After half a century, Israel moves to evict squatter from his cave home on the beach

by Madison Thomas

Israel Moves to Remove Longtime Occupant from Unique Beach Cave Home After Five Decades

For more than fifty years, Nissim Kahlon has painstakingly transformed a small cave nestled along a Mediterranean beach into a magnificent underground masterpiece. The intricately chiseled tunnels, mosaic floors, and network of staircases and chambers within this extraordinary dwelling have become a source of fascination for local visitors, and Kahlon, a spry 77-year-old, happily welcomes them into his subterranean abode.

However, Israel’s government now intends to oust him from his home.

Half a century after Kahlon first settled into the cave, the country’s Environmental Protection Ministry has served him with an eviction notice, citing the illegality of the structure and its potential threat to Israel’s coastline.

Nissim Kahlon's home, chiseled out of the sandstone cliffs, overlooks the Mediterranean sea in Herzliya, Israel, June 28, 2023.
Nissim Kahlon’s home, chiseled out of the sandstone cliffs, overlooks the Mediterranean sea in Herzliya, Israel, June 28, 2023.

“Rather than supporting me, they are belittling me,” Kahlon expressed, seated in his living room adorned with mosaic tiles, as he rolled a cigarette. Sunlight glistened on the sea visible through his west-facing windows.

Back in 1973, Kahlon resided in a tent along Herzliya beach, just north of Tel Aviv, when he embarked on his quest. He began scratching into the sandstone cliffs, eventually creating a cave dwelling of his own making.

Over time, Kahlon’s modest dwelling evolved into a larger-than-life sandcastle, fashioned from recycled wood, metal, ceramic, and stone. Elaborate mosaics, meticulously crafted from discarded tiles of various colors collected over the years from dumpsters in Tel Aviv, adorn nearly every surface of his main living quarters. Outside walls are decorated and insulated using recycled glass bottles.

Curved walls dominate the labyrinthine complex, while winding stairways lead to chambers with distinct designs and purposes. The dwelling boasts plumbing, a phone line, and electric lighting in its numerous rooms, with Kahlon confidently asserting the soundness of his construction.

“From the stones I quarry, I cast and build walls. There is no waste here, only materials—that’s the logic,” he stated. “Everything serves a purpose; nothing is discarded as trash.”

Although Kahlon received a demolition order in 1974, it was never executed.

Nissim Kahlon reaches for his walker in the cave home he's spent half of a century carving into a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean sea in Herzliya, Israel, June 28, 2023.
Nissim Kahlon reaches for his walker in the cave home he’s spent half of a century carving into a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean sea in Herzliya, Israel, June 28, 2023.

Since then, he claims to have encountered no opposition from authorities until last year. The eviction has been temporarily halted until the end of this month, allowing him time to file an appeal.

Kahlon acknowledges that he never obtained a building permit, and his beachfront restaurant, which he operated in the past, was shut down by the city hall. Nevertheless, his primary argument centers on the fact that local authorities connected his cave to the electric grid decades ago.

“I will not leave this place. I am prepared for them to bury me here,” declared Kahlon, a gruff yet amiable conversationalist, sporting a grey beard and beret. “I have nowhere else to go; this is my only home.”

Kahlon’s cave dwelling lies on the outskirts of Herzliya, a coastal city located eight miles (13 kilometers) north of Tel Aviv. It stands in stark contrast to the luxurious residences that line much of the town’s shoreline—an area associated with exclusive living in a country facing a severe housing crisis.

Just a few hundred meters north of Kahlon’s cave lies a Crusader castle, the site of a historic clash between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin over 800 years ago. Adjacent to it is an abandoned facility that once belonged to Israel Military Industries, a defunct government-owned arms manufacturer.

The facility, where explosives were developed and tested, was abandoned nearly three decades ago following a massive explosion in 1992 that claimed two lives, damaged hundreds of buildings, and shattered windows as far as Tel Aviv. Recently, another explosion created a substantial crater in the sandy soil not far from Kahlon’s dwelling.

Various Israeli government entities have accused each other of neglecting the cleanup of this abandoned and polluted site over the years. The Environmental Protection Ministry claims to have conducted multiple surveys to assess the pollution’s extent.

