‘Welcome to Achzib Land’: no misers or cads allowed.
Simon Sellars, ‘Akhzivland’, originally published in John Ryan, George Dunford & Simon Sellars, Micronations: the Lonely Planet Guide to Home-made Nations, Footscray: Lonely Planet Publications, 2006, pp. 48-51.
Akhzivland is a peaceful anomaly surrounded by the state of Israel. It was formerly the historical village of Akhziv, abandoned after the 1948 War of Independence and later claimed by Eli Avivi, a charismatic ex-sailor who, with his sandals and flowing beard and robes, comes on like a cross between a fit Demis Roussos and the Groovy Guru. Like Prince Roy of Sealand, President Avivi proved the micronational adage that if you look hard enough, you’re bound to find a piece of ‘turf’ nobody wants. Roy and Avivi also suffered the inverse equation: namely, that once you’ve got your hands on some idle territory, the bully boys will always try and take it away from you, even if they have no practical use for it. But like Sealand, Akhzivland refused to give in. It became a beacon of hope for disaffected Israelis, and in the 1970s it embraced the peace-and-love movement and hosted communal festivities and happenings. Today it’s beloved of counter-culture freaks and footloose backpackers. They’re all attracted to this ‘state’ that has no real rules and no real government and is guarded by a canine militia. But so is a very different demographic: newly married couples. For Akhzivland has perhaps the most romantic setting of all micronations, surrounded by mountains, overlooking a beautiful beach, and next door to a national park. Memo to Prince Roy: that’s got to beat an old gun platform in the North Sea.
On Israel’s northwestern coast, four kilometres north of Nahariya.
FACTS ABOUT AKHZIVLAND
Postal Address President Eli Avivi, Akhzivland; PO Box 151, Nahariya, Israel.
Telephone 972 4982 3250.
Head of State President Eli Avivi.
Languages Arabic, English, Farsi, French, German, Hebrew.
Alternative Names Akhzibland; Achsiw; Medinat Achsiv; State of Achziv of Eli Avivi; State of Akhzivland.
Area 10,117 sq metres.
Before Eli Avivi came to town, the seaside village of Akhziv had a long history, dating back at least 3500 years and changing hands between the Egyptians, the Israelites, the Macedonians, the Assyrians, the Arabs, the Romans, the Ottomans, the Persians and the Greeks.
In 1930, the year Eli Avivi was born, it was part of a British-ruled Palestine, as was Tel Aviv, Avivi’s birthplace; as a young man, Eli became a sailor in what he calls the ‘Jewish Underground Navy’ and ended up smuggling European immigrants into Palestine.
When the British pulled out of Palestine in 1947, the War of Independence between the Arabs and the Jews was sparked off. By the time the smoke had settled and the new state of Israel had emerged, Akhziv’s inhabitants had been driven into Lebanon, never to return.
In 1952 Avivi was wandering around Israel. He came across Akhziv, saw that it had been deserted and decided to settle there; the only remaining building was an old Arabic house. From the start, Avivi declared the village to be the independent State of Akhzivland, claiming he was holding the land ‘in trust’ for its original Palestinian inhabitants. For a while he seemed to be regarded by the Israeli government as a harmless crank and was duly left alone. But things changed in 1970 when the authorities decided to annex Akhziv into the surrounding national park. When the Israelis sent in bulldozers to flatten the Presidential palace, Avivi, according to Akhzivland watcher SM Pechkin, drew a gun and fended off the machines. He was to be charged with the crime of ‘establishing a country without permission’, until, says Pechkin, he marched to the capital, charmed the Israeli Prime Minister, and persuaded the government to lease him the land for 99 years. Another version of the story says that the judge who heard his case sympathised with him and threw the case out of court, ensuring Akhzivland exists in a state of legal limbo to this day.
Throughout the ’70s Avivi welcomed all manner of hippies, outsiders, students, artists and misfits to Akhzivland, a motley crew that tended and maintained the land in exchange for food, board and rock concerts. In the beginning Akhzivland had an agenda (the Palestinian question), although it was never overt and it’s not explicitly promoted today. In fact, the President doesn’t preach or sermonise; all he has ever seemed to really want is to live a free life, on his own terms, without harming others.
As far as we can tell, Akhzivland transcends issues of nationalism and religion. It’s a true Kingdom of the Self and that’s enough to warm the cockles of any micronationalist worth their plastic crown and sword.
GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE
Akhzivland is bounded by Lebanese hills in the north, Galilean mountains in the east, the Mediterranean Sea in the west, and the town of Acre in the south. The area has a Mediterranean climate: hot, dry summers and cool, mild winters.
Akhzivland’s main form of income is tourism, just as well considering the nation’s failed building industry (as one recent visitor noted, President Avivi tends to move planks of wood around a lot in order to build platforms that serve no clear purpose and are never used).
The burgeoning worldwide trend in wedding tourism has found a purchase: just-married couples often hire out the Presidential villa for photo shoots, although the government has also taken to issuing Akhzivlandian marriage certificates of dubious legality.
PEOPLE & CULTURE
According to SM Pechkin, there’s no discrimination in Akhzivland. ‘Every nationality is welcome,’ he writes, ‘except for churls, thieves, cads and misers’. Akhzivlandians are keen amateur historians when they’re not diving or fishing. One traveller reports that they also have a passion for nude photography, judging (so our source says) from pictures of the First Lady on the walls of the Presidential villa.
PLACES TO STAY
Akhzivland offers a few simple stone or wood rooms (per person $34). Camping (per night $18) is also permitted. Alternatively, try the Yad Le-Yad Hostel (%972 4982 3345; PO Box 169, Nahariya; beds/beach bungalows per person $24/17) in nearby Nahariya.
THINGS TO SEE & DO
The President maintains a small museum to house his collection of artefacts from Akhziv’s history. Exhibits include pottery and weapons, some obtained during presidential diving exhibitions.
A couple of minutes away, in Israeli territory, Akhziv Beach (h8am-7pm summer; admission $3) is a stunning stretch of Mediterranean coast.
The Akhziv National Park (%972 4982 3263; h8am-7pm summer; admission $4) has its own sheltered beach and the ruins of a Crusader castle, as well as a restaurant and picnic facilities.
GETTING THERE & AWAY
Take a train or bus to Nahariya via Haifa. There are no visa restrictions.
Akhziv (http://pechkin.rinet.ru/foto/il/Asher/ Akhziv), a website by SM Pechkin. Features background information and many photos.
‘A World of His Own’ (www.goworldtravel. com), Colin Miller’s extensive interview with Eli Avivi, published by the online magazine Go World Travel.