Even when the incumbent is as popular as Ariel Mayor, Ron Nachman, small town elections are never a quiet affair. In a town of 13,500 people, there are varied opinions and thousands of issues, both personal and ideological. Israelis relate to all politics with intense passion. When the politics concern their own backyard - and perhaps the borders of their country - their involvement becomes complete. Recent municipal elections in Ariel presented the city's residents with two candidates for mayor and five separate lists for the 11 city council seats.

Electioneering in Ariel is at its best on the Friday mornings during the last weeks before election day. Most of the town finds its way to the city's shopping center to take care of last minute purchases before the Sabbath. And so, candidates make it their business to be visible. This inevitably leads to the time-honored tradition of election debate in Israel. As candidates stroll through the center, surrounded by their most ardent followers, political differences quickly turn into heated shouting matches. Of course, anyone who has witnessed the Israeli Knesset in session knows this is not unique to Ariel.

Though public debating may not be the Israeli way, during the course of the campaign, each candidate meets with potential supporters in parlor meetings arranged according to neighborhood or sometimes -- particularly since the great Aliyah -- according to language. Meetings like this are generally well attended for here is the citizen's chance to voice any and all grievances, even if it has little to do with the municipality.

Incumbent Mayor Ron Nachman, running on the Likud ticket, had the full support of the Party. Two days before the elections, Likud Party Chairman, Benjamin Netanyahu and a full array of Knesset Members, mayors and community leaders came to Ariel in a show of support for Nachman. Netanyahu told the crowd of over a thousand "Arielites" gathered to hear him speak that the elections in Ariel were not only important for the community but had national significance, as well. "They would," he said, "be the first shot fired in the Likud's battle to bring the current government down in national elections in 1996".

Election day itself passed fairly quietly. Because of the intense heat wave that struck the Samarian hills on election day, most of the voters came out only once the sun went down, creating long lines at the polls during the last few hours. Though polls were scheduled to close at 10:00 p.m., Ministry of Interior officials allowed anyone in line at that time to vote. The last poll finally closed just short of midnight.

By that time, hundreds of Nachman supporters were gathered in the main shopping center, waiting for election results. As the results at each poll were finalized, a runner would come to Nachman with the results. Though he had always been viewed as the sure winner of the elections, even the incumbent mayor was pleasantly surprised by the landslide numbers. It only remained to be seen how many of his slate would win seats on the City Council.

The final results were almost unprecedented for elections of this kind in Israel. Ron Nachman received an overwhelming vote of confidence, winning the mayoral election with an 85% majority. Apparently, ten years of constant accomplishment, even in the most difficult of circumstances does not go unnoticed. Not only has Ariel's population increased tenfold during the decade in which Ron Nachman has served as Ariel's mayor, but the number of services and facilities so vital to the quality of life in the community have consistently grown and improved.

Nachman's list for city council, the "Lev" list, also met with resounding success. Of the 11 seats available on the council, "Lev" won 8, with one seat going to each of three other competitive lists. Of the eight members of Lev elected, three have served on the previous council, bringing with them 10 years experience of voluntary public service.

The election results bear more than merely good tidings for Ariel for they carry ramifications of national significance. Detractors of the fledgling city have often portrayed the people of Ariel as devoid of ideology, people concerned only with their own welfare, indifferent to the fate of the national camp of Israel. Nachman, however, is perceived as the only authentic Knesset representative of the needs and rights of the people of Judea, Samaria & Gaza, a visionary who has not only built Ariel from scratch but has used his Knesset seat to fight for retaining all of Israel, a Jewish Homeland with safe and secure borders. In their overwhelming show of support for Nachman, the people of Ariel have sent a message to all of Israel that they are deeply committed to the continued development of Ariel, the capital of Samaria and a strategic asset vital to the security of Israel.

In an open letter to the residents following the elections, Ron Nachman sent the following message: "Elections are now behind us but the future lies ahead. What we, the people of Ariel, have done in the 16 years since Ariel was founded is truly astonishing. Every visitor to our city is overwhelmed by our accomplishments.

"Despite the difficulties before us, we have a national responsibility to continue to strengthen Ariel, both physically and spiritually, through building and development and through the fostering of Jewish values, Zionism and the love of the land and the Torah.

"We will continue to absorb new immigrants and to attract young Israeli families. We will continue to be the flagship of the settlement movement in Judea and Samaria. And I am confident that we will succeed in our struggle for our way is right and is the only way to ensure the security of our homeland." For the next five years, the people of Ariel can be assured of dynamic and hard-working leadership, with Ron Nachman at the helm. Nachman will not only continue to work tirelessly for the people of Ariel but will continue to represent them and their neighboring communities in the Israeli Knesset.

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