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Israel Ludwig saying Hamotzi (with JNF Man.-Sask. President Jessica Cogan)

Cottagers in the Interlake welcomed the return of the annual JNF Manitoba/Saskatchewan ‘Breakfast for Israel” to the Lakeview Resort in Gimli, after a two-year absence (when it has held at Camp Massad). A tasty kosher buffet was catered by Gunn’s Bakery. The guest speaker was Nomi Levin Yeshua, and her topic was ‘From Teddy to Trump: Challenges and Opportunities in Jerusalem’.

Nomi Yeshua made Aliyah 27 years ago, from Vancouver. She landed in Jerusalem educated but jobless, and through a fluke connection via a family member immediately found employment in the office of Mayor Teddy Kollek... not that she wasn’t qualified for it. Naomi’s secondary school years were spent on Kibbutz Kfar Blum. Her BA in Political Science was received from the University of British Columbia. Naomi’s position  in Mayor Kollek’s office was ideally suited to her skills. She went on to serve with a number of institutions in the city, in fundraising and marketing and, along the way she received a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Tel Aviv. Naomi became Director of International Fundraising for the Jerusalem Foundation.She  is now Chief Development Officer and Director of the Canada Desk, and serves as liaison to Mayor Nir Berkat. This was not Naomi’s first visit to Manitoba; in November 2015 she addressed a group in the Kroft Boardroom of the Asper Campus.

In her talk Naomi explained that the Jerusalem Foundation was Teddy Kollek’s brainchild, founded shortly after he was elected mayor in 1965. (He served until 1993 - a total of 28 years.) Kollek realized he needed a way to circumvent the municipal and financial hurdles which were preventing the city’s development and he wanted to allow Jews everywhere the opportunity to participate in the city’s growth. During the early stages of his vision he provided parks and green spaces in some of the most impoverished areas of the city, a vision which ultimately grew to include overall enhancement of the city, beautifying it and modernizing it for the benefit of all its citizens regardless of race or religion; providing parks, gardens, educational programs; establishing theatres and museums; restoring heritage sites and places of worship; sponsoring scholarships and cultural events; polishing the city into a veritable Jerusalem of Gold.

Shortly after assuming the position of mayor, Teddy Kollek faced an enormous challenge in the aftermath of the Six Day War, which brought about the reunification of the city. Up till then Jerusalem was run by two municipalities - one under Israeli statehood, the other under Jordanian occupation. Facing the challenge, Mayor Kollek saw more than just territorial unification; he wanted a city with equal opportunities for all, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or religion. He immediately reached out to the newly incorporated communities, providing the aid and relief sorely needed in the early weeks of their joining the State of Israel. Residue of that challenge still exists. Joint participation and cooperation between east and west is still hard to come by, but Mayor Kollek’s non-political, inclusive, and balanced perspective continues to motivate the Jerusalem Foundation’s leadership.

Enough momentum, built up through the vision and efforts of its founder, plus the loyalty and enthusiasm of its donors, provided the Jerusalem Foundation with a strong enough impetus to carry it through the terms of the next two mayors, Ehud Olmert who served ten years, and Uri Lipolianski, who served five. The current mayor, Nir Barkat, formerly a businessman, was elected in 2008, reelected in 2013, and is stepping down this coming election to pursue a seat in the Knesset. The citizenry of Jerusalem will be hard pressed to find another person with the love of his city and the staying power  of a man like Teddy Kollek. Where would the city look for its next Teddy, who at 6 a.m. would be walking the streets, checking which ones were in good shape and which ones needed attention, and to whom the cabbies beginning their shifts would shout: “Hi Teddy!”

The fund raising emphasis of this year’s midsummer brunch in Gimli was the Teddy Kollek Park Project. Opened in 2013, it was of course named in memory and in honour of this long serving, beloved mayor, who died in 2007 at age 95. (His devoted wife Tamar died in 2013 at age 96. Something about loving Jerusalem seems to lead to longevity.) The park is situated opposite the Old City and David’s Citadel, and is integrated with the Hutzot HaYotzer Artists Complex in the Mitchell Parks and Gardens. During construction, antiquities were discovered: a Roman water cistern, a Byzantine complex, and a 19th century structure that has been incorporated into the park. In keeping with Teddy’s mandate from the beginning of his development of the city, top ranking architects were engaged for every phase of the design. Last year a user friendly fountain was opened. It’s actually a splash fountain that orchestrates animated water, sound, and lighting, affording children the opportunity to scamper and play in it, in lieu of a seashore - an amenity the city lacks. Picture running through a myriad of sprinklers.

As with all the landmark attractions of Teddy’s era, (Liberty Bell Park, for instance) Teddy Park is meant to, and does, attract citizens from all of Jerusalem’s cultures, and tourists from around the world. There is a mingling here from every segment of Jerusalem’s ethnically and religiously varied population with visitors from everywhere on the planet. JNF Canada is generously partnering with the Jerusalem Foundation in the Teddy Park Project. It will be participating in the restoration of the historic 19th century building, as well as adopting two of the park’s gates. It is heartening to see Zionism and philanthropy so staunchly supported by Canadian Jews.

The speaker touched briefly on the improved attitude of President Trump toward Jerusalem, as opposed to President Obama, illustrated most recently by the decision to move the American Embassy there. By and large, the reaction of the Jerusalem population is to shrug its shoulders and carry on, as it does with most every critical happening. The brouhaha in the press and on the streets is just what happens, and simply must be borne. Time passes, circumstances change, Jerusalem is eternal.
An obituary on January 2nd, 2007 in the New York Times, stated: “Teddy Kollek, who as mayor of Jerusalem for nearly three decades, did more to build and develop the city as Israel’s capital than any other figure, while promoting coexistence with a sometimes hostile Arab population.” The Times of Israel, writing a few years ago on the 50th anniversary of the Jerusalem Foundation, perhaps said it best: “Iconic mayor Teddy Kollek envisioned a streamlined and transparent process for advancing Jerusalem, 4,000 projects later, it’s still going strong.”

Here is a montage of photos from the event:


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