'I have no other country': fresh attempts to build a new Israel

Uri Shapira

Senior Producer, Holy Land Uncovered | @UriShapira

7 min read
The micro-nation named "Achziv"  close to the Lebanese border in Israel.
i24NEWSThe micro-nation named "Achziv" close to the Lebanese border in Israel.

Following the government’s proposed judicial reforms this year, more and more voices are being heard discussing alternative countries to Israel

Last February a strange incident was reported in the Israeli media, where police in the coastal city of Hadera raided the offices of a group called “Yashar-El," a take on the Hebrew word for "Israel" and "Straight-to-God".  

The group had proclaimed an independent state, succeeding the land from Israel. The police arrested the leader of the group, Shai Karmusta.

"In Yashar-el, everybody is a king or queen,” Shaked, a member of the group, told i24NEWS. “I think we should disengage from Israel. From an early age we were taught to believe that the country is above everything and we should serve the state. But it’s very clear to me that the country serves huge corporations, the elections are just a show." 

Shaked says the group contains hundreds of people and many Israelis are interested in joining.

"Israel is one of the cruelest countries in the world" he says. "We see police brutality, abduction of children." 

For Shaked, the coronavirus pandemic was a turning point, where he realized that the country "forced us to stay at home and to inject chemical materials into our veins." 

He says that despite the arrest of Karmusta, the group continues to meet and plan its next steps. 

Israeli Police
Israeli PoliceLicense plates for the self-declared nation of Yashar-El in northern Israel.

What seemed to be a minor and local event could turn out to be the start of a trend.  

Since the massive wave of protests against the government’s proposed judicial reforms erupted earlier this year, more and more voices are being heard discussing alternative countries to Israel.

Itamar Rose, a filmmaker and activist, recently launched "Altneuland 2" inspired by the famous book by Theodore Herzl, who envisioned the modern state of Israel.  

"My idea is to gather as many supporters as possible and then turn to other countries, and negotiate with them in order to receive a territory for a second Israeli state," Rose says. 

Rose doesn’t rule out establishing another Israeli state within the borders of Israel, but in his vision that country would be democratic, secular, and liberal. 

“This is an inevitable process. Israel is already divided - on one hand we have the central area which is wealthy, democratic and western. On the other hand you have a second Israel, such as the ultra-Orthodox and Bedouin cities which are like a third world country," he says. 

"We must separate from Israel, just like an abused woman who must leave her home in order to save herself.” 

The main principles of this new entity are still unclear, but Rose says that, “we won't compromise on ‘half-democracy.’ 

He claims the new state would be open to every Israeli, and hopes that there will be a certain selective process based on the values of the new state. 

According to Rose, many people have shown interest in his project, but for now he has decided to stop the process and concentrate on forming the main doctrines of the state.

He is now working on a new podcast which will discuss the issue with historians and researchers.

The idea of declaring a new Israeli or Jewish country is not new and has existed even before the independence of Israel in 1948. Herzl himself presented the ‘Uganda Scheme’ in 1903, a plan to establish a Jewish country in British East Africa, which was accepted by the Sixth Zionist Congress, but the plan never came to fruition.  

In the 1950s, Eli Avivi, a Jewish loner, established a micro-nation named "Achziv" in an ancient coastal village close to the Lebanese border. 


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In 1989, extreme right wing activist Michael Ben Horin declared the ‘The Kingdom of Judea,’ in perhaps a tribute to the biblical kingdom which separated from biblical united Israel during the 10th century BCE. 

Ben Horin had declared it as a protest against plans to give autonomy to the Palestinians in the West Bank. 

More than 30 year later, Ben Horrin who lives in the Golan Heights, thinks differently. 

"We don’t need a new Jewish state any longer, because the government today is controlled by Jews," he tells i24NEWS. 

Yet, he still supports the population transfer of Arabs from Israel, an idea which was adopted by the Israeli extreme right wing party "Moledet" in the 1980s and 1990s but since then has vanished from Israeli politics.

"In 2004 there was an attempt to revive the notion of the Kingdom of Judea following the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, but the Jewish settlers didn’t follow this idea" he says. 

Another interesting initiative was "Newe Hofesh.”  

In 2014, i24NEWS covered the founding meeting in the Galilee where the group, led by left wing activist Dr. Anat Rimon, an education scholar who once showed empathy with ISIS, tried to create an independent settlement in northern Israel. However this project failed and the group dissolved soon after its first meeting. 

Today, Tamar Hoffman, one of the founders of this group, says that she opposes the new government, but she accepts the majority vote. 

"Most people in Israel voted for this government, so they can do whatever they want, including turning Israel into a dictatorship," she says. 

Hoffman sounds bitter, but it seems she doesn’t plan on reviving her ambitious plan.

"I spent a lot of effort and money on this, and nothing came out of it,” she lamented. 

It seems that most of these initiatives are doomed to fail, but the increase in opinions which doubt Israel's ability to remain democratic and are attempting to find alternatives may be worrying. 

The famous Israeli poet and lyricist Ehud Manor once wrote, "I have no other country, even though she’s burning, torn asunder.”

The iconic song was a symbol of Israeli nationality. Will we see new cracks in this consensus?

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