City of Ariel

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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  1. May Ron’s memory always be for a blessing.

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