City of Ariel

Posts Tagged ‘Mayor Ron Nachman’

Israeli Youth Center Combines Faith, Fun in Ariel

In Ariel City, International on July 19, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Israeli Youth Center Combines Faith, Fun

By Chris Mitchell

CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief

July 16, 2010

ARIEL, Israel – A partnership between Jews and Christians is building a one-of-a-kind youth training center in the heart of Israel.

“It will be the center for youth leadership in Israel,” said Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman.

The facility uses physical challenges, teamwork and the Bible to teach principles of leadership — a concept that came about after a group of Israeli teens visited the JH Ranch, a Christian retreat center in the U.S.

“Every time I come here, I’ve done these things a couple of times and it’s fun again and again,” one visitor at the Israeli center said. “You learn things about yourself that you didn’t know before. You overcome fears. It just makes you better.”

When the group returned from the JH Ranch, Ariel says the young people “changed their whole behavior.”

“And mothers said to me, ‘what I did not succeed to do with my child in the last 16 years, you did it in two weeks,'” he added.

Nachman is excited to welcome a similar training center to Israel’s biblical heartland.

“There’s nothing like that in Israel. And the concept… is the key. [It is] the essence of everything. It’s not just climbing the high ropes or something,” he said. “Beyond it, there is a whole theory of a concept of how to enrich the child, boy or girl. How to enrich a leader, how to enrich a community, how to enrich a country.”

Heather Johnston and her husband, Bruce, direct the JH Ranch. They suggested the idea to Nachman for a national training center for Israel’s youth.

“He agreed that maybe this would be a great idea and so he came to JH Ranch,” Heather explained. “He is the one who really had burst the vision in the nation of Israel for this.”

The program – endorsed by Israel’s Ministry of Education – is based on the characters of the Hebrew Bible.

“Leaders like Abraham, Moshe and Esther and all of these leaders who really rose up at climactic times in Israel’s history — how did they relate to God?,” Heather said of their vision.

Israelis want to develop what they describe as a “Joshua Generation.”

“A generation that can come forth with a real new dynamic inside themselves, [a] spirit of courage and of faith and God and an understanding of who they are in relation to themselves, the nations and also the world,” Heather explained.

The Israeli leadership center is just a few months old and so far, only a few hundred have attended the course. But the goal is for thousands of Israelis to go through the center.

Nachman says developing the facility has been a remarkable partnership of Christians and Jews.

“Without the connection… and relationship between us and our friends — the Christians in the United States — I could not raise the park.”

The center has already had an impact on the kids. “If you want to enrich the young boy or girl, you need to give them some values to escort them for the rest of their life,” Nachman said.


Ariel’s Mayor Nachman Addresses Knesset

In Ariel City, National on June 29, 2010 at 10:57 am

Low Turnout For Knesset Meeting On Freeze Damage



Likud speakers among the most critical of government policy.

A Monday Knesset conference on damages incurred by the partial building moratorium was characterized by a small turnout, but those that did show up were treated to impassioned speakers.

The conference, sponsored by the National Union, was attended by MKs from a number of right-wing parties. But it was the Likud speakers in attendance who were among the most critical of the freeze.

“It is illegal for us to have been elected to the Knesset with a clear platform, but [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu is following a different platform,” said MK Danny Danon (Likud), who also stood behind last week’s Likud Central Committee resolution in favor of building in the West Bank.

“If it had been written in our platform that there would not be any building in Judea and Samaria, I would not be in the Knesset today, and Binyamin Netanyahu would not be prime minister,” Danon said. “The public elected the Likud after the uprooting of the disengagement because it knew that we would not exchange land for peace.”

Danon called on the heads of regional and city councils in the West Bank to work within the framework of the political parties, and to ensure that settlers and those who support them continue and increase registering new members “with all of the Zionist parties.”

“The biggest danger is all those who say that they are tired and that political activity did not help in Gush Katif,” Danon continued, referring to the main settlement bloc in the Gaza Strip that had been removed during the disengagement.

“If we allow despair to continue, we will have to struggle against the prime minister.

There is a majority within the general public for the rightwing position, and I call on the public to get involved.”

Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman was equally emphatic, telling the fewer-than-100 attendees that “I have no faith in the Supreme Court, I have no faith in the justice system and I have no faith in the law enforcement system. There was a state of neglect – after the orders for the [construction] moratorium were issued, there were no instructions given to the police.”

Nachman said that “the big cities like Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim had been turned into outposts,” adding that there was a “serious problem with the stupid policies of the government and the courts’ decisions.”

Nachman went on to say that he was “skeptical” about statements of what would happen in September, when the moratorium is scheduled to end.

“I see the situation as serious, but the only thing that can help is MKs from the Likud,” he said, “Nothing else will help until the Likud recovers. If the Likud does not understand that the building moratorium is the second Gush Katif and does not fix the situation through Knesset legislation, the government will take control and receive the Supreme Court’s support.”

What the conference did not manage to do was present a general assessment of the damage caused by the moratorium. As with previous assessments, only partial information was offered.

The head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip said that the settlements in his council were suffering from a shortage of 3,000 housing units.

“Three months before the end of the freeze, it is clear to everyone who was involved in the decision or in its execution that this has been a terrible mistake from the perspective of security, diplomacy, settlement, economy, morality, values and education,” said National Union Chairman MK Ya’acov Katz.

Letter from Ariel’s Mayor Ron Nachman: Israel Under Siege

In International, Letters on June 3, 2010 at 7:11 am

“The world needs to open its eyes.”  — Ron Nachman, Mayor of Ariel


Mayor Ron Nachman of the city of Ariel in the Shomron, Israel, on the current ‘flotilla’ crisis, Iran, the international community, the media, and the myriad of threats facing the State of Israel.

Israel is at war.

