs, lanky in their black pants, with tight shirts unbuttoned to the navel; the men, yarmulked and serious. They came to meet the mayor, and they came angry.

At their last confrontation, a protest march in a city square, they had let the air out of all of Kollek's tires; a police car had to tow the sedan to a gas station.

Now the Shmuel Hanavie Council, representing a poor and largely Sephardic neighborhood, was gathering to present its demands in a more orderly fashion. But you could still sense the hostility in the spacious meeting room, with chairs jammed together around the circumference.

The neighborhood spokesman wanted the mayor to sit at the center of the room, but he took a seat near the door and refused to budge.

The women offered around trays of home-made oriental cookies, all honey and sesame seeds. "In case bitter things are said here," a spokeswoman said with a tight smile, "these are offered to sweeten them."

Kollek waved the cookies away. "I'm happy to be here," he told the room, "but I'm sorry it's as the result of an ilegal demonstration. Usually when people demonstrate, I try not to deal with the problem for two or three months, so it won't give the impression that we respond to demonstrations."

Now the battle lines were drawn. The issues, when they came, seemed unworthy of such emotions.

First it was the school crossing, then the placement of propane tanks, then the trash collections. Kollek slouched back, shifted position, drummed on the table. Suddenly he sat forward, giving the disconcerting impression that he was about to get up. The speaker halted, mid-sentence.

"Get on with it," said Kollek, and sat back.

After a particularly involved discussion of the placement of a pedestrian bridge, Kollek said plaintively, "So do me a favor, sit with my assistant, work out the details, sign the plan that you agree to, and he'll run with it. We don't need 60 people to discuss technical details."

In the corner of the room, one bewigged woman turned to her neighbor. "He goes right to the heart of the problem," she said in wonder.

Her neighbor smiled knowingly. "That's why he's mayor," she said.

Kollek, sitting wearily at the edge of a packed room in Shmuel Hanavie, would not have entirely agreed.