An Institute is Born
By Ora Ahimeir - The Founding Director
Three decades ago, Professor David Amiran invited me to establish with him The Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. I could not imagine then that I was entering into a life-long adventure, and that thirty years would go by like a few days, usually good and fascinating days. That beginning had the typical characteristics of a "start-up" (although we were not familiar with the term then): An exciting idea - to establish an institute devoted to policy studies on Jerusalem, with little money but a one-time grant from the Jerusalem Foundation; a willingness to settle for modest conditions - and on the other hand - abounding good-will on the part of public figures who served as our founding team, and a great love for Jerusalem that brought together all those who assisted at the birth. As is the case with a "start-up," it was not clear which was stronger - the motivation of the founders or the need of the market for such an institute. Independent policy institutes in Israel were almost non existent, some wobbly beginnings sparked here and there and soon faded.
It was Teddy Kollek, then Mayor of Jerusalem, who conceived the idea. His devotion to the city and his understanding of its complex and unique problems led him to the conclusion that Jerusalem needed an academic, professional Institute to review the establishment, to propose ideas and solutions, and to serve as a reservoir of information about the city. As in the case of other important institutions that he founded in the city, Kollek strove to build an Institute that would have vitality and continuity, and mobilized the best people around the idea. Among the public figures who volunteered to act alongside Kollek for many long years were the President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Abraham- Abe Harman, Mrs. Ruthie Cheshin of the Jerusalem Foundation, Prof. Ruth Lapidoth, Professor Joshua Prawer, the Director General of the Ministry of the Interior Haim Kuberski, the Vice President of Bank Leumi Baruch Yekutieli Prof. Moshe Sicron, and Prof. Arie Shachar. All contributed greatly to the building and functioning of the Institute.