This war is a very different war than those that we’ve known in the past.

The Arabs understand that they cannot break Israel on the battlefield. Time after time they’ve tried, and time after time they’ve failed. But they are not planning on giving up. To compensate for their failed strategies they’ve chosen to operate on two alternative fronts, each of which poses a fierce challenge to the continued existence of the State of Israel.

The first front is the Iranian nuclear weapons program.  Ahmedenijad speaks aloud of his desire and intention to annihilate the State of Israel, and the world remains silent. While the United States suggests imposing sanctions of little consequence, the Arabs stand by, mocking Western naiveté and foolishness. Of course, this should not be new to us. The world was also silent as the Nazi’s rose to power before World War II. They didn’t want to hear about the threat of the Third Reich. They didn’t believe that Hitler would act in accordance with his words. They opted for appeasement, imagining that the problem would dissipate on its own. The world was silent, and they were horribly wrong. Today, too, the world is silent, even while Israel’s very existence is being threatened.

On the other front, the Arab world has mobilized itself with a sophisticated anti-Israel propaganda campaign. They use each and every media tool available as a platform for their message: television, radio and mass media are only the beginning. They enroll university students to sympathize with their cause, and equip them with the tools to instigate provocative demonstrations and misconduct. They use the façade of international organizations as a vehicle for funneling money to serve their cause, primarily with backing from European countries and, to a degree, with American funds as well. Under the guise of international law they seek to discredit and ultimately destroy the country whose existence they refuse to acknowledge or accept. What they can’t accomplish through direct confrontation they seek to achieve by creating a new, multifaceted public relations battlefield.

This insidious campaign has an underlying and unifying theme. Its proponents seek to convince the world that Israel is a racist “apartheid” nation. In truth, it is the Hamas, not Israel, that controls all of the Gaza Strip. It is the PLO, not Israel, that controls the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria. And yet, it is Israel who bares the blame for the circumstances of the Palestinians. When Israel builds a defensive fence with the goal of self preservation in the face of terror, the world cries out.  When Israel retaliates in reaction to years of relentless attacks and thousands of rockets fired from Gaza, the Security Council lashes out with claims of war crimes. The Arab world uses the United Nations, The Hague and international pressure to disparage, undermine and delegitimize Israel.

The anti-Israel propaganda campaign reached its apex with the Turkey-endorsed attempt to penetrate the Gaza blockade. The comprehensive media stunt broke all records. The aggressors spoke of “peace” and “humanitarian aid”. Unfortunately, the “aid” that they had aboard ship paled in comparison to the weekly aid that Israel provides to the Gaza Strip, and the “peace” that they spoke of was demonstrated by their brutal premeditated attacks on the Israeli Defense Forces. Sadly, the IDF simply didn’t understand just how far these people were prepared to go in order to delegitimize Israel.

Instead of sitting down at the negotiating table they insist on waging war. Instead of recognizing Israel’s existence they invent new battle grounds. Instead of launching a direct attack they use civilians and the media to do their dirty work. They will do whatever they can to isolate Israel from the world community, until it stands alone in the face of a nuclear threat. Their plan is very thorough and well coordinated. And what does the West do? They keep silent. When oil and money are involved nobody wants to threaten the Arabs.

Now, more than ever, the world needs to open its eyes. Danger is imminent, and we cannot keep silent. At a glance, Israel’s borders may seem reasonably secure, but more and more of the world is gradually putting Israel under siege. Boycotts, sanctions, relentless pressure from the media and the United Nations continue their encroachment. We cannot and must not remain silent.

I urge you to speak out. Speak out for Israel. Speak out for democracy in the Middle East. Speak out for the one and only Jewish Homeland. Speak out because it’s the right thing to do. Speak out because you care. Speak out, because silence is not an option.


Ron Nachman

Mayor of Ariel

City on a hill: A tour of Ariel with its indefatigable mayor, Ron Nachman, who has big plans for the place he built from scratch

In Ariel City on May 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

A tour of Ariel with its indefatigable mayor, Ron Nachman, who has big plans for the place he built from scratch

By Dea Hadar


Bulbs were the only thing that stood between me and the orchid greenhouse of Ron Nachman, mayor of Ariel. Since the unfortunate affair of the bulbs six months ago, the greenhouse has been closed to the media, the mayor explained apologetically. The incident in short: Upon returning from the United States, Ron was apprehended at Ben-Gurion Airport with 20 orchid bulbs from rare species worth thousands of dollars in his luggage. The bulbs were confiscated, the narcotics division of the Customs Department opened an investigation, and Ron confessed.

“They wanted to catch me in a vicious way for something beautiful that I received as a gift. They obviously made a mountain out of a molehill,” he says. “Personally, I’d be very glad to host you. The blooms right now are amazing. You’d be in shock. You’d see how a mayor starts his day at six in the morning looking over the greenhouse; it opens the soul. Either you do things seriously or you don’t do them at all.”

Ron has been working with orchids for 30 years. “Usually, this family of plants reproduces by means of all kinds of replications,” he says. “I breed them. It’s a challenge in this region. You have to overcome obstacles. I like challenges. But as for exposing the orchids, I’ll have to consult with my lawyer. I know what the media’s like.”

I told him I wouldn’t ask about the bulbs and that I’m not a crime writer. I actually have experience in writing about orchids. In fact, for some time now I’ve been trying to crack the secret of this flower’s special charm, which makes people lose their minds. At any rate, in the months since the airport incident, new corruption scandals have grabbed the headlines. The bulbs story sounds almost quaint. I don’t know whom Ron consulted with, but he soon got back to me and invited me to an Independence Day ceremony and a visit to the greenhouse.


Friday, 10 A.M. We passed through a checkpoint, arrived at Ariel and the sports center on Ha’atzmaut Street. This was where the local preschool’s ceremony would be held, the first stop on a jam-packed day. A tour with Ron of his city, the bedrock of his existence – a wild ride, like a trip to an amusement park.

