When a car squealed to a stop alongside her, the American tourist who was about to pick a rose from the flower bed near the Knesset froze in her tracks. "What do you think you're doing?" demanded a portly man who jumped out of the vehicle.
"It's just one flower," she replied.
"What if every tourist picked just one flower?" he asked.
That man was Teddy Kollek, the former mayor of Jerusalem, who died January 2, 2007, at age 95. The outspoken Kollek served as Jerusalem's mayor for 28 years. Under his guidance, Jerusalem grew from an underdeveloped city to a world-class capital. And yet, he never lost touch with Jerusalemites.
"I was never interested in the greater politics, but only in what I can do personally," he said. That personal touch was always evident-from the multiple times he rose before dawn to greet Jerusalem's garbage workers, to the frequent occasions he answered citizens' complaints on his home phone.
Kollek improved Jerusalem's education and health systems, planted greenery, built houses and synagogues, and encouraged archaeological research. His influence led to the construction of virtually every cultural institution in the city, from the Biblical Zoo to the Israel Museum. He devoted himself to restoring Jerusalem's grandeur because, as he once said, "Jerusalem is the one essential element in Jewish history. A body can live without an arm or a leg, but not without the heart."