City of Ariel

Archive for September, 2007|Monthly archive page

Ariel’s 30th Anniversary

In Ariel Events on September 18, 2007 at 12:35 pm

In honor of Ariel’s 30th birthday, Ariel’s founder and Mayor, Ron Nachman, was interviewed to get a look at the past, present and future of Ariel through his eyes.

Q: You were the chairman of “Garin Tel Aviv”, the group of people organized to establish Ariel, and you led these first families to settle the fledgling community in 1978. What are some of your best and worst memories? 

A: One good memory I have is of great excitement right at the start. During Golda Meir’s government, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan called on the young people of Israel to do more for the defense of the country and for the settlement movement. 

We formed a group in the Israel Military Industries who wanted to take him up on that challenge and we responded to his call in a letter, telling him we were interested in forming a “settlement Garin”, a nucleus of potential settlers. 

He wrote us back very quickly and I remember how excited we were at receiving his letter. Dayan said he would help us to further our plans and encourage the government of Israel to allocate land for us, according to the government’s policies. That was a great day!

One of the worst memories from that time was the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War. Many of the original Garin members were called up and as history has shown, even though Israel was victorious, it was a terrible war with great losses for Israel. In terms of the Garin, it stopped all our activities and put our plans on hold for close to 4 years.

A really interesting aspect of Garin Tel Aviv was that we decided to adopt the methods that the Kibbutz movement used to screen potential residents: this was socio-metric testing for both men and women, questionnaires to fill out, home visits and we charged monthly membership dues. In short, we made great demands of the people who wanted to join us. And yet, almost 6,000 people joined and they fought to be among the first to settle. There was a real spirit then that showed that young Israelis had values. They wanted to do for their country. Those are the values that made Israel “a light unto the nations.” 

If I look at recent years, the worst thing that happened since Ariel was founded is that Israeli politics have eroded those values. Since Israel was reborn, leaders like Ben-Gurion regarded settlement as one of the key elements in creating the Jewish homeland – Aliyah (immigration), security and settlement were the critical factors in creating the Jewish State. 

Since Oslo, however, the idea of settlement has been denigrated and belittled. Let me make this clear: without settlement, there would be no Israel. Moreover, the left began accusing us of being “occupiers” but if this is our land, if we have the right to this land – and we do – then we are not “occupiers”, we are the rightful owners of the land. 

Q:  You have been the elected Mayor of Ariel for 23 years and now, you are running for another 5 year term. What have been:

a)     Your most important accomplishments in 23 years

b)     Your regrets or disappointments during that time. 

a: There is no doubt that the most important accomplishment is that we built a city from nothing – and we did it against all odds. Despite the political discrimination and the years of being “frozen”, we built a city that far surpasses any other founded in Israel at the time. The City has an amazing array of services and facilities that provide a wonderful quality of life for the people who live here. And we did it because it was the right thing to do for Israel – the Zionist spirit lives here. And we get confirmation in the reaction of every visitor to Ariel… “Wow, I did not expect this”… “This has been the highlight of my trip”… “This is so different from what the media shows”. 

Another very important decision we made was to bring Russian immigrants to Ariel. They doubled our population and created the critical mass that truly makes a city viable. Moreover, strengthening the Zionist spirit for immigrant absorption is the mandate of Israel. 

No less important was the development of a university in Ariel. Ariel University Center, with over 10,000 students, has made Ariel a university town and that is invaluable. I have family in Princeton, New Jersey and always see a parallel when I visit. There is a very special quality to a college town. 

What cannot be emphasized too much is the fact that in building and developing Ariel, we have secured Israel’s borders and retained Samaria for the Jewish people. I think that overall, that is by far our most important accomplishment. 

b. In terms of regrets, I think I would have to say I am disappointed that we have not yet become a population of 30,000. Even though that is primarily because of the continual building freezes, I still feel responsible. 

Q:  What are your goals, your hopes for Ariel, in the next 5 years? 