I wasn’t planning to let fly a barrage of hard-hitting questions. It was difficult to get a word in edgewise anyway. I let Ron lead the way on this journey, and went with the flow as he veered from frustration to pride, to imagination, to hope, to the wild visions of war and utopia seething in his brain. “A day in the life” with Ron, a fascinating, endlessly energetic man, impervious to facts that don’t mesh with his expansionist ambitions. He resolved as a young man to build a city in the territories, and 38 years later heads that city, which has tens of thousands of residents – living proof that his visions are not all pie in the sky.

Hundreds of people sat in the audience and about 300 preschoolers filled the floor. For Ron, it was the second ceremony of the day (not counting his daily orchid ritual in the morning ). “There wasn’t enough room for everyone, so we did it in two shifts,” says Ron, instructing the cameraman from the community television channel to film him.

Etti Cohen, who was in charge of the proceedings, explained that it was important to select a concept for the ceremony. This year’s theme was Hatikva – Past, Present and Future. “The national anthem – the whole ceremony is built around it. You see the rationale here,” Ron added, busy doling out handshakes and pats on the shoulder. “I used to know everybody here. I don’t know everyone now, but everyone knows me – That’s about 19,000 people, plus 11,000 students. Right now we have a critical mass of preschoolers here. Suddenly you see all the kids with their parents, a melting pot. It’s very hard to build a city and even harder to build a community. I’ve been doing it for 32 years already. You must figure out a way to create an infrastructure, a common experience – that’s the whole trick.”

Ron explained that he operates according to a method he invented: “Vertically, it means getting involved in each issue from the foundation up to the roof; horizontally, it means taking a holistic approach in which the whole city is a single unit. We’re all human beings. Equal opportunities. And despite the [settlement construction] freeze, I’m happy to see internal growth. Look at this,” he says holding out an arm as “My Land of Israel is Beautiful and Blossoming” played. “My hair stands on end every time I see the children who are growing up here. I’m the only one from the city council who came to the ceremony, and then people are surprised that I’ve been elected six times in a row.”

Ron turns out to be something of a serial name-dropper (“I was Kirschenbaum’s manager … I got Dan Shilon to retire at age 42 …” and more ). He speaks with a surprising degree of candor, at once cognizant of and oblivious to the media. It’s hard to believe that he’s been in politics for decades. He looks young for his age, 68. “The secret is keeping active, creating something. To love making something out of nothing. I was a Likud MK, but I left the Knesset. Should I stand at a podium and debate or should I be out here, building this nation? What’s more beautiful? What’s more important?” A bearded, redheaded man with a skullcap, director of some fundraising project for the city, comes up to him and Ron hands him a check. The man thanks him, speaking with an American accent.

“And we have a country, and we have a city, and we have a home, in the Land of Israel …” The children marched with flags and sang. With gold-colored cardboard doves dangling from their tiny wrists, they danced to the tune of “If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.” “The children sing like Shlomo Artzi,” says Ron with emotion. “But it’s important to instill discipline and coordination, from when they’re very young throughout their whole lives.”

“It’s like the graduation parade from an officers’ course,” said his wife Dorit, who sat to his left. Ron ascended the stage, waving to everyone on the way as another tune played in his honor: “Happy birthday to the country, To you we’ve brought a gift … Congratulations to you Israel, Your beauty we can only admire.”

“You all know I’m crazy about that song,” he began. “First off, I want to thank all the soldiers, men and women … Our heroic army deserves a round of applause! And we hope that at last Gilad Shalit will soon return home … These children here, they are the foundation; this is what the entire future of the State of Israel will be built upon … I wish us all a year of quiet, of love and peace, of hope. A more loving, more supportive, more beautiful Israel. Happy holiday!”

He returned to his seat, between me and Dorit. We stood at attention while the flag was raised. “Three and four-year-olds singing ‘Hatikva.’ The hope of the State of Israel. Optimism. Radiating optimism. What you invest in them, you’ll get back. These are my voters 20 years from now. Half the people here are immigrant families, Russians – How do you give them a sense of patriotism? You create something from nothing, so they’ll identify, so they’ll be part of this country, and enlist in elite units. I don’t need all that jawing in the Knesset without getting to the root. Where inside the Green Line do you see something like this?”

Columns of male and female soldiers marched by and saluted. “Lookouts,” said Ron. “The ones who make sure that the terrorists don’t make it to you in Tel Aviv.” A female soldier gave a speech: “It melts our hearts to see the children of Ariel singing, waving flags … ‘Flowers in the rifle barrel, and girls in the turret’ (another popular song ).”

“You see, in the settlements they want peace,” Ron whispered. The ceremony continued; more songs were sung. “I was born for peace … Peace, peace, peace on Israel … Blue-and-white aren’t just the colors of the flag, perhaps we’ll know beautiful days of tranquillity …”

Can we look forward to days of tranquillity?

“There’s going to be a war,” said Ron with assurance. “The Americans aren’t going to do anything with Iran. Israel is going to stand alone.”


The ceremony ended, and from there Ron made his way down Ha’atzmaut Street to a huge gray building at an advanced stage of construction, soon to be Ariel’s cultural center. “I’ve been working on this for 21 years because of the freezes, a 550-seat auditorium. Noam Semel (head of the Cameri Theater ) told me he wants to do the first play here,” says Ron. “Ariel is different from all the settlements around. We’re like them, like Herzliya, exactly the same thing.”

There is a difference.

“The difference is that we don’t have rich people and they don’t have immigrants. And despite the socioeconomic situation, we’re doing things just as well. It’s a lot more significant. We deserve a medal here. Fifty percent immigrants, fifty percent couples who have nowhere else [affordable] to live. And all without help from the government. But there’s no whining here, no self-pity. We’re a smart city, the whole city is computerized, there’s WIFI. Now let’s go to the Etgarim (“Challenges” ) Park.”


