With the approval of the
Israeli government in 1978, 40 families led by Ron Nachman settled on top of the rocky and barren
hill that would become the City of Ariel.
subsequently gave the outpost "development-town" status
and the residents chose the name Ariel, a Biblical
reference to Jerusalem and
Two years later, in 1980, construction began on
Ariel's first neighborhood, the first Jewish homes
built in the Shomron region in 2000 years.
The capital of Samaria, Ariel is
located in the West
Bank, 25 miles east of Tel
Aviv , 25 miles west of the Jordan River and
31 miles north of Jerusalem.
The city stretches 8 miles in length and is situated
almost 2,000 feet above sea level. The western tip
of the city (i.e., the part closest to Israel) is
about 10 miles from the Green
Line, and the eastern edge of the settlement
is more than 13 miles from the Green Line.
Ariel has a population of 18,000
residents and is one of only four settlements classified
by Israel as a “city.” Another 8,500
people are students in the College
of Judea and Samaria (which was upgraded to the status of a university
in 2005). More than 45 percent of Ariel's population
are immigrants from
Ariel has 26 preschools, 4 elementary
schools, a religious school (grades 1-9), two junior
high schools and a high school. Ariel's new Sports & Recreation
Complex will ultimately house an indoor swimming
pool, sauna, whirlpool, showers and changing rooms,
a multi-purpose hall, activity and games rooms, a
day care center, kitchen and cafeteria, lobby, reception
and offices. Tennis courts, a miniature golf course,
gymnasium and fitness center have already been completed
and are operating full-time.
Most of Ariel residents are secular;
only about 10 percent of of the population is Orthodox.
Though affiliated with the political right, the Jews
in Ariel are not considered hardline ideologues.
Rather, most moved there because of the higher standard
of living they enjoy and the economic incentives
provided by the government. In particular, residents
can obtain better mortgages and repayment terms because
the government designated Ariel as a “national
priority” development area.
In 1985, Ron Nachman became the
first elected mayor of Ariel, and he's been reelected
four times since, most recently in 2004.
The city is not known for its sites;
it is not in an area of any relgious significance,
but many tourists visit Ariel because it is one of
the safer places to see what life is s like in
the West Bank. Ariels
is also an example of a successful
Ariel is now the heart of the most
populous bloc of settlements,
which includes Kedumim, Karnei Shomron, Ma'ale Shomron,
Bet Arye, Ofarim, Nofim, Yaqir, Immanuel, Peduel,
Alei Zahav, Brukhin, Barkan, Kiryat Netafim, and
Revava. This bloc is approximately 47 square miles
and includes about 37,000 settlers. On February 20,
2005, the Israeli government approved a route for
barrier that includes the Ariel bloc,
but this portion of the fence has not been completed
yet, in part because of opposition from the United
States. Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog called for the completion of the security fence around Ariel in February 2016, citing the completion of the fence as “a security necessity that the state owes its citizens.” Only 60% of the security fence has been completed around Ariel, and the project has been effectively frozen since 2007. Herzog controversially stated, “we need to create a reality of two separate peoples rather than one living amongst the other. Only in this way will we secure Israel’s existence as a Jewish nation and not an Arab-Jewish state.”
The city's position expands Israel's
narrow waist (which was 9 miles wide before 1967)
and ensures that Israel has a land route to the Jordan
Valley should Israel needs to fight a land war to
the east. Because of its size, most Israelis favor
the incorporation of the Ariel bloc within whatever
may be the final borders of Israel. It is more controversial
than the other “consensus” settlements because
it is the furthest from the 1949
Armistice Line. Nevertheless, Prime Minister
Barak’s proposal at Camp
David included Ariel among the settlement blocs
to be annexed to Israel; the Clinton
plan also envisioned incorporating Ariel within
the new borders of Israel.