PM praises Nachman as a man of vision and action

At Ariel mayor's funeral, finance minister says Nachman's final thoughts concerned assurances that Ariel would be hooked up to the Shaftdan.

Ron Nachman 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Ron Nachman 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
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.
The 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 wreaths.
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.
“That was Ron Nachman,” Steinitz said, “a brave, beloved person who was totally devoted to his city.”
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 mourning laws.
He asked the government in Ron’s name, to finish the Ariel National Development Leadership Center, in whose park they now stood.
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 by grief.
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 said.
Only a few weeks ago, Ariel’s institution of higher learning was finally accredited as Israel’s eighth university, Netanyahu said.
This city and everything in it, exists because of Nachman, Netanyahu said.
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 in 1998.
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 Israel.”
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.
Nachman was 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.
“You were among the few who could turn a dream into reality, nothing was impossible.
But your dreams were not for yourself, they were for others,” she said.
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.