In the car, Ron keeps talking either about the freeze or about growth. Everything we see from the window reminds him of one or the other of the two opposite forces at work in his city, and put him into a kind of manic-depressive state with a half-frozen smile. “There was no law here. I brought the law here. We pay income tax, national insurance, all the laws relating to debt apply to us.” He pointed out the wadi through which a sewage pipe was supposed to pass, but it was also subject to the freeze. “So there’s no sewage line, no development, and there was supposed to be a mall there, and now the mall is stuck too. Barak is suffocating us. If we were some illegal outpost … something outside the law. But you come here, you see a city, not a settlement. Why hurt a city?” he said angrily, as we kept racing toward the park that was built against all the odds. “This freeze is something that’s impossible to keep to. It’s crazy. We’ve got 17 factories on hold. It’s completely irrational. If my daughter got married and wanted to come live here, she couldn’t do it. Real estate has gone up a lot. Of course, this freeze isn’t something new. It started in ’92. Rabin froze us and we haven’t come out of it since then.

“When I first established the city, I was the head of a garin (core settlement group ) in Tel Aviv. Sadat came to Israel. And then Arik Sharon called on us to settle here. I was 30 and I decided I was going to establish a city. I wrote about my vision – that if there wasn’t massive settlement in the autonomous area, our fate would be like that of the settlements in Sinai. Peres, who was defense minister then, supported us. Then he was a hawk. Rabin was a dove.

“With all our troubles, we still managed to build Etgarim Park,” he says as we enter the park – 400 dunams (he says ) filled with all the latest climbing equipment. American and Israeli counselors, all wearing helmets, had gathered around one of the installations – climbing, hanging off it, attached to ropes and nets. The Americans in Nike socks, the Israelis in Hike underwear, all engrossed in a training exercise, absorbing values, being strengthened. “High ropes, low ropes, a 750-meter zip-line – there’s nothing like it anywhere in Israel. It all came from America, a $2 million donation from American Christians. You don’t see this kind of thing anywhere else in Israel,” Ron boasts.

At the Hanukkah ceremony, he gave a speech: “To donors Heather and Bruce Johnston, owners of the JH Ranch in northern California. The National Center for Leadership Development in Ariel was established with the aim of training and nurturing teens and young people to become the leaders of the future, shapers of public opinion … I shared with Heather and Bruce my thoughts about establishing such a project in Israel, where every teenager would be given the chance to undergo the experience, to come to the recognition that values is not a dirty word and a leader is not a freyer [sucker], to use the slang term. I found partners for this ‘madness’ – Heather and Bruce supported the idea with great enthusiasm and started enlisting supporters and raising funds for the project …. In the Education Ministry I found people who shared my vision and together we developed a unique values-based educational model. The idea made waves and Wingate College, Oranim Seminar, Beit Berl, the Sport Administration and many more fine organizations joined us …”

Now Ron gazes up at the three flags waving over the climbing apparatus – Israel, Ariel, the United States of America. “A U.S. flag here in the settlement,” says Ron. “The ranch in California was based on a Christian model. Here we did a local adaptation: the Ten Commandments. Heather is the moving spirit behind the whole thing. It’s her vision.”

What is the vision?

“To create a better future,” Ron replied, and then he called: “Heather, please come here.”

A slender woman with a cool stare approaches us. Heather says that the ranch she and her husband run has enjoyed 30 years of success. “We trained one group last year,” says Ron. “We want to get to the point where we have 40,000 youths here a year. Daily training, twice daily, and tents. And it’s meant for everyone – Jews, Druze, Arabs, the disabled.”

Shlomi, one of the counselors, explained about Apparatus 747, which you climb and then leap 10 meters in the air. Before the climb, they tell the story of David and Goliath, about overcoming huge fear, and encourage people to take that lesson to heart. And the Odyssey-Exodus from Egypt Apparatus – “It’s 100 meters, this thing,” Ron interrupts him. “It’s like an IDF officers’ course to lead a unit.” The park will also have programs for fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, couples, bar mitzvahs.

“People leave here after a week with something different,” says Heather, who is frequently on the Ariel-California routes and landed here most recently three weeks ago, with a delegation of about 50 people. She is staying at Ron’s house.

“They’re freezing us – Fine, now we’ll bring thousands of youths here,” Ron continues. “I received a demolition order on this last year. I said – Tell me, have you lost your minds? Mr. Ehud Barak is the master in Judea and Samaria, he gives the orders. I don’t speak to him anymore, I’ve cut off contact with him. When the plan isn’t complete then ostensibly there is no legal validity to this thing. The defense minister doesn’t let the process be finished, the same Mr. Barak who hasn’t paid a single visit here since assuming his post. They want us to stop living. The approval process is stuck. This park – Who is it hurting? How is it hurting peace?”

Country club

On a hill across from the park stands a row of closely built houses, all in the same style, “British cottage,” according to the mayor. The Sheriff of Samaria gets in his car and zooms over to the next attraction, as a torrent of project ideas and memories comes spilling out of him in an emotional rush. Love knows no reason, ambition has no bounds. Before I’m able to fully get a handle on the park’s legality, Ron is on to talking about Lake Kinneret: “I’m in favor of coexistence. All the Arab villages drink water from the Kinneret, I hooked them up.” From there he jumps to a train that will cross all borders: “I want a train that will go from Tel Aviv to Rosh Ha’ayin, to Ariel, Nablus, Jenin, and hook up with the Valley Train …”

What about checkpoints?

“With a train there are no checkpoints. The whole security issue is a lot simpler.”

Perhaps you’re not seeing the big picture?

