After losing his battle to cancer, Ariel’s first and only mayor, Ron Nachman,
will be buried at 3 p.m. on Sunday in the Samarian city that he dreamed of when
he helped to pitch two tents on a rocky hilltop in 1978.
In the 1990s, he
gave up his Knesset career for Ariel, when a new law forbade politicians from
serving both as a council head and a member of parliament.
In the last
few years of his life, he continued as mayor, even as he fought bladder cancer,
taking calls, including from reporters, in the hospital as a chemotherapy needle
was stuck in his arm.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who plans to
attend the funeral, said upon hearing of Nachman’s death at age 70 on Friday,
“Today, I have lost a dear friend. Ron was a great Zionist patriot. I loved him
“In his vision, he established and built up the city of Ariel.
He was entirely devoted to the revival of the Jews in their land and to the
construction of a flourishing city in Samaria.
“Until his last moments,
he worked to strengthen and develop Ariel.
“We recently spoke about the
recognition of a university in Ariel and he was very excited over an additional goal that he had secured for settlement in Israel,”
the prime minister said.
For Nachman, devotion to Ariel and the State of
Israel was part of his family legacy.
Nachman’s family was among the
founders of Ness Ziona, where his father was the deputy mayor.
been my privilege to follow in the footsteps of my forebears, and to create a
city in Israel, named Ariel,” Nachman said in an interview for a video produced
by the Ariel Municipality for his 70th birthday last August.
how in the early 1970s, he answered a call from then-defense minister Moshe
Dayan to settle the area.
“When the defense minister told the young
people of Israel to take up two standards: the standard of settlement and the
standard of security, I and two other guys, we went and found a settlement unit.
I named it unit Tel Aviv, because we were connected to that city,” Nachman said
in the video.
He recalled how “Ariel and Lilly Sharon showed up and told
us the Americans had given the green light to create six security outposts.
Sharon banged on the table and said, ‘Go up there in uniform, go in civies, go
naked, but go!” When Ariel’s first government, a local council, was formed in
1985 and elections were held, Nachman became its head. In 1992, as council head,
he also won a seat on the Likud ticket for the 13th Knesset, where he was among
those who voted against the 1993 Oslo Accord.
“It will bring bloodshed,
not peace,” he told then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. “I want to see peace, but
what will the price be?” In 1998, when Ariel’s status was changed to a city,
Nachman became mayor, a post he held until his death as he worked to make it the
rival of any community around the world.
Under his leadership, the mixed
religious and secular city of close to 20,000 residents absorbed 9,000
immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
In the past
decade the city has become home to a cultural center, a sports center and an
In the past decade, although he remained a staunch
member of the Likud, Nachman often fought against its policies, including the
2005 Gaza withdrawal and the 10-month moratorium on West Bank housing starts in
While politicians, including prime ministers, often came to Ariel
to pledge support, they provided his city with fewer construction permits than
the three other West Bank cities – Modi’in Illit, Betar Illit and Ma’aleh
Nachman was often blunt and undiplomatic as he spoke out against
those who argued that Israel should withdraw from Ariel.
vision is stronger than [US President Barack] Obama’s vision,” he
He even invited Obama to visit Ariel.
In a Channel 2
interview, he spoke of his battles against cancer and the diplomatic forces
opposed to Ariel.
“In both cases there is a lot of uncertainty, medical
uncertainty in one case, and political uncertainty in the other case,’ he
Nachman was first diagnosed with cancer in 2009. Initially
treatment appeared to work.
But then the cancer returned.
Channel 1 interview done in December, he said he knew the cancer was back when
he went to the bathroom during a trip abroad in February 2010 to raise donations
for Ariel and saw a blood clot.
“I was already two-and-a-half years after
an operation, after chemotherapy, after they removed all my insides. I was
cancer-free for a year. Then suddenly it returned, and then I had a worse
problem. I had a stroke and lost the ability to speak,” he said.
understand what people are telling you, but you can’t respond,” he
But after two days, he added, his power of speech
During his illness, he became close with famed actress Anat Gov,
who lost her battle to cancer in December, even though they were on opposite
ends of the political spectrum when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian
In the Channel 1 interview, Nachman explained how he derived
hope from the orchids that he grew in a hothouse outside his home.
hothouse is always blossoming and renewing. It gives you hope for life, for the
battle you are waging,” he said as he smiled and opened and closed his
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “Ron Nachman was a leader, a
stormy figure and a friend who built Ariel almost from scratch. He was a public
servant, whose heart and mouth were always in line.”
Tzipi Livni, who
heads the party bearing her name, said, “Ron Nachman fought an inspiring battle
against a terrible disease, in exactly the same way he fought for his values
throughout his entire life. We disagreed on many issues, but I always knew to
appreciate his determination and tenacity, and his readiness to follow the truth
until the end.”
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said that Nachman not only
dreamed of building the Land of Israel, he did it.
“Ron did not build the
country out of hatred or a desire to harm another nation, but rather out of love
and faith, just like Israel’s founders,” Rivlin said.
staff contributed to this report.