Founder of the ‘most peace­ful coun­try in the Mid­dle East’ dies at 88

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By SARAH LEVI

Eli Avivi, the ec­cen­tric founder and leader of Akhziv­land, the bo­hemian coun­try within a coun­try, died on Wed­nes­day. He was 88.

Akhziv­land was founded in 1971 by Avivi, 4 kilo­me­ters north of Na­hariya on the Mediter­ranean coast, and since then it was in­hab­ited by two cit­i­zens, Avivi and his wife, Rina.

Akhziv­land was called the “Nueiba of the North,” and dur­ing his reign, Avivi earned a rep­u­ta­tion lo­cally and in­ter­na­tional as a bo­hemian, larger-thanlife Is­raeli le­gend. (Nueiba, a town on the Si­nai coast, is known as an in­ex­pen­sive, mar­i­juana-friendly beach va­ca­tion spot.)

For decades, this hid­den en­tity was a mag­net for back­pack­ers and young for­eign vis­i­tors – for the beach, the mar­i­juana and the loose morals. Ev­i­dence of that could be found in the abun­dant photo al­bums dot­ting Avivi’s liv­ing room, with snap­shots of mostly fe­male (and some­times to­p­less) guests.

And be­cause of its se­cluded lo­ca­tion, it was also fre­quented by celebri­ties, in­clud­ing Sophia Loren, Paul New­man and Bar Re­faeli.

For those in the know, Akhziv­land con­jured up im­ages of what we imag­ined Is­rael must have been like in the 1960s and 1970s, with a pace of life a step and a half be­hind the de­vel­oped world.

Akhziv­land has its own flag (three hor­i­zon­tal stripes – light blue, gold and dark blue – with a pic­ture of his home next to a to­p­less mer­maid), a national an­them (the sound of the sea) and a con­sti­tu­tion that states: “The pres­i­dent is demo­crat­i­cally elected by his own vote.” Avivi was nom­i­nated pres­i­dent of Akhziv­land by a vote of 1-0 in its first and only elec­tion in the year of its found­ing.

In Akhziv­land, you could get your pass­port stamped and en­ter a world where young and ad­ven­tur­ous trav­el­ers from Europe or Ged­era could make con­nec­tions of both worldly and mind-ex­pand­ing va­ri­eties – and leave be­hind a skin-bar­ing photo for one of the al­bums strewn through­out the sprawl­ing beach­front house.

Avivi was born in Iran in 1930 and moved with his fam­ily to Tel Aviv at the age of one.

A life­long lover of the sea, he joined the “Jewish Un­der­ground Navy” in 1946 and helped bring Jewish im­mi­grants from Europe to then Pales­tine.

A year later, he took to the sea again and worked on fish­ing boats, which af­forded him a chance to sat­isfy his wan­der­lust and ex­plore lo­cales along North Africa and Scan­di­navia.

He ar­rived on the deserted shores of Akhziv for the first time in 1952, af­ter a fish­ing trip to North Africa. Af­ter his years of travel, he de­cided that it would be his per­ma­nent home.

For the first 20 years, he lived a rel­a­tively in­con­spic­u­ous life in the house he built on the beach with Rina.

How­ever, in 1970, the au­thor­i­ties threat­ened to bull­doze his house to make way for a high­way that was sup­posed to run though his beach­front prop­erty.

Ag­i­tated, Avivi fought back and es­tab­lished his king­dom in 1971, which was ac­tu­ally pos­si­ble in Is­rael be­cause there was no law against the found­ing of a state or stak­ing a claim on land.

Since then, Akhziv­land and Avivi’s name and rep­u­ta­tion reached leg­endary sta­tus among cir­cles of back­pack­ers, hip­pies and free-spir­ited wan­der­ers who came to this mi­cro-na­tion to ex­pe­ri­ence a unique taste of par­adise and free­dom.

Avivi’s fu­neral took place on Wed­nes­day evening at Kib­butz Gesher Haziv’s ceme­tery. He is sur­vived by his wife.

David Brinn con­trib­uted to this re­port.

(YouTube)

ELI AVIVI earned a rep­u­ta­tion lo­cally and in­ter­na­tional as a bo­hemian, larger-than-life Is­raeli le­gend.

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