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Last Secular Settler Dies

"Today we part from our dear friend who managed to build Ariel into a city of culture, with a university. I regret that he did not have additional years in which to enjoy the fruit of his labors."—Benjamin Netanyahu



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On January 18, 2013, a few days before the elections, Ron Nachman, mayor of Ariel in the West Bank, died at the age of 70 after battling cancer for a while. The "last secular settler"—as he liked to call himself—provided a powerful symbol and a striking image of the extreme changes Israel has passed through in recent years. He neither wore the handwoven "kipah" skullcap of the Nationalistic Religious, nor the black kipah of the ultra-Orthodox Haredim. At first sight, he looked like the archetypal kibbutznik politruk, a neo-Communist making sure that the slaves produced the requested quotas. However, he was something different. A secular member of Likud, he was among the founders of the settler movement; his activity predated the religious Gush Emunim. A proto-settler, Ron Nachman led the beginning of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

There is little doubt that the elections will bring the largest ever victory of Israel's Radical Right ever. The changes in Israeli society are so profound that Nachman's picture looks like a 19th century black-and-white portrait. "Who was this guy?" ask young men with long beards themselves.

Ron Nachman

Ron Nachman
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Philosophical Essays on Self-Determination, Terrorism and the One-State Solution

Elections Poster: 'Strong Prime Minister; Strong Israel'

Elections Poster: 'Strong Prime Minister; Strong Israel'
The Triumph of Israel's Radical Right

Zionist Aristocracy

Ron Nachman was born in 1942 to a father who was mayor of Nes Ziona ("Flag towards Zion") and a mother who was born to one of the town's founders. One of the first Jewish settlements in the Holy Land, the town is home to the infamous Israel Institute for Biological Research (which together with Netanyahu, has been formally related to bio-terrorism). In 1973, he became a member and leader of the "Tel Aviv Nucleus," a settlement group that prepared the first state-backed settlement in the West Bank. In 1978, the group founded Ariel and he became its first mayor. A member of Likud, he enjoyed the fruits of this party as it gained power; he was nominated as Deputy Director of Israel's Broadcasting Authority between 1979 and 1985; he was also a member of the 13th Knesset. That year he returned to his post as mayor and held it until his death.

Ariel | Note the details of the West Bank Wall

Ariel | Note the details of the West Bank Wall



Unlike most Israeli cities and councils, Ariel’s territory isn’t continuous but includes three different areas separated by grounds owned by Palestinians. Overall, the town’s territory is about five kilometers long and 700 meters wide. The town is surrounded by a fence, meaning Palestinians do not have access to their territories within the municipality. This was done on purpose, so that Israel confiscated less territory than it occupied later. In 1989 it was awarded the status of city. In January 2010 Netanyahu declared it Capital of Samaria (a title technically empty of meaning). On December of the same year, thirty-five MKs petitioned the Israeli government to annex Ariel. In early 2013, the town has about twenty thousand denizens.

Ariel is the most strategic settlement that Israel has founded. It aims to dissect the West Bank while creating a second corridor (together with Highway 60) between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The close-up map above shows the reality as seen by travelers to the town arriving from Tel Aviv along Route #5. In a parcel to parcel job, the early Likud governments ethnically cleansed the road to Ariel. One can travel from Tel Aviv to Ariel without seeing any Palestinian towns.

For years, Mr. Nachman worked on getting donations from American Jews in order to transform the settlement's humble swimming pool into a country club. Neighboring Palestinians don't have proper sewage, and are blocked from joining the exclusive institution. Eventually, he got the money and Ariel became a posh American suburb in the West Bank. His next project was to create a university. In September 2012, Ariel college was upgraded to university. The date of this complex event, which was deplored by Europe as another violation of international law, had two reasons. In this way, Netanyahu and Likud won settlers' votes; this is important since this segment of the population is the most right radical; they favor parties like the National Union and the Jewish Home. The day after the election we will know if this gambit worked out. The second reason is that Nachman was slowly dying of cancer; showing his soft side, Netanyahu gave a death-present to one of his party's leaders, one of the few still-active members of Begin's administration. The last secular settler died; from now onwards, Israeli crimes in the West Bank will exclusively feature a rainbow of "kipah" skullcaps.


Following this publication, a Zionist journalist who has stalked me for years sent me a hate-email. Beyond the expected insults, he quoted statistics of secular settlers in the West Bank. As I explained to him, this article is not a Central Bureau of Statistics research (see Instead of Statistics, Israel published Racistics) but exposes the evolving reality in the West Bank. Ron Nachman was the last prominent secular-Jewish leader in the West Bank. Religious Jews are by far the majority there.

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