Ron Nachman, the first and to-date only mayor of the central Samarian town of Ariel, died on Friday following a long battle with cancer. He was 70-year-old.
Nachman rose to national prominence in the late 1970s when he answered the call of the then-Labor government to settle the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria a decade after the Six Day War.
Nachman led a group of determined pioneers who established a tent encampment on a strategic hilltop overlooking Israel's vulnerable coastal plain.
Years later, in 1985, the settlement of Ariel formed its first local government, which Nachman was elected to lead. In 1992, Nachman won a seat in the Knesset as a member of Likud, but resigned that position three years later when it was decided that politicians could not simultaneously be Knesset members and mayors.
Nachman's dedication to Ariel was unwavering, and today it stands as a beacon not only of Israeli innovation and advancement, but also as a symbol of coexistence between Jews and Arabs in these disputed territories. Many Arabs from the area shop and work in Ariel, and the accomplished local university has a healthy number of Palestinian students enrolled.
Nachman was also very popular with Israel's Christian supporters due to his biblical understanding of why Jews like himself were returning to and settling the hills of Samaria. Many Christians groups made Ariel a stop on their Holy Land visits, and Nachman personally welcomed and hosted many of them.
Speaking before Nachman's funeral on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated: "I have lost a dear friend. Ron was a great Zionist patriot. I loved him very much."
Not a few Israelis and perhaps millions of Christians around the world feel exactly the same as Israel's prime minister over the loss of Ron Nachman.