Running for Ron

To date, my short experience on Twitter has taught me that 140 characters or less may not be enough to truly inspire, but at times they’re enough to move you to action. In my case, the inspirational bedrock that made a few tweets meaningful is the lifetime of Mayor Ron Nachman, and the legacy of Forrest Gump.

Yes, Forrest Gump is my favorite movie. It’s the story of an ordinary man of limited intellect who becomes a football star, earns a Medal of Honor, meets one U.S. president after the next, makes a fortune, and – at the subtle climax – becomes a father.

The movie opens with Forrest taking interest in a nurse’s pair of tennis shoes. He strikes up a flat conversation with the friendly but awkward “Those must be comfortable shoes” (the “life is like a box of chocolates” line is a bit later – trust me). He begins to flashback to his youth with the following thought: “I’ve worn lots of shoes”.

Forrest himself dons a pair of running shoes that carried him across the United States of America, coast to coast, several times over. He ran nonstop for years on end. He was an inspiration to many, but when asked why he ran or what he was running for he simply responded “I just felt like running”.

Ron Nachman is also an exceedingly accomplished individual, but his ethos differs from that of Forrest Gump. Ron does everything for the City of Ariel and nothing just because he “feels like it”. His every action has a purpose and a goal. When he established the nucleus of 6,000 people that would first move to Ariel (normal nuclei for similar initiatives usually number 10 to 20 families) he knew that he was destined to build a city. People mocked him when he stood on the rocks of a barren hill, pointed in the distance and declared where he would build schools, a community center, a sports and recreation complex, a major highway to connect Ariel to Tel Aviv, a library, a hotel, an industrial park a center for performing arts and a university. But these things came to pass. As with Forrest Gump, Ron Nachman runs on an extra dose of adrenaline. The difference is that Ron knows where he’s going.

The root of the difference between these iconic characters (besides the fact that Forrest is fictitious – just for the record) is in what makes them tick. Jenny would scream “Run Forrest! Run!” His sweetheart wanted him to do what she knew best – to run away.  Nachman, who was inspired to build a city by millennia of Jewish history, an unwavering dedication to the Zionist enterprise and his own family who founded Nes Tziyona in 1883, has always been running towards something. He knows where he’s going because he knows where he’s coming from.

There are many other differences between these two mentors. Forrest’s story is largely about chance, while Ron’s is thoroughly intentional. Forrest exemplifies a certain childish innocence, whereas Ron has developed a thick skin by spearheading a reality that no other has succeeded in establishing. Forrest’s achievements are personal, Ron’s are national.

Although there are those who condemn him for everything that he’s built (the British government was the most recent with their puzzling declaration that Ariel University – an academic institution – is an obstacle to peace), I personally cannot thank him enough. Neither can my neighbors. Nor our children. Nor yours.

So, my recent twitter-sation about running in the upcoming Tel Aviv marathon wasn’t enough to inspire me. It didn’t need to, because the inspiration was already there.

As much as I admire Forrest Gump and his contagious goodness, he isn’t what came to mind when I decided to push my personal limits and “go for a little run”. My run will be about Ron. I’ll pass on the majestic American landscapes in the backdrop for the majestic views of the mountains of Samaria. I’ll forgo the thrill of running with a group of complete strangers in favor of running with and for the people of Ariel.

Forrest Gump ends with Forrest Senior seeing Forrest Junior off to school. Who knows what the future has in store for them? Not so with Ron. There will always be an Ariel to run for. And we know that whatever the future may have in store, Ron will forever carry our torch.

About the Author
Avi Zimmerman is the City of Ariel's international representative. He is the Executive Director of American Friends of Ariel and the Founder of TALK17.