A healer in the Holy Land

February 04, 1993

The name of Jerusalem's mayor, Teddy Kollek, was misspelled in an editorial yesterday.

The Evening Sun regrets the error.

It's not often that a whole nation expresses dismay at the thought that one of its mayors will retire. Less so if the nation is Israel and the regret is shared by Arabs. But that is the reaction at the thought that Teddy Kolleck, the long-time mayor of Jerusalem, may really retire this time.

If anyone can claim to have won a modicum of trust from both Jews and Palestinians, it is this great bear of a politician. And if anyone else in the Middle East is to do the same, Teddy Kolleck is not a bad model.


Mr. Kolleck, now 81, has been mayor of Jerusalem since it was reunified by Israel in the 1967 war. An ardent Zionist who rejects the idea that the holy city will ever be anything other than the capital of Israel, he has nonetheless striven to be the mayor of all its people -- Jew, Muslim and Christian alike.

He hasn't been entirely successful, and there are critics who will say he did not try hard enough. But given the deep divisions between Jews and Arabs in Israel and the intensely political nature of anything that affects Jerusalem, he has been more of a healer than any other official who comes readily to mind.

His recipe for stitching together a city whose fabric is ripped by fear and mistrust is to provide as equitably as possible to all its inhabitants the municipal services and other amenities that make urban living attractive. The city is so bitterly divided that the United States doesn't dare merge its two consulates -- one in the old, pre-'67 old walled city and another in the largely Jewish section around it.

The balance of public investment tips heavily to the Jewish part of the city, and many old Arab neighborhoods still lag behind. But the bulk of the money Mr. Kolleck has to spend comes either from the budget provided by the Israeli government or from a foundation he created that is financed overwhelmingly by Jews around the world.

When the time finally comes for Israel and its Arab neighbors to make a lasting peace, Jerusalem will be the highest hurdle. Mr. Kolleck's present term does not run out until next year.

Not even his broad back is strong enough to bridge the gulf between Israelis and Palestinians by itself. A few more leaders on both sides with his vision and courage could help realize his dream of a city at peace with itself.

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