Ariel Mayor Ron Nahman passed away on Friday at the age of 70 following a lengthy battle with cancer. Nahman, who was the first mayor of Ariel and held the position for the past 27 years, also led the struggle to establish a university in his city. On Dec. 24, he saw his dream fulfilled as the Ariel University Center was officially accredited as a full-fledged university.
Nahman was born in Ness Ziona in 1942, and was chairman of "Garin Tel Aviv," a group of people who set out to establish a community in Judea and Samaria. Nahman, along with dozens of families, found a suitable area on a hill and founded Ariel there. He served as head of the new community's council and later, when Ariel was officially recognized as a local council, served as its deputy chairman. In 1985, Nahman won the first elections held to lead the council.
A veteran Likud party member, Nahman served in the 13th Knesset and sat on the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and the Finance Committee. He was also elected to the 14th Knesset but preferred to continue as Ariel's mayor.
During his tenure, he presided over the city's significant development as a place for secular and religious residents, and initiated the absorption of some 9,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Nahman was unflustered when Israeli artists boycotted the city's cultural center, which opened its doors two years ago, and succeeded, despite the public outcry, in attracting theater troupes from across the country to perform there.
Nahman worked to include Ariel in the list of settlement blocs to remain part of Israel as part of any future peace agreement with the Palestinians. He was considered unaffiliated with the Yesha Council, the umbrella body of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and was among the harshest critics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to freeze settlement construction.
During his struggle with cancer, he developed a special bond with the late Israeli playwright Anat Gov, who succumbed to the disease herself in December. Nahman is survived by his wife, four daughters and dozens of grandchildren. His funeral ceremony was scheduled for Sunday afternoon at the Ariel National Leadership Development Center.
Upon receiving the news of his passing, many of his colleagues from the political arena expressed their condolences. On Saturday evening, President Shimon Peres, who maintained close ties with Nahman, sent a message of condolence to his family. "Ron Nahman was a true builder, a man with a love for humanity, kindhearted and honest," the president wrote,
In a statement released on Saturday, Netanyahu expressed his "deep sorrow at the passing of my friend and ideological partner." Netanyahu also spoke with Nahman's widow and told her: "Ron was a great Zionist patriot. I loved him very much."
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said that Nahman “was the third generation of those who built the land, [and] not only dreamed of building the land but realized that dream. There aren't many people like Ron, who put their stamp on the history of the Jewish community in Israel."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, "Ron was a leader, a passionate person and a friend who built Ariel almost from scratch."
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon recalled how "as GOC Central Command I had the opportunity to grant Ron and the residents of Ariel the title of 'city.' When you spoke about Ariel – you were referring to Ron Nahman."
Hatnuah party leader Tzipi Livni said, "We didn't agree on some of the issues but I always respected his determination and how he adhered to his own truth until the very end."
The Yesha Council released a statement in which it said Nahman was "the first of the earliest council heads in Judea and Samaria, a pioneer of the settlement enterprise, a Zionist through and through and a tireless builder of the land of Israel."
Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer said: "Despite the ideological differences, Ron Nahman was a cherished, deserving person who acted on behalf of the State of Israel according to his beliefs; his words always expressed his heart."