Akhzivland, the micronation inside Israel you’ve never heard of before now

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The "micronation” is a stock cliché in sit-coms, cartoons, and comic books -- a two-bit "state” set up by some whack job with a landmass typically no larger than the average parking lot and a single digit population. It seems like something Kramer or Daffy Duck would get up to.

But, on the Northwest tip of Israel you can find Akhzivland. Akhivland is a for-real micronation, and one that might be stranger than fiction.

A nation built from scratch

The history of Akhzivland began in 1952 with a man named Eli Avivi. Following the Arab-Israeli wars when the nation was still young, Eli happened upon a coastal stretch that contained a ruined village formally named Akhziv. Eli quite liked the area -- it was off the beaten path, had a beautiful beach, and it was seemingly forgotten. He liked it so much, he decided to build a few huts. And then a house. And then he moved all his things into that house and started living there. Only problem is, construction in the area was illegal. Uh oh.

As you might imagine, Eli was quite the character in his own right. While the idea of some guy carving out a chunk of Israel and claiming it as his own might spark images of a provocateur or thief, Eli’s story isn’t so cut and dry. He spent his formative years fighting for the Israeli people and was a member of the Israeli underground navy, smuggling Jewish settlers into the land. While he is known now as a pot smoking bohemian who ruled his own quasi-nation, Eli would have been considered a patriot during the early days of Israel’s existence. It’s difficult to say why he flouted Israeli law so brazenly when he built his home. By all accounts he was a whimsical man, so maybe he just felt like the little slice of beach was the right place for him.

Everything was fine for twenty years. Eli lived in his home with his wife Rina beneath the notice of any serious authorities. But, in 1970, the law finally caught up with him when a planned highway cut right through his home. Authorities sent bulldozers to forcibly evict what they saw as a squatter, but Eli fought back. 

With a comical amount of self confidence, Eli declared the entire area the sovereign territory of the land of Akhzivland and the bulldozing of any of his property an illegal and hostile act. It was a crazy gambit, but the most bizarre part about it is that it worked.  Eli kicked up enough of a stink and fought hard enough that the government seemingly lost interest. The court ruled to lease Eli the area of 10,000 m² for 99 years as a sort of compromise. While the court never officially recognized the legitimacy of Akhzivland, it didn’t press the issue either. 

And so, in 1971, a "nation” was born. 

The important works of a micronation on the rise

Technically, Akhzivland is a democracy, but with an official permanent population of two, the point is kind of moot. Eli was nominated president of Akhzivland by a vote of 1-0 in its first and only election and the constitution (yes, they made a constitution) reads "The president is democratically elected by his own vote.”

Every bit as silly as a sit-com, Eli and Rina leaned into the nation building aspect of being a micronation. They created an official flag (three bars of blue and yellow with the image of a mermaid and the Avivi home), a national anthem, and even stamped passports for visitors – and the pair received many visitors. 

Ever since it’s inception, Akhzivland was a destination for the off-beat and unusual, as fitting a tiny pocket nation. Eli and his wife were hippy pacifists who dabbled in all kinds of psychedelic experimentation, making their home a hotspot for the young and rebellious. They were counter-culture symbols in their own right, a pair of regular people who dared to step out of line and make something for themselves.

They weren’t just popular with young hippies either. Over the years famous personalities such as Paul Newman, Sofia Loren, and Bar Refaeli have visited the tiny nation to pay their respects to it’s de facto president. The pair enjoyed a kind of ironic notoriety among the rich and famous, enough to make them frequent hosts to musicians and celebrities. 

Fun fact about Akhzivland, it is technically the most peaceful country in the Middle East. The micronation has never been involved in any sort of conflict – not that they’d fare too well if they were. Eli was also technically one of the longest serving rulers "in power” in the Middle East.

End of an era

Unfortunately, Eli passed away in May of this year at the age of 88. His death puts the long-term future of Akhzivland into question, with no one knowing what will happen to the lease the Israeli government signed. As of now though, Rina is still living on the land and accepting visitors.

Akhzivland is a strange curiosity that will likely fade into history soon, but it’s memory and spirit will live on with all self-styled iconoclasts who dream of building something of their own.

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