A:  I have many goals and hopes for this wonderful city but I think I can categorize them into four main topics: 

  1. To expand Ariel to a population of 30,000 within the next 10 years. 
  2. I feel we are on the right path to making Ariel’s educational system one of the best in Israel and I hope to make progress toward that goal in the next 5 years. 
  3. I want Ariel to be known as a healthy city. Here in the mountains, with clear air, there is no reason we cannot become leaders in ecological development and in our concern for the environment. 
  4. By the same token as the home of Israel’s 8th University and the first to privatize and develop the R & D Center established by the government for Russian immigrants, Ariel can and should become known as a leader in the development of R & D, new start-up and hi-tech industry. 

Q: In another 30 years, when people talk about Ron Nachman, what do you hope they will say? 

A: I hope they will remember me like the people of Nes Ziona remember my grandfather –as the man who built a city. Ariel really is my life’s work. I gave up many other opportunities to be the mayor of this city. I hope I am remembered for my consistency – of opinion, of vision and of achievement.

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Jerusalem – Israel’s Indivisible Capital

In Letters on September 18, 2007 at 11:08 am

Dear Friends,

It has been two years now since the “disengagement”, when Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, gave away all the land and destroyed the lives of thousands of Israelis. This was supposed to be “land for peace”. Instead of peace, however, we got daily Kassam missile attacks.

You may recall that when Ehud Barak was Prime Minister of Israel, he ordered the Israel Defense Forces to withdraw from Southern Lebanon in one night. The Arab world viewed this as a sign of Israeli weakness, just as they viewed our signing of the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn several years before. The late Prime Minister Rabin, Yassar Arafat and our current president, Shimon Peres received Nobel Peace prizes. The Israeli people received tragedy and bloodshed.

What more proof do Israel’s policy makers need? How many more Israelis have to die before they understand that “land for peace” does not work?

President George Bush’s vision for the establishment of a Palestinian State has not been realized. Neither Egypt, when it occupied Gaza, nor Jordan, when it occupied Judea & Samaria, would agree to create a legal Palestinian entity because they knew that a Palestinian land would threaten their own existence. Western leaders, both American and European, do not comprehend that you cannot impose Western norms and values on the Middle East.

There is only one possible solution. Egypt must annex Gaza and Jordan must annex some Arab controlled parts of Judea & Samaria, while the rest is annexed by Israel. Moreover, the Arab world would have to invest heavily in both northern Sinai, Egypt’s territory, to create employment for residents of Gaza and in the Jordanian held parts of Judea and Samaria for the Arabs in those areas. Furthermore, we need an agreement on population exchange to create and ensure defensible borders for Israel.

In 1918, the Balfour Declaration was opposed by the Arabs because they objected to the idea of Jews returning to their Homeland. They responded with an “Intifada” in 1929 and again in Hebron in 1936 and two more times, in 1947 and 1948, before and after the U.N vote on partition. The Arab world opposed our existence then and its attitude has not changed since. Their three conditions in every negotiation since 1949 have remained the same:

1. The establishment of a Palestinian land in all of Judea & Samaria.

2. Jerusalem to be the capital of that land.

3. The Right of Return for Arab “refugees”.

Friends, Israel is approaching its 60th year. It is time for the free world to stand firm with Israel in its existential right for secure and defensible borders. That means it is time for the U.S., Canada and the European countries to move their embassies to our capital city, Jerusalem. It is time for them to accept the fact that Jerusalem will never be an international city. A simple step like this would encourage the Arab nations to come to terms with Israel as a sovereign nation, with its undivided capital in Jerusalem. If I had to choose a single prayer for the New Year, this would be it. Unfortunately, I remain somewhat skeptical because of the ongoing energy crisis and because of the West’s dependence on Arab energy sources.

This 60th year for Israel (and 30th for Ariel) comes in the midst of great potential for change in this region. What the ramifications of those changes will be is hard to predict. Eventually, the US will leave Afghanistan and Iraq. How will that affect the Middle East? What will happen when the leadership of the surrounding Arab countries change? It is clear that in volatile times, Israel can only truly count on itself, the IDF, the Israeli citizens and hopefully, the United States.

As we usher in the New Year, I wish the leaders of Israel the ability to lead this great country to new levels of integrity and morality, the wisdom to guard individual rights and develop all that is good in this nation so that we can say this is truly a wonderful place to live.

And to you, our dear friends around the world, I wish a year of good health and happiness, prosperity and peace and pray that I can count on your continued support.

Shana Tova,

Ron Nachman

Mayor of Ariel