Israel at 100: How will the Jewish state look in 2048?

Israeli director Yaron Kaftori’s 2010 film 2048 imagines a dystopian future in which Israel has ceased to exist, fading into history. He needn’t have worried.

 Celebrating Independence Day on Mount Herzl. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Celebrating Independence Day on Mount Herzl.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

After recently celebrating Israel’s 75th Independence Day, let’s forecast life in the Jewish state when it observes its centennial on the 5th of Iyar, 5808 – Saturday, April 18, 2048.

Save the date – unless the rabbis change it.

How will Israel look in the year 2048?

While global climate change has caused severe problems for many neighboring countries, Israel is weathering the decades-long drought gripping the Middle East thanks to a dozen vast desalination plants it has constructed along the Mediterranean coast and its water-for-energy deal with Jordan, which operates the Red Sea-Dead Sea desalination project in the Gulf of Aqaba.

Together they yield enough fresh water from the salty sea to provide for the country’s thirsty 15.2 million people and those in the State of Palestine, which encompasses the West Bank and Gaza Strip and has its capital in Jerusalem – which like Rome and the Vatican is an undivided open metropolis.

 A poster for Yaron Kaftori’s film, ‘2048’ (credit: IMDB)
A poster for Yaron Kaftori’s film, ‘2048’ (credit: IMDB)

More than a million Israelis live in the territories the country captured in the Six Day War, as well as 500,000 in what was called East Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967 and eastern Jerusalem thereafter. People – many fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Russian – live in an uneasy mix of mutual respect and fear but somehow muddle along. 

Lake Kinneret, once depleted by the ever-shorter and dryer winter rainy season and years of drought, is filled to the brink with desalinated H2O. Similarly, the Dead Sea has been stabilized at -325 meters. Many of the thousands of sinkholes created as the salt lake level dropped are again underwater. The Dead Sea Works stopped pumping chemical-saturated water into evaporation ponds to harvest minerals when the 100-year concession expired in 2030.

Environmentalists fought a long battle not to renew the agreement which had caused severe ecological problems. After lengthy soil remediation, the futuristic city of Sodom (population 50,000) – akin to Moshe Safdie’s Habitat ’67 in Montreal and his Marina Bay in Singapore – was built atop the vast industrial wasteland cleaned of its piles of potash, bromine, magnesium, potassium and other poisons.

Once parched rivers are again flowing with water, if not milk and honey. The Jordan River, which had been reduced to a narrow sewer trickling to the Dead Sea, again resembles the broad waterway which Joshua forded to lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. Once extinct lions of Judah again roam Jordan’s Ghor in the country’s third Hai Bar nature reserve, as they did when King David was still a shepherd. The landmines have all been cleared in the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights and the Arava.

Jericho Beach (known as Shatt Ariha in Arabic and Hof Yericho in Hebrew) is a model city built along both banks of the Jordan and the north end of the replenished Dead Sea. Jews and Palestinians live side by side in coexistence and as good neighbors. More or less.

Some commute by high-speed train to Amman and others to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Many Israelis work from home in a virtual office.

In the hills of Galilee and central Israel, the Mediterranean shrublands are slowly maturing into mixed forests of olives, figs, cypress, pines and oaks, thanks to more than a century of the Jewish National Fund’s careful arboreal management. As old planted groves of Aleppo pines die, they are being replaced with mixed deciduous forests. The JNF has built scores of reservoirs to further micro-manage the country’s water resources. Forestation continues.

Who eats all those dates from the endless palm groves in the Arava, irrigated with treated sewage water?

While today Israel is crowned with greenery, 147 years after the JNF was established at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel in 1901 and began its reforestation, the once ubiquitous citrus groves of Jaffa and the Sharon plain hardly exist. They were uprooted to make way for housing, hi-tech and industry. Marijuana and gat are currently popular cash crops. Many people grow ersatz meat in their kitchens. Rabbis are still debating if Halacha permits eating vegan cheese on a faux hamburger. Vegetarians are a major market.

How will Israel's cities have changed?

Thanks to water recycling and desalinization, Israel’s cities are today shady and lush. The most dramatic change is the once-dreary Beersheba. The formerly dusty desert town now resembles verdant Las Vegas thanks to the long-serving mayor Ruvik Danilovich, who was first elected in 2008. The city’s once-treeless wadi, where Abraham the patriarch dug a well 3,700 years ago and where Australian mounted cavalry overwhelmed Ottoman and German defenders in 1917 during a pivotal World War I battle, now resembles London’s Hampstead Heath and New York’s Central Park.

Following the lead of the Big Orange, whose getting-uppity skyline is surpassed by the iconic 100-floor Bein Arim Tower and the 120-floor high-rise at the Ramat Gan Diamond Exchange – the tallest building in Israel – Beersheba has a rafter of skyscrapers. So too, cities like Jerusalem, Haifa and Netanya all boast clusters of super-tall residential and office towers. Other cities, including Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv, and Mevasseret Zion, west of Jerusalem, have been swallowed up in municipal reorganizations that have created seven big cities whose population each exceeds one million people.

How will trains, light rails, and bike paths revolutionize Israeli transportation? 

All are serviced by light rail, train lines and bicycle paths. Jerusalem is crisscrossed by trams linking Gilo, Malha, Ein Kerem, Ramot, Neveh Ya’akov, Mount Scopus and Armon Hanatziv. The network extends to the Palestinian cities of Ramallah, Bir Zeit and Rawabi to the north and to Bethlehem and Hebron to the south.

By Rachel’s Tomb, the trams pass the graffiti-covered remnants of the West Bank separation wall, which like die Mauer in Berlin stand as symbols of an old animus put aside in the modern world. With the demolition of the Dolphinarium on Tel Aviv’s seashore, the landmark beach promenade now extends continuously from Herzliya to Rishon Lezion.

Israel is connected by electric, high-speed trains linking Kiryat Shmona in the north to Eilat in the south. Besides the four tracks in Tel Aviv’s Ayalon transportation corridor, a parallel route to the east lets trains bypass the city. Super-tall towers ring the major urban park built atop the Ayalon Valley corridor, with its train tracks, expressway and decked-over wadi.

Wealthy Tel Avivis catch the train to their weekend homes overlooking Lake Kinneret, Old Acre and the Gulf of Eilat. Some prefer a beach house in Cyprus or Greece. Rhodes, Corfu, Kos and Crete are favorites since each has a historic synagogue. 

When Eilat’s Yaakov Hozman Airport – named after the founder of Arkia Airlines – closed in 2019, it was replaced by a new downtown joining the hotel district and the old city center. Similarly, Tel Aviv’s seaside Sde Dov airport was decommissioned a year later and replaced by a fancy-schmancy seaside neighborhood of 16,000. The marinas strung along the country’s coasts are filled with yachts and sailboats – many inhabited year-round and others just by weekend sailors.

While Ben-Gurion Airport and Ramon Airport remain open, the main international gateway to Israel is Netanyahu Airport, built 10 km offshore from Rishon Lezion and connected to the mainland by a causeway carrying trains and cars.

Further out to sea is the Leviathan gas field’s floating Liquefied Natural Gas terminal which sends LNG to the European Union and Egypt. Proceeds from those burgeoning sales are pumping up Israel’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, which began accruing capital in 2022.

That prosperity has transformed Israel’s urban landscapes. Once ubiquitous, cheaply-built shikunim (“public housing projects”) erected in the state’s first two decades have largely disappeared in government-sponsored pinui-binui (“evacuation-construction”) and Tama 38 earthquake-reinforcement projects.

The result? Israeli cities look more attractive and in parts, even elegant. The historic sections of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba, Rishon Lezion, Nazareth and Beit She’an flourish as pedestrian malls. Bauhaus treasures from the Mandate period have been restored to their pristine Mediterranean minimalist beauty, as have Levantine buildings from the Ottoman era.

A historic plaque marks the south Tel Aviv site of what was the eyesore central bus station. The blighted building was demolished in 2025 and now forms part of the trendy neighborhood of Shapira.

Despite the huge amount of construction – the national bird of Israel remains the crane – the steady stream of annual aliyah of 50,000-plus Jews from France, Britain, Russia, the United States, Canada and Latin America has kept the real estate market heated up. The price of a condominium in a prime location in central Tel Aviv or Jerusalem rivals Manhattan, Paris and London. Meanwhile, the Diaspora has shrunk to a quarter of world Jewry’s 20-million total.

Jerusalem’s car-free a-Zahra Street in the Arabic-speaking eastern part of the city rivals the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall on the west side as a popular place to hang out. The Bezalel School of Art’s campus bridges the Israeli and Palestinian downtowns. A third pedestrian district follows the tram line along Strauss Street through Sabbath Square and the haredi part of the city. A fourth walking zone rings the Navon Train Station and includes the Interior Ministry and the District Courthouse. Traffic around the Mahane Yehuda market also passes in tunnels.

The landmark National Library, facing the Knesset, opened in 2023. But hardly anyone reads printed books, newspapers, or magazines anymore. Another notable building nearby is the Prime Minister’s Mansion, painted turquoise to ward off the evil eye.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be resolved by 2048 after Donald Trump's second term

To the chagrin of the BDS movement and UNRWA staff made redundant, the Palestine-Israel conflict is resolved. Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians freely move between their respective countries, which share a customs union and currency and work together closely on bilateral and security issues. The historic sulha (“reconciliation”) was based on a religious pax between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, personally sworn by every adult in the three countries, acknowledging that all religions are equal before the one universal God who commands us to live in peace and mutual respect. Slowly the hate and fear have dissipated.

Identity is blurry in Israel in 2048. Nearly a million of the almost 15.2 million Israelis identify as neither Jewish nor Arab. Most Israelis hold a second passport.

Jerusalem – in a convoluted deal Donald Trump sorted out on Twitter during his second term as president – hosts two American embassies in a peace agreement establishing a regional federation allied with the European Union and the United States. 

Plans for a train station in Jerusalem’s Old City near the Western Wall called “Trump” were quietly dropped in 2023. Jerusalem’s three train stations swish passengers to Ben-Gurion Airport and then on to Tel Aviv’s four stations and Haifa’s three stops. Equally popular is the cable car linking the Mount of Olives, the Western Wall and the First Station entertainment complex housed in the 1892 Ottoman-era train station.

Religious-secular divide in Israel to be resolved in the near future

Relations between secular and religious Israelis greatly improved with the aforementioned sulha. With the IDF becoming a volunteer professional army, the question of haredi enlistment became moot. The work week has shortened to four days a week, with Israelis knocking off at 5 p.m. on Thursdays to begin a three-day weekend.

With more spare time and more disposable income thanks to a monthly average salary of NIS 50,000, Israelis have discovered the spiritual balance of bread and Torah. Shabbat is “in” and synagogue attendance