Since the death in January of 70-year-old Ariel founder and mayor Ron Nachman – the only mayor the city has really known – the battle for the seat is more between competing personalities than competing ideas.
Of the four candidates running – incumbent mayor Eli Shaviro, 55; Hana Golan, 62, former director-general of the municipality; councilman Yosi Chen and local lawyer Ariel Azaria – emerging as the frontrunners are Golan and Shaviro.
The biggest difference in both campaigns is residents’ perceptions of the candidates.
Golan is seen as a continuation of the past. Her campaign slogan is literally: “To preserve the legacy of Ron.”
Supporters say Golan’s experience working so closely with Nachman and a tough personality make her the only person who can get things done.
Yet, critics cite these same attributes as her downfall. People say her straightforwardness comes across as cold and that her vision for the city will not take into account what citizens want, but what Golan believes is in their best interest.
Both candidates want the same thing for Ariel, which is an extension of Nachman’s vision, for the city to be a destination of young families and a center of business, culture and education, irrespective of the contestation of its location 16 km. over the Green Line.
Conversely, for many residents, the fact that Shaviro is new – he ran against Nachman in 2008 and only lost by a few hundred votes – brings a fresh perspective to how the city can be run.
At Nachman’s passing, Shaviro was elected by the city council to be acting mayor. His first notable achievements were assigning a new head of the Education Department and creating projects that bring together university students with Ariel’s pupils to work on robotics projects.
Residents say Shaviro is approachable, his slogan is: “We are all ‘Arieli,’” and people say when they speak, he listens.
However, critics say they don’t need a friend; they need a leader and don’t believe Shaviro possesses the gall to fight for Ariel the way Nachman did, or the way Golan plans to.
One of the first tasks the next mayor will have to face is the alleviation of overcrowding on busses. Residents say this is caused by an influx of Palestinian workers and has resulted in wait times of up to two to three hours.
Security and safety are a concern as residents say they feel uncomfortable riding on a bus carrying a majority of Palestinians and only a few Israelis. Golan has proposed separate busses, one that goes directly to Ariel and the other through the Arab villages.
Shaviro rejected the idea of separation and has secured funding, already implemented additional busses to run during peak times.
Ariel was established as a settlement in 1978 on a rocky hilltop with two tents and 40 families. Under Nachman’s leadership it grew to a fairly large city in a short span of 35 years. It boasts a population of almost 20,000, an accredited university, a large sports complex and a performing arts theater, all established under Nachman’s leadership.
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