JERUSALEM, Israel – Ron Nachman, a former member of Knesset and the mayor of the Samarian town of Ariel, died on Jan. 18 after a three-year battle with bladder cancer. He was 70.
Nachman served in the 13th Knesset on behalf of the Likud party. He gave up his seat in the 1990s, when a new law forbade politicians from serving both as a council head and a member of parliament.
In 1978, he helped establish Ariel, which today boasts a population of about 20,000 people, making it one of Israel’s largest West Bank cities. A mixed religious and secular city, in recent years Ariel has become home to a cultural center, a sports center and an accredited university. Despite his illness the outspoken and often undiplomatic Nachman continued to serve as mayor until the time of his death.
Upon learning of Nachman’s death, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “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.”
In an interview for a video produced by the Ariel Municipality for his 70th birthday last August, Nachman 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.
When Ariel’s first government was formed in 1985, Nachman was elected its head. In 1992, he also won a seat in the Knesset, where he was among those who voted against the 1993 Oslo Accord. In the past decade, he often opposed the policies of his party, Likud, including the 2005 Gaza withdrawal and the 10-month moratorium on West Bank housing starts in 2010.
According to the Jerusalem Post, during his illness Nachman became close with the noted Israeli actress Anat Gov, who lost her battle to cancer in December, even though they were on opposite ends of the political spectrum.
In learning of Nachman’s death, 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.”
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,” said Rivlin, “but rather out of love and faith, just like Israel’s founders.”
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