Mayor of West Bank town brings his pleas to Pikesville Nachman asks for support, but also blasts opponents of settlements.

November 05, 1991|By Patrick Ercolano | Patrick Ercolano,Evening Sun Staff

Guts. Nerve. Chutzpah.

Whatever you want to call it, Ron Nachman has it.

After all, it takes more than a little brass to visit a foreign nation in search of support, while at the same time heaping criticism on some residents of that nation.

That's what Nachman, the mayor of a Jewish town on the Israeli West Bank, did during an impassioned and sometimes rambling 75-minute address last night at Temple Oheb Shalom in Pikesville.

About 50 people attended the event, which was sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America-Baltimore District and the Israel Committee and the Brotherhood of Oheb Shalom.

Since 1985, Nachman has been the mayor of Ariel, a town that he helped settle on a barren West Bank hilltop in 1977. Ariel started with fewer than 100 resident families. It now is home to 10,000 people.

Nachman's stop at Oheb Shalom was part of an American tour during which he is trying to drum up financial and moral support for Israel in general and for his town in particular.

"This is the challenge I bring to you," Nachman told his audience. "Bring your investments to us. Bring your capital. This is what I want."

He also urged tourism as a weapon against terrorism. He told his listeners to buy second homes not in Florida but in Israel.

And yet, as Nachman held out one hand, he used the other to strike blows at Americans and Israelis who have called the settlement of the occupied territories a potential obstacle to peace in the the Middle East.

"These are the same people who said that Israel would never be at peace with Egypt, that Jews could never exist in Judea and Samaria, that Soviet Jews would never be able to settle in Israel. Well, we have peace with Egypt, though a cold peace. Jews exist in Judea and Samaria. And Soviet Jews are coming in large numbers to settle in Israel," said Nachman, a tall, slightly chubby, boyish-looking man who appears much younger than his 49 years.

Speaking without notes as he stood at the head of Oheb Shalom's small chapel, Nachman seemed to save his best shots for American Jewish groups that have criticized Israel's settlement policy.

He said that on his current tour, he was snubbed by Jewish businessmen in Chicago who feared that associating with Nachman would be bad politics.

"It was up to gentiles in Milwaukee to finally show me how to put together a program so I could approach business interests in America," Nachman said with the shock still fresh in his voice.

He singled out the ZOA for praise as the only American Jewish organization that has backed the settlement policy.

Throughout his talk, Nachman defended the policy by explaining that the world's Jews never had a homeland until Israel was founded in 1948. Maintaining and strengthening that homeland justifies the settlements, he said, adding that he prefers to call them "communities."

And if that leaves the Palestinians with no homeland of their own, Nachman said, "I don't care. I am very proud to be an obstacle to a Palestinian state. Let the Palestinians have their own state -- so long as it's not west of the Jordan River."

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