Nissim Kahlon has been dubbed a hermit who lives on the outskirts of Israeli society, yet he’s also a renegade freethinker whose home is a unique piece of historical architecture. You see, the 77-year-old lives in a series of interconnected caves he has painstakingly carved into a sandstone cliff on a seafront only a few miles north of Tel Aviv. In recent years, Kahlon has been dealing with the threat of eviction, but until that day, he will stay put in his work of art, which has become a genuine tourist attraction.
After nearly 50 years in his “Hermit House,” the Israeli government did something unthinkable in 2022: they threatened to kick Kahlon out. It was argued that, instead of living in a home he was permitted to build, he has simply been squatting on public land in an illegal structure.
It was the first time Kahlon had dealt with any opposition to his life’s work since 1974; back then, he had been instructed to demolish the house. Naturally, he’d refused, and since then that order had never actually been enforced.
“This house is a museum”
While Kahlon couldn’t dispute the charge of building illegally, he did argue his “House of Shells” had become culturally important in Israel. He revealed, “I worked here 50 years with no salary. What did I do: did I murder, steal, rape?
“No! This house is a museum. They should give me a prize. Everyone, including tourists, come here and are in shock. ‘This is unbelievable,’ they say. I never claimed this was my property, but I built something here that is of value to the public.”
Threatened with eviction
Thankfully, over the years Kahlon has become something of a cult hero in the area, so he has plenty of supporters who think his home should be officially classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Only time will tell, though, whether this will be enough for Kahlon — who has resisted societal norms and flown in the face of authority for five decades — to keep his house. In the meantime, perhaps it’s worth exploring how he found himself living in the cave in the first place!
In 1973 a 29-year-old Kahlon found himself in Herzliya Pituach, one of Israel’s most affluent beachfront towns. He was a man running from his past, which had included a period of mandatory military service, and he was keen to start a new life.
Back in his hometown were 11 siblings, a family life defined by poverty, and an arranged marriage which had no intention of honoring. No, this young man was determined that he was going to stay in Herzliya, by hook or crook.