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24 May 2018 4:34
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  •   Home > News > International

    Eli Avivi, who founded the micronation of Achzivland on Israel's northern border, dies aged 88

    Eli Avivi, the President of Achzivland, a hippie micronation on the northern coast of Israel which drew high-profile visitors including Sophia Loren and Paul Newman, dies aged 88.

    The future of one of the Middle East's smallest 'nations' is in doubt after its ruler died at the age of 88.

    Eli Avivi was the President of Achzivland, a hippie micronation on the northern coast of Israel near the Lebanese border.

    The only other citizen was his wife Rina, 71, who confirmed his death.

    His sister told Israeli news site Ynet news he had been suffering from severe pneumonia.

    Micronations are countries that have declared independence from their host nation, but are not recognised by the rest of the world.

    The story of Achzivland began in the early 1950s, when Mr Avivi first visited the area.

    He built his own home by the sea and met and married his wife Rina almost a decade later.

    But in 1970, the Israeli Government obtained an order against him and bulldozed his home.

    In retaliation, Mr Avivi declared the piece of land next to the Achziv National Park an independent nation — called Achzivland.

    The BBC travelled to the micronation in 2015 to interview Mr Avivi about how Achzivland evolved.

    "They [the Israeli Government] didn't like me making a little country," he told the BBC.

    "They did everything they could to take me away from here.

    "It's like I make something against Israel, but it's not true … I love Israel, the place, but not the Government."

    The Avivis eventually reached an agreement with the Israeli authorities to pay for access to the sea, and created a "national" museum full of antiquities.

    Achzivland became a hippie retreat to escape from work, responsibility, or money worries, with utopian ideals.

    In 1972 the "country" hosted a Woodstock-like rock concert which drew a crowd of thousands, angering many residents of the surrounding towns.

    Frequent visitors, drawn by the idyllic lifestyle and pristine coastline, included Sophia Loren, Shimon Perez and Paul Newman.

    The Israeli Government never officially recognised Mr Avivi's micronation, but he would stamp visitors' passports if they entered through the foreboding fence sounding the tiny piece of land.

    The legal fight over the world's "tiniest country" continues to this day.

    Roy Arad, an Israeli poet, political activist and journalist described Mr Avivi as "a fighter, a lover and a bohemian".

    Reflecting on his time visiting Achzivland just 10 days ago, Arad said Mr Avivi had been in hospital for several days.

    "Today you can't invent unusual places like Achzivland," he said in Israel's Haaretz newspaper.

    "I only hope the place survives against the market forces and proper governance."

    Australia has one of the highest number of micronations in the world, with citizens choosing to establish their own rule and shrug off the shackles of the country's constitutional democracy.

    The country's longest-running and arguably most successful micronation recently transitioned its rule.

    After 47 years on the throne, Prince Leonard, the self-declared sovereign of the Principality of Hutt River, abdicated in favour of his 59-year old son Prince Graeme.

    Prince Leonard was 92 years of age and suffering from emphysema.

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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