As he lay dying in the hospital Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman, 70, called Finance
Minister Yuval Steinitz to say good bye and make a final request for his city,
located in the heart of Samaria.
“I want to say that it’s hard for me to
talk, I have tubes in [my] mouth. It could be that this is my last battle. I
want to tell you that I love you very much,” Nachman told Steinitz.
finance minister stood over Nachman’s grave on Sunday evening as the sun set
behind him. Steinitz recalled for the hundreds of mourners this last
conversation with the city’s first and only mayor.
The founder of Ariel
was laid to rest on a ridge overlooking the West Bank city after a four-year
battle with cancer. His freshly covered grave was covered high with floral
An iconic political warrior with a lion’s heart, Nachman first
pitched a tent on the city’s then barren hills in 1978. He devoted the rest of
his life to developing it into a world-class place to live; building a cultural
center, a sports complex and an accredited university.
As Steinitz spoke,
two large flags, one for the state of Israel and the other for Ariel, fluttered
behind him. He explained that he visited Ariel more than any other settlement
because Nachman was so persistent and infectious in his push to bring
politicians like himself to Ariel.
“Do you want to know what he spoke of
with tubes in his mouth, what pre-occupied him during his last days?” asked
Steinitz. He wanted assurances that Ariel would be hooked up to the Shaftdan,
the nation’s largest sewage treatment plant, Steinitz recalled.
Ron Nachman,” Steinitz said, “a brave, beloved person who was totally devoted to
Nachman’s brother Don, added in another request, as he stood
by the grave, his black shirt torn by the collar as is customary under Jewish
He asked the government in Ron’s name, to finish the Ariel
National Development Leadership Center, in whose park they now
Then bursting into tears and covering his face with his hands, he
said, “I love you so much my brother,” as he fell down on the ground, overcome
At an earlier part of the funeral that drew thousands of
mourners under a large white tent further down the hill, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu recalled that he first met Nachman in the 1980s while serving as
Israel ambassador to the UN.
Nachman arrived at his New York office in
sandals, talking of building a university in a Samaria community that would one
day be a city, Netanyahu said. He asked for a loan of 50 dollars, to help him
with a fundraising trip to Los Angeles, Netanyahu recalled. He was skeptical,
but became a believer when Nachman returned with pledges for hundreds of
thousands of dollars.
“I said, this is a special person, someone who
combines vision and action,” Netanyahu said.
“A generation later, we can
say that Ron, to our happiness, lived to see his dreams fulfilled,” Netanyahu
Only a few weeks ago, Ariel’s institution of higher learning was
finally accredited as Israel’s eighth university, Netanyahu said.
city and everything in it, exists because of Nachman, Netanyahu
Nachman and the city are so entwined, he said, that to “say Ariel,
is to say, Ron Nachman.” He noted that he had the privilege to be prime minister
when Nachman realized one of his dreams, Ariel’s official recognition as a city
Nachman was so devoted to Ariel, Netanyahu said, that even when
he was sick with cancer he continued to work on its behalf. Even during his last
days in the hospital, the called a radio station annoyed because it not properly
referenced Ariel University.
Netanyahu said three years ago, he planted a
tree in Ariel on the holiday of Tu B’Shvat.
“I swear to you now,”
Netanyahu said as he stood on a stage with Nachman’s coffin, “This tree will
never be sacrificed.” He added, “With God’s help, just as Jerusalem will remain
our eternal united capital, Ariel will remain an integral part of the state of
Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett recalled how Nachman took him
on a tour of the city when the first met.
He told him it was important to
erase the use of the word occupier from the lexicon.
“You can’t be an
occupier in your house,” Bennett recalled Nachman saying.
elected to head Ariel in 1985, when it first became a council, and became its
mayor over a decade later when it became a city. He was a Likud parliamentarian
in the 13th Knesset and voted against the 1993 Oslo Accord. But he left the
Knesset for Ariel, when a new law, made it illegal for a parliamentarian to
simultaneously serve in local government.
Together with his wife Dorit,
Nachman brought up four daughters, one of whom Irit, eulogized him.
were among the few who could turn a dream into reality, nothing was
But your dreams were not for yourself, they were for others,”
Even in his battle with cancer, “your spirit continued,” Irit
said of her father. “You were my advisor and my guide.
“You were brave,
honest and direct,” she said.
Up on the hilltop, at the funeral’s end,
singer Motti Giladi sang a song he composed for Nachman, “A dear man like
yourself, will outlive your death, your name lives on in your city, that breaths
because of you.”
Then he added a well known English verse, “Good bye my
friend, it’s hard to die, when all the birds are singing in the sky.” As he
sang, a flock of birds flew past and disappeared into the distance.