We did not go to the Golan. This may not seem like a big deal, but as we have almost always taken our summer vacations there, the Golan is our home away from home. We love the hikes, the scenery, and the overall atmosphere created by the many frum families vacationing during the summer, especially during bein ha’zmanim, when yeshivos have their three-week break. But this summer, we took a bold step and rented an apartment in Nahariya, the northernmost coastal city in Israel, six miles from Israel’s border with Lebanon.
Nahariya began as an agricultural village that was bought from an Arab landowner. The land was offered to two German immigrant couples who escaped Nazi persecution. They settled in Nahariya in 1935 and, within a year, there were 40 pioneers living in huts in the area. When they realized that Nahariya was not the right place for agriculture, they changed course and focused their energy on tourism and the food industry, turning the village into a European-style resort town. The Strauss Dairy company, the Soglowek Meat Processing Company, and Iscar, the high-precision metalworks and tool-making giant, were all founded and developed in Nahariya. Iscar was purchased by Berkshire Hathaway for $5 billion.
The Ga’aton River flows literally through the main street of Nahariya, which is lined with cafes, shops, and Eucalyptus trees towering over both sides of the street. The river usually flows into the Mediterranean Sea but, during the summer months, it dries up. Along the beach, there is a public park that provides areas for sports and a waterfront promenade. We sat mesmerized as we watched a group of boys flipping their scooters in the skate park. The playgrounds have creative equipment for small children and the rollerblading area can be used for hockey, as well. We watched the mayor walk by, accompanied by his entourage, as the preparation for that night’s concert was underway.
Due to its proximity to Lebanon, unfortunately, Nahariya has been the target of numerous terrorist attacks, mortar attacks, and Katyusha rocket fire. During the Lebanon War in 2006, hundreds of rockets rained down on Nahariya, causing casualties, fatalities, and significant property damage. Many residents were forced to evacuate while others moved into shelters. One lovely family from Nahariya came to live on our street during that time. Our neighbors were out of the country and offered the use of their home to the evacuees.
While relaxing on our mirpeset, we were able to hear the waves and watch the colorful sunset over the ocean. The clear water has natural pools close to the shore that are perfect for wading. Our kids took a Tornado (speed) boat driven by a guide who took them up close to two of the three Rosh Hanikra Islands (Nachalieli and Shachaf), located approximately half a mile offshore. The natural pools of the Rosh Hanikra Islands provide a habitat for a rich variety of marine life as well as rare birds not found anywhere else in Israel. These islands are part of a nature reserve, and nobody is allowed to set foot on them. The guide also showed them one of two Israeli Navy boats named “Devora,” on which 12 soldiers spend three-to-four consecutive days securing the area.
My family also hiked Nachal Achziv. I was told that it was a good thing that I volunteered to stay back with a baby who desperately needed a nap. The hike was not as easy as expected, especially in the heat. But the cool water at the end made all the effort worthwhile.
A unique tourist attraction located in the area is Medinat Achziv, Achzivland, founded by Eli Avivi. During the British Mandate, Eli was part of the Palmach, the Jewish underground organization, and after the founding of the state, he served in the Navy. As he sailed along the Mediterranean Sea in 1952, he discovered the bay of Achziv and declared this 3.5 acres of land to be his own country. When he met his wife, Rina, she joined him in his state where he considers himself the democratically elected President. The state, which has a population of two, also has its own flag and its own national anthem (the sound of the ocean waves). It has an open-air parliament, boat docks, and a museum filled with archeological treasures that Eli dug up on his property. People have all sorts of motivations for creating these “micronations,” which exist in various places throughout the world. It’s definitely an interesting phenomenon.
For years, nobody paid much attention to Eli and Rina; but in the 1970s, the Israeli authorities wanted to build a highway and national park on the Avivis’ land. Eli refused to leave and stood on the bulldozers, preventing them from continuing their work. Eli and Rina were taken into custody for eight days for this protest, but since there was no Israeli law against creating a state without permission, the Avivis were released. A compromise was reached and the Avivis officially became state owners when they agreed to officially lease the land from the state of Israel for 99 years. Since then, they have lived peaceful lives except for the time when Arabs tried to enter Israel quietly via the beach. The Arabs even broke into the Avivis’ house. Rina pulled out a machine gun, which they did not expect, and they left right away. After that episode, barbed-wire fences and closed-circuit TVs were installed so that there would be a proper border around Medinat Achziv. Throughout the 1970s the Avivis ran a sort of Bohemian resort village. Artists, politicians, some celebrities, and counterculture types would come to stay there. The Avivis would issue passports for those passing through and at one time would stamp visitors’ own passports. Eli Avivi passed away in May 2018.
Although we missed the Golan, we were happy to see a charming, yet less familiar, part of Israel. Who knows where we will go next?