Dorith Nachman, 70, and her late husband were one of Ariel’s founding families.
The first intifada, the Palestinian uprising that began in 1987, helped precipitate the 1993 Oslo accords with Israel. Under that agreement, parts of the West Bank under Israeli control were to shift eventually to Palestinian control, with the fate of the settlements to be negotiated. That never happened. Soon, Israelis came to associate living in settlements with danger, clashes with Palestinians and stone throwing.
For years, Ariel was the focus of disputes over the ethics of settlement building. In 2010, a group of Israeli theater artists boycotted a new performing arts center, which spiraled into a broader international protest. The Israeli owner of Israel’s
franchise refused to open a restaurant in Ariel, citing a policy against outlets in the settlements.
Its image has gradually changed as more Israelis got priced out of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Ariel real-estate agent
ticks off reasons Israelis move there, almost none of them ideological: “There’s better weather here. It’s a clean city. It has good education. It’s close to the center.”
To be sure, life beyond the Green Line isn’t without tension. Israeli officials have said stabbing and shooting attacks against Israelis have continued, and that Jewish Israeli settler violence against Palestinian residents has increased.
In August, a 17-year-old Israeli girl was killed by an improvised explosive device while hiking near a town about 25 miles south of Ariel in the West Bank. Israeli soldiers are stationed at bus stops and intersections where attacks on settlers are known to have taken place.
But many Israeli settlers say they feel living in Ariel isn’t much different than living in any other Tel Aviv suburb, and they believe the threat of expulsion that once lurked is gone.
A new 840-home neighborhood is under construction after years of delays, and a rail line has been approved to connect the city of 20,000 directly to Tel Aviv.
Settlement supporters see the opening of Ariel’s medical school as an important step in Israel’s development of the city. The nation’s medical-school admissions process is competitive and there is a shortage of spots for aspiring doctors. The new school is drawing students who hope to stay near the center of the country and do fellowships at hospitals that are close to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Ms. Levi, the medical student, said she had never been to Ariel before her acceptance and knows no one who lives or studies there.
At first, her mother opposed the move, having heard little about Ariel beyond news about stabbings.
Ms. Levi and her father reassured her that Ariel was just like any other place, with a city hall and a mayor. “It’s a city in Israel,” they told her.
—Dov Lieber contributed this article.
Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com
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