(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel will not bow to threats from the European Union, Science, Space and Technology Minister Ophir Akunis said Sunday at ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new heritage center in the West Bank city of Ariel dedicated to its former mayor Ron Nachman.
“I want to send the EU ministers a message from here, the city of Ariel. No step or decision that you take will remove us from our land,” said Akunis.
He spoke on the eve of a Monday meeting in Brussels of the EU Foreign Affairs Council in which ministers are expected to debate additional steps against settlements in Judea and Samaria such as Ariel.
“Do not lecture or threaten us; this does not impress or frighten us. Do not label or boycott us; you already did that,” the minister said.
“Learn from history and be embarrassed,” he added.
“We are in Ariel, in Judea and Samaria, in the Negev and the Galilee and we are here to stay,” Akunis continued.
Looking out the large windows at the city of 18,400 people spread over the hill opposite the new center, he said: “We can see from here the greatness of Ariel with its university and cultural center.”
Those who want to destroy the city located in the heart of Samaria will not succeed, he added.
Nachman, who was 70, when he died of cancer in January 2013, is buried just outside the new heritage center, which is made up of two small one-story buildings.
Although three years have passed since Nachman’s death, Akunis said it is hard to believe that he is gone, saying the mayor would often call him after a Knesset debate and that, at times, he still finds himself waiting for that phone call.
A visionary and a deep believer in the Jewish right to settle Samaria, Nachman was one of Ariel’s founders.
Photos of Nachman in the 1970s helping to place the community’s first caravans on the hilltop had adorned the walls of his office, where he would recount to visitors tales of those early years.
Nachman was elected to head the community’s council in 1985, and when Ariel was recognized as a city, he became its mayor, a post he held until his death.
“He was the embodiment of the prosaic phrase, he could move mountains. He did it on a daily basis,” Akunis said.
Nachman never stopped working, even while undergoing chemotherapy.
“The city of Ariel was his great love and pride,” said Akunis. “There are not that many people about whom you can say, he built a city with his own hands.”