However, a comprehensive cleanup has not been undertaken since the facility was abandoned in the 1990s.

The ministry states that the Defense Ministry and IMI, which was acquired by defense contractor Elbit Systems five years ago, bear responsibility for securing the site. Remarkably, the facility’s main gate remains wide open and frequently serves as a venue for unauthorized gatherings. The ministry asserts that “there should not be any remnants of live ammunition” present.

Additionally, the Environmental Protection Ministry accuses Kahlon of causing “significant damage to the cliff, endangering the public, and reducing public access to the beach” over the past five decades. The recent explosion further amplifies the potential risks to the cliff.

The ministry claims that despite its efforts to resolve the matter since 2016, the Herzliya municipality and other authorities have failed to address the situation adequately. Consequently, the ministry issued the eviction order “to eliminate the harm to the coastal environment” and asserts that the municipality has arranged alternative housing for Kahlon.

In the meantime, Kahlon’s friends and family have launched a crowdfunding campaign to support his legal defense while he continues to pursue his lifelong endeavor.

After the interview with The Big Big News, Kahlon rose from his seat, picked up his walker and a mason’s hammer, and began chipping away at a nearby tunnel.

“I need to do something to feel alive. I cannot sit idle all day,” he remarked determinedly.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Nissim Kahlon

Why does Israel want to evict Nissim Kahlon from his cave home?

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry has served Nissim Kahlon an eviction notice, claiming that his cave home is illegal and poses a threat to the country’s coastline.

How long has Nissim Kahlon been living in the cave?

Nissim Kahlon has been residing in the cave for over fifty years, transforming it into an elaborate underground labyrinth filled with chiseled tunnels, mosaic floors, and chambers.

Has Nissim Kahlon faced opposition from authorities before?

Nissim Kahlon claims that since receiving a demolition order in 1974, he has faced no opposition from the authorities until last year when he was served the eviction notice.

Does Nissim Kahlon have any legal grounds for his defense?

While Nissim Kahlon acknowledges that he never obtained a building permit, he argues that local authorities connected his cave to the electric grid years ago. He also highlights the lack of opposition and the fact that he has nowhere else to go.

What is the reason behind the eviction order?

The Environmental Protection Ministry claims that Nissim Kahlon’s cave dwelling has caused significant damage to the cliff, endangered the public, and reduced public access to the beach. The recent explosion near the site has further heightened concerns about potential risks.

What actions have been taken to address the situation over the years?

The ministry states that it has conducted surveys to assess the pollution caused by an adjacent abandoned facility. It accuses various government entities, including the Herzliya municipality, of failing to adequately address the situation. The ministry issued the eviction order to eliminate harm to the coastal environment and asserts that alternative housing has been arranged for Kahlon.

How can people support Nissim Kahlon?

Friends and family of Nissim Kahlon have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for his legal defense while he continues to pursue his life’s work in his cave home.

More about eviction

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ArtisticSoul July 15, 2023 - 7:16 am

Nissim Kahlon’s cave is a true work of art! those intricate mosaics and recycled materials make it so special. it’s a shame that authorities are trying to demolish such a creative masterpiece.

CuriousTraveler July 15, 2023 - 7:45 pm

this whole story is fascinating! from the cave dwelling to the nearby Crusader castle and abandoned facility, there’s so much history and intrigue in that area. can’t wait to learn more!

Supporter101 July 15, 2023 - 7:56 pm

i’m glad there’s a crowdfunding campaign to support Nissim Kahlon. he shouldn’t have to fight this battle alone. let’s help him defend his home and artistic vision!

NatureLover23 July 15, 2023 - 8:04 pm

the environmental protection ministry has a point about the potential risks to the cliff and public safety. but instead of eviction, maybe they could find a compromise or help with the necessary renovations?

JohnDoe82 July 15, 2023 - 8:20 pm

wow, israel wants to kick out that guy from his awesome cave home? i mean, he’s been there like forever and made it all fancy with tunnels and mosaics. why can’t they just let him be?

BeachLover88 July 16, 2023 - 5:29 am

i can’t believe they say his cave is illegal and threatening the coastline. it’s not like he’s building a skyscraper or something! let the man enjoy his unique underground living space.


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