“All those who look from afar at the Oslo idea, territory for peace – the concept doesn’t work, there’s a fundamental bug in the system. It’s a disaster. The one who’ll make peace is Ron Nachman with the neighbors. Was there peace before we were here? These things have always been here. Jordan occupied [the land], no one talked about that. Only since then is it called occupied territories. Why is it okay for the British to be in the Falklands and not okay for us to be in Ariel?”

What do you propose?

“Having a third party in the middle is not possible. Gaza will be annexed to Egypt. It’s no problem to swallow a million and a half Gazans, who will travel south in the morning instead of north. I think that Jordan is the Palestinian state; the only way to safeguard security interests is through an agreement with the Jordanians. The area would be divided between Israel and Jordan. But Abdullah is afraid of the Palestinians. The whole ‘two states for two nations’ nonsense is Obama, an empty slogan. It’s five states for two nations.”

Who is in this quintet?

“Israel, Jordan, Judea and Samaria, Gaza-Hamastan and Ahmed Tibi, i.e., Israeli Arabs. That’s five. This is the outcome of the [peace] process.”

The tour of the area gives the impression that there is another emerging regional superpower: Guzi, “Hair at Another Level” – as billboards and bumper stickers proclaim all over town. “Guzi,” says Ron, “Is this guy who was born here, a Yemenite who married a Russian and moved to Florida and built up a business there. I brought him back to Ariel, persuaded him to return home. I get my hair cut at Guzi, too. His salon is at the country club.”

He stopped in the parking lot of the very impressive sports center, which he says was built a year and a half ago with an investment of NIS 40 million. The name Rosa Hearst graces the entrance. “She gave us $100 every year and then she left us half a million in her will.” The complex is adorned with plaques noting the generous contributions of American donors who helped make this particular vision of Ron’s a reality.

Ron: “Everything here is from donations, I didn’t receive a cent from the state. Since we’re in Samaria, all the establishment folks don’t get involved here, there’s a political boycott. So do I just sit down and say, ‘Woe is me’? No! I travel to the United States and I raise funds. It’s an amazing country club here, there’s nothing like it anywhere in Israel.”

From here, Ron took us to get a quick impression of the first Cafe Cafe coffee shop in Samaria. “Did you ever see a Cafe Cafe like this one?” he asked rhetorically. He went up to a young family sitting at a table with an interactive screen and amiably asked where they were from. “Keda,” the father replied warily. “Where’s that?” asked Ron. “One of the hilltops of the Shiloh bloc.”

Ron smiled broadly and walked on. Later he said: “I’m not in favor of the outposts. Gain an outpost and lose a city. It hurts us. We need to strengthen what we have. The world doesn’t understand – no one understands, they lump everything together. They see Ariel as part of the settler movement. The actual situation is completely different. There is such ignorance. They think we have horns. Naomi Chazan [president of the New Israel Fund] didn’t get enough horns, it’s the least of what she deserves.”

At the salon, a man sat in a chair, mid-haircut. The famous and energetic hairdresser abandoned his work to welcome the journalists to his place of business and explain all the options available to customers: massage, Botox, hair coloring, anything to do with hair, including permanent hair removal. We surprised a woman lying on a table in one of the treatment rooms, but she affably humored the proprietor as he continued giving his tour. How has Guzi made such a name for himself in Samaria?

“I have a company that runs public relations for me,” the hairdresser explained. While the customer waited for the rest of his haircut, the mayor sat down in front of the mirror and he and Guzi staged a haircut scene for the camera.

From there we went to the swimming pool. “Look at all the Russian folks sitting in the Jacuzzi, in the pool,” Ron said. “Shulamit Aloni gave me a million shekels to form an orchestra with the Russians. Shulamit and Ora Namir recommended me for the Israel Prize. I’m very active in environmental projects. I also did a lot of projects with Yossi Sarid. We were friends, but now he makes me angry.”

Ron urged me to go inside and take a look at the women’s locker room. We split up and met on the other side, where there was a spacious, high-tech gym with rhythmic Russian music playing and a display window featuring all kinds of protein powders. A Russian trainer came to greet us and affirmed that “Ron does all the exercises that real men do.”

Ron wanted to talk about a gym twice the size, nearly 1,000 meters, that would be added to the country club in the coming months. “There will be 6,000 members. There are already 4,400 and another 1,500 are on the waiting list. It’s called the Sport and Community Center. It’s a complex and a community center, like a JCC. It’s all part of my method.”


We passed by a neighborhood of caravans. “These are the folks from Netzarim, 26 families with 8 to 10 people per caravan, the poor things.” The Gush Katif evacuees don’t really mix with the city’s population, the mayor said somewhat indifferently and then went on to focus on his Ariel, a world that is all rosy, except for what’s frozen and who’s doing the freezing. “And on this side there’s no sidewalk – another legacy of Rabin’s freeze. This hill over here is frozen too; it’s very bad. Rabin was our disaster, he and his discriminatory policy.”

He shows some strategic points along the route: cement defensive walls (betonadot ) that Sharon brought in from Russia; the Laser Institute, with lasers that have something to do with Reagan’s Star Wars plan; an advanced technology incubator that engineered a plant that makes pilotless aircraft; the university campus; the Atir Yeda industrial zone (until it was frozen ); and off in the distance the settlements of Yitzhar and Har Bracha.

We drove through a brand new neighborhood of houses. Arab laborers were working on some of the buildings. When we reached the end, Ron parked in a parking lot. We got out, stood on a lookout point, and gazed at a landscape that appeared untouched except for the winding separation fence, a firing post and some scattered horses. “This is the start of a zoo. There’s going to be a zoo here,” Ron suddenly declared. “Rabin put up a fence that barely stops chickens. And over there is the Barkan industrial zone. And that’s Salfit, an Arab village. I used to get my hair cut there. Tommy Lapid used to laugh about how I wasn’t afraid to put my neck under an Arab’s knife. Salfit used to be called the Moscow of the territories. They were Communists, they went to Russia, they married Russian women. There’s no contact with them anymore. And over there is Highway 5. Arafat invested in terror, then Israel invested in the road. And as you can see over here, these are neighborhoods that were frozen in ’92. Bibi permitted building to continue in ’96 and then Barak froze it again in ’99. I feel sympathy from the present government; it has a different attitude, after I felt discriminated against for years.”

What animals will the zoo have?

“Gazelles, ibexes, 120 animals, an animal preserve, 5 kilometers.”

What about the Arabs?

“I’m not touching Arab territory.”


Ron is a tough nut to crack. His stories are fascinating, yet full of contradictions and gaps. He stopped to drop in briefly at the mayor’s office, which, unlike the huge monstrosities he’s building around the city, turned out to be a modest, one-story structure, more Histadrut than Oval Office. Inside there is an aquarium with dazzling fish that look you straight in the eye.

Ron pulled out a photo album commemorating the establishment of Ariel. “I’m fourth generation, my family founded Nes Tziona in 1883. In ’77, I started Ariel with two tents. It’s my life’s work.” He excitedly recalls those romantic early days, flipping ahead to a picture showing him as a young man with his family outside a tent, accompanied by an English inscription saying that there was no running water, and only a generator for electricity, but there was faith in the future.

“There were rocks and sand here,” he says as he leafs through the album. “I received letters of approval from Peres and Weizmann; the Ministerial Committee for Settlement Affairs decided to approve [Ariel’s] establishment. I’m not the one who decided. We were called upon by Moshe Dayan, the defense minister. Young people were exhorted to volunteer then. We waved two flags, one for security, the other for settlement. It’s a terrible feeling that instead of being perceived as pioneers, as ones fulfilling the dream, as those leading the camp, they’re trying to make us into a punching bag of occupation. If I had built this city in the Galilee … ” he trails off, pondering the joint decision to build Ariel and Carmiel.

“It suits Labor and Meretz to give priority to the Galilee and the Negev. What about us? We’ve been erased, Judea and Samaria. Is the Negev blooming? The Galilee? What came of this declaration from 18 years ago? Why does it always have to be the Galilee and the Negev? The same ritual, zimmerim [country lodging] in the Galilee. I want there to be zimmerim here, for you to come here to a zimmer in Ariel. Will you come? Bring the whole newspaper …”

You’re not Herzliya, you’re not Amirim, I wanted to say, but instead I gazed at the walls covered with pictures of him together with VIPs: Schwarzenegger, Putin, Sharon, Barak in his chief of staff uniform, Bibi.

“There’s outside pressure on Israel. I told Tony Blair that I want to be the vanguard of coexistence,” he said. “The Obama administration is anti-Israel. He comes with a whole doctrine that was prepared beforehand, the Jews around him are all Peace Now people, American Peace Now, together with Israel’s biggest enemies. They’re in regular contact with Israeli leftists and journalists – Beilin, Barnea. Their plan didn’t go anywhere. Beilin’s platform didn’t garner support in the elections, the Israeli public is smarter than that. So they go to Europe, to the United States, and they recruit support there to implement the Geneva plan.

“Obama wants to curry favor with the Muslim world at Israel’s expense. His Jewish pals want to implement by coercion a policy that the Israeli voter did not consent to, and this is completely anti-democratic. I don’t know if Obama really has any idea what Ariel is.”

And then there is Ron’s America. On the wall there is a framed shiny key to the city of Beverly Hills, and another gold key from the JH Ranch, complete with a quote from the book of Joshua and an English inscription: Given to Mayor Ron Nachman. Be strong and courageous for you shall lead these people to inherit the land.

Doesn’t Ron find Heather a little scary? He insisted that he doesn’t. Does he feel comfortable taking money from Evangelical Christians? She’s here for her own reasons, after all. “That’s her business,” said Ron. Jesus Christ, redemption, the war of Gog and Magog – Ron’s got other problems. “Anyone who gives money, who loves Israel, I support him. The money goes straight to the project.”


“I’m mayor all the time,” Ron declared.

How many hours a day do you work?

“Yesterday, Heather’s husband called at eleven at night, and I started this morning at five. Every morning I get up and read the newspapers.”

We arrive at his home. The modest lower floor is filled with the intoxicating aroma of home cooking for the Friday night meal. Dorit was less forthcoming than her husband. Maybe she just worries that he talks too much, and wants to protect him. She said to tell Ron not to touch the meat, that she already turned it over, and then she disappeared, leaving us in the living room, surrounded by the turtle collection that seems to adorn every part of the house. A crystal turtle hiding behind an iron turtle. Ron went to the computer desk, which besides turtles, was surrounded with family photos – children, grandchildren, happy occasions. The computer is devoted completely to the greenhouse, continuously monitoring everything that is happening with the orchids, round the clock.

On the screen, a graphic proclaiming “Ron Nachman’s Greenhouse” appeared with numerous figures: humidity rate, temperature, times. It all looks very complicated. The greenhouse itself, visible through glass sliding doors, is actually split in two, one small and basic, the second large and more advanced. Both brimmed with orchids. Outside are orchids hardy enough to survive a biblical climate. Ron led the way into the greenhouse, picked one of the countless blooms suspended from the ceiling – a loud pink orchid the color of an Yves Saint Laurent gown. “Haim Yavin was here and said it was very sexy. I asked him, ‘Did you reach an orgasm?'”

He’s not a freak for rare species. Nor is this a botanical garden meant for casual strolls. There are simply orchids upon orchids, densely crowded together, a surfeit that makes it practically impossible to see, to breathe, to move freely, to relax. That’s not what Ron is after. It’s the meticulous process, the monitoring, the supervision, the control, the breeding, the flourishing – that’s what he’s here for.

“I breed them, cut them, divide them so they’ll increase. Every night I read about them, like the Torah. There’s endless material: getting to know all the families, all the species. People who raise orchids are usually creative. It’s no easy feat. It’s no big thing to do this in Florida or Thailand. To grow this kind of plant on this mountain, however, you have to give them conditions similar to their lands of origin. I look after them, I examine the medical condition of each and every one – if there’s rot or not, insects, pests. Every day at six in the morning I make sure that everything is okay. In the evening I check again, look at the information that’s collected on the hothouse computer about what happened during the day. The sensors are working all the time. I told you that I like challenges. That’s the best fun there is. There are people like my wife who collect turtles, but that’s inert, it doesn’t talk. Orchids are different. I love them, I talk to them, and they respond to you. There’s a dialogue. Like the kindergartens … I do a simulation of the growth. I love anything that blossoms.”

This stubborn insistence on growing something in an unnatural environment, by force, somewhere it’s not supposed to be. Does he see the greenhouse as a metaphor for Ariel?

“There is something to that. We took the ‘Mountain of Death’ as the villagers called it – What did the sheikh from the village next door say? Not even a donkey would agree to tread on these rocks. There was nothing here. And from out of the wilderness, with a pioneering spirit, atop a bare mountain where there is nothing, you build a city from scratch. It’s a feeling of creating something from nothing.

“Ariel is not a settlement in the familiar sense of the term. It’s something completely different. People are always saying occupation, occupation, the area is under PA rule, not Israel. Lod, Ramle, the German Colony, Wadi Nisnas, the Peres Center. When they say occupation it basically means conquest. Ramat Hasharon, that’s the next stage after we finish with Judea and Samaria, that’s Tibi’s line. Since the PA was established, the Fatah people came and took over all the wealth at the expense of the villages. In the Arab villages, they want to be a part of Israel.”

What’s the next project?

“I want to create something like a utopia park here, for someone who comes to Ariel to go to Etgarim (Challenges Park ) and then take a mountain bike and ride to the animal preserve. But I’m talking about more than that, a park utopia with birds, orchids, turtles, like Costa Rica. It’ll take about $10 million to do it.”

On Sunday, Ron called to report that the orchids had had a tough weekend. “The air pressure pipe burst, and the pressure made it fly into the greenhouse, cutting off orchids, beating on the side of the greenhouse. I cut off the electricity. I was alarmed. I worked the whole day yesterday. I activated the compressor. Some of the flowers were cut, but they’ll recover.”

And then he started talking about a pilot that he and Shari Arison did together for the Essence of Life project, about changing patterns of behavior. “We’re good friends, Shari and I. She said we’re a smart city, she was very impressed. I appear in her book, ‘Birth.’ Like attracts like. Criminals are drawn to criminals. People who do good attract good. Sometimes I end up getting stabbed in the back, but in the long run it pays to be good. In a job like mine, where you’re dealing with tens of thousands of people, and the relationship between voter and elected official, you can’t fool the public all the time. It’s a matter of credibility.”

Later in the week, he flies to America, on tour, while his Blackberry keeps him connected to the greenhouse. Maybe he’ll pave the way to his utopia.

Ariel: From 2 Tents to a University Town

In Ariel City on April 19, 2010 at 4:57 am

( Mayor Ron Nachman of Ariel says that in spite of the position of Israel as a whole and the Samarian city in particular, he cannot be fully happy this Independence Day. Interviewed by Arutz Sheva’s Hebrew service, he said that the biggest problem that Israel suffers from, more than ever, is never-ending subversion from sources which can’t act on their platforms through elections and other democratic means.

He said, “If there’s something that makes me sad on Yom Hazicharon, it’s a dulling of the feelings that those groups demonstrate, especially on Memorial Day.” He added that sources outside the country try to force things on Israel that they would not accept themselves in the name of equality, and their voices are weakening the people.

On the optimistic side, he remembered how the city started with two tents and grew to include a university, an industrial area, a sports center and a center for developing youth leaders.

West Bank Mayor Promotes Personal Vision of Coexistence

In Ariel City on February 24, 2010 at 5:33 am

by Elaine Durbach
NJJN Bureau Chief/Central
February 24, 2010

Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman, second from right, talks with, from left, Arnold Lidsky, Avie Zimmerman, and Gordon Haas. Photos by Elaine Durba

Ariel, the city whose mayor, Ron Nachman, visited Central New Jersey this week, is set on a hilltop 19 miles east of Petah Tikva, 37 miles northwest of Jerusalem.

It is about 11 miles from the Green Line and lies alongside the Palestinian town of Salfit, with Nablus northeast of it. The security barrier erected by Israel was to have stretched as far as Ariel, but its construction was halted by internal and international challenges. Instead, the city has its own security fence on three sides.

The town, the largest community included in the Samaria Regional Council, is regarded as the capital of the Samaria region.

Ron Nachman, the mayor of Ariel, wants people to come visit the West Bank town to see the facts for themselves. He has had his fill, he said of journalists and politicians and “peaceniks” who insist on their own vision — one that would prefer to ignore communities like his.

To begin with, he told a gathering at the Wilf Jewish Community Campus in Scotch Plains on Feb. 22, he would like them to stop using the words “settlers” and “occupiers.”

“Music is made by the words you use,” he said. “How can you be an occupier if this is your home?”

“Occupiers,” he said, come from a foreign land; Ariel is in Samaria, part of the Jewish homeland as defined in the Bible, and its citizens are residents, like everyone else.

Nevertheless, Ariel is beyond the Green Line separating Israel from what the United States calls the West Bank, territory it considers “occupied” by Israel. In most conceptions of an eventual two-state solution — which Nachman opposes — Ariel is usually considered among the Jewish communities to be included on the Israeli side.

In 1978, Nachman, then employed in the Israel Military Industries, led a group of 40 families in establishing the community, to boost security in the area. It was a pioneering role familiar to the non-religious, fourth-generation sabra; his grandfather and father had also been civic leaders.

His four daughters grew up in the modern, hilltop community, as his six grandchildren are doing now. Nachman became Ariel’s first elected mayor in 1985 and has served in that role ever since, guiding its growth and development. He also served in the Knesset from 1992 to 1996, the only Likud member from Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.

The town now has a population of over 18,000, including a large contingent of Russian immigrants and a smaller cohort of Ethiopians. Its Ariel University Center of Samaria, with around 9,500 students, is striving to get official classification as a university from Israel’s Council for Higher Education. Ariel is designated a “Smart City,” because of the innovative telecommunication syste shared by its inhabitants, linking them via the Intranet and Internet with municipal services and educational, cultural, and business information.

Talking over lunch with lay and professional people from the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, Nachman said he is hoping to attract foundations and individuals who will make a commitment to his city. He underlined the fact that — despite its controversial identity as a Jewish center — the town has a Muslim-Arab city manager, and some 3,000 Arab families derive income from its industrial park.

“I believe in equality, liberty, and freedom of thought,” Nachman declared. He said that what he wants is not just “coexistence” but real cooperation, with shared services and improved infrastructure. Some of the nearby Arab communities have actually sought to be incorporated into Ariel, he said, to benefit from the services it offers.
But desperately needed financial aid — American and European — gets blocked, he said, b boycotts and policies that prohibit support for Israeli-led projects in the West Bank.

Nachman was in the United States for a week, traveling with Avi Zimmerman, the Ariel-based executive director of American Friends of Ariel. He was speaking to congregations and private groups. “I go where we have personal connections,” he said, acknowledging the antagonism he encounters on account of Ariel’s geographic location. He also had met with reporters from Newsweek, The New York Times, and The Economist.

Asked about his vision for the future, Nachman dismissed the familiar two-state suggestion, and instead outlined a more “holistic” solution. He proposed an investment of $20 billion over 10 years for development of Gaza — in coordination with Egypt — and another $20 billion for the West Bank Palestinian Arab areas, to be linked with Jordan. To work, there would also need to be cooperation from Lebanon and Syria, and the Muslim states beyond them — like Saudi Arabia, Iraq an Iran, and Pakistan.

“If one of those circles is missing, you can’t finish the holistic plan,” he said.

He isn’t optimistic about that vision being fulfilled, especially with Israel facing the threat of aggression from Iran — probably alone, without U.S. military support. “There is no solution,” he said. “That’s why we have to be strong.”

Gene Reiss of Scotch Plains, a member of the federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council, said he visited Ariel on a business trip to Israel many years ago. “It really is set on these hilltops, and it’s beautiful,” he said.

Pictorial History of Ariel

In Ariel City on February 18, 2010 at 1:06 pm

A video history of the city of Ariel, Israel through the words and eyes of Ariel founder, Mayor Ron Nachman.

Ariel Mayor: PM Better Cool Off Before It’s Too Late

In National on December 13, 2009 at 11:17 am

( Mayor Ron Nachman of Ariel said Monday evening that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu “better regain his composure before it’s too late,” regarding the construction freeze announced by the government for Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria last week. Nachman spoke to Arutz Sheva after placing an angry phone call to government secretary Tzvika Hauser over the actions of inspectors from the Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria, who confiscated construction equipment in Ariel, ordered builders to stop work and detained them for questioning despite Netanyahu’s decision to delegate the serving of the freeze orders to local leaders.

The mayor told Arutz Sheva, “This is something that has never been done in Israel. Netanyahu sees the 300,000 Jews living in Judea and Samaria as second-class citizens.”

Ariel Mayor: Netanyahu Worse than Rabin

In National on December 13, 2009 at 11:16 am

( Mayor Ron Nachman of the Samarian Jewish community of Ariel said Friday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s decision to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria is worse than the freeze imposed in 1992 by then prime minister Yitzchak Rabin.

Nachman said the freeze imposed by Rabin has been maintained solely on Ariel since then, restricting its growth to a population that is now barely in the 18,000 range, as opposed to Ma’aleh Adumim, near Jerusalem, which has twice as many people. But he gave Rabin credit for discussing the step with local leaders, something he said Netanyahu did not do.

Ariel Mayor: I Won’t Enforce Building Freeze, by David Lev

In National on December 13, 2009 at 11:11 am

Ariel Mayor Ran Nachman on Saturday night called on mayors of cities in Judea and Samaria to cut off all ties with the Defense Ministry in protest over the decision to impose a building freeze in Judea and Samaria – and, he says, he has no plans to enforce the freeze.

“Is this freeze so important that they had to distribute the orders banning construction on Friday afternoon, right before Shabbat?,” Nachman asked rhetorically. Speaking to Arutz 7, Nachman said that “when the Defense Ministry called me on Friday afternoon, I thought that a war had broken out. I do not intend to remain silent in light of the humiliation and shame that the mayors of towns in Judea and Samaria have been put through. I plan to petition the High Court over the despicable way the authorities chose to distribute these orders, without giving us the right to respond, without listening to us, summarily taking away our rights.

“The Defense Minister, without feeling or intelligence, ran roughshod over our rights,” continued Nachman. “He thinks he is still leading an IDF intelligence unit and that we are the enemy. Because they took away my authority as mayor to authorize projects in my jurisdiction, I hereby give up my authority to enforce these orders. If anyone violates this building freeze in my jurisdiction I will not act against them. If the Civil Administration wants to handle it, they are welcome to. I am out of the picture,” Nachman added.