ARIEL (Heb. אֲרִיאֵל), town in Samaria, in the administered territories, 40 km. east of Tel Aviv and 65 km. from Jerusalem. Founded in 1978 by 40 families of defense and aviation industry workers, it received municipal status in 1998. In 1996 Ariel's population was approximately 14,200, increasing to 16,300 at the end of 2002, of whom 54% were recent immigrants, most from the Former Soviet Union. Its municipal area was 1.2 sq. mi. (3 sq. km.). The proximity to central Israel enabled the city to attract young families. Most residents are non-religious.
Mikhlelet Yehudah ve-Shomron (Judea and Samaria College) was founded in 1983 as a regional college-level academic institution under the auspices of Bar-Ilan University and had approximately 8,000 students. Ariel's industrial zone housed over 100 factories in the fields of electronics, food, metallurgy, computers, and aviation, employing 3,000 people. A technological park was established in 1992 and the 100-room Eshel Hashomron Hotel at the entrance to the city opened its doors in 1991. Ron Nachman served as mayor of Ariel for five consecutive terms from 1985, having served as chairman of the municipal council until that time. The peace talks which began in the 1990s cast a pall on the future of the
city, and its inclusion inside the security fence built to protect Israel from Palestinian terrorist attacks became a heated issue in Israeli politics.