Ariel founder Ron Nachman to be buried

PM: He was entirely devoted to the revival of the Jews in their land and to the construction of a flourishing city in Samaria.

Ron Nachman 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Ron Nachman 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
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 very much.
“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.
“It has 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.
He recalled 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 accredited university.
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 2010.
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 Adumin.
Nachman was often blunt and undiplomatic as he spoke out against those who argued that Israel should withdraw from Ariel.
“Ron Nachman’s vision is stronger than [US President Barack] Obama’s vision,” he said.
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 said.
Nachman was first diagnosed with cancer in 2009. Initially treatment appeared to work.
But then the cancer returned.
In a 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.
“You understand what people are telling you, but you can’t respond,” he said.
But after two days, he added, his power of speech return.
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 conflict.
In the Channel 1 interview, Nachman explained how he derived hope from the orchids that he grew in a hothouse outside his home.
“This 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 hands.
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.Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.