We packed up and drove west toward the coast above Akko. Destination: the “state” of Achzib. For more than 40 years, eccentric squatter Eli Avivi has lorded over this “micro-nation”, based around the abandoned mansion of an Arab sheik who fled after 1948. I had visited Achzibland at least once when I was a volunteer 20 years ago—in fact, I was married there in a boozy ceremony around the campfire—and have at least two passports with the crude stamp that Eli applies for visitors. Last year, I was the only visitor, so Eli coaxed me into driving him into Naharya and having coffee there and then driving him to the grocery store to buy cat foot. (It’s a good bet I will never do that with another head of state.) I was hoping that Jerry could meet him on this trip, but alas Eli was under the weather and not doing interviews anymore. Still, he’s a legend in my mind—a stubborn visionary who withstood every attempt by authorities to uproot him from his nation on the beach until they finally gave up and installed a highway sign with his name on it instead. From outlaw to tourist attraction.
Finally, we drove east into the hills again until we got lost in the back roads of the “village” of Klil. Actually, it’s not officially a village, which we learned from longtime resident (and scientist, and herbalist, and peace activist, and Buddhist teacher) Stephen Fulder is a good thing. Klil is on land purchased from local Druze Arabs, so residents can own a plot (unlike kibbutzim, which sit on property leased from the Israel Land Authority), but because it doesn’t have official status, any construction on these properties is technically illegal and could be ordered torn down by the local bureaucracy—an unlikely outcome, but one that keeps people from moving in and building unsightly monster homes.
Instead, many of the homes in Klil are off-the-grid or temporary. When we got lost, we called Stephen and said we were near the yurt—not a useful landmark, it turned out. “There are 14 yurts in Klil,” he replied. When we finally connected, we had a fascinating conversation with Fulder about his various careers and how he came to settle up in the hills of western Galilee. Later, we had a great meal at a local hippie café, and then had another wide-ranging chat with Rachel, Stephen’s wife, the next morning. She is a Talmudic scholar who did graduate work to—in her own words—“bring feminism to Jewish learning.” She grew up in Jaffa and has a close connection to Arab culture, and told us many stories about life in these hills, amongst the hippies, the back-to-the-landers, and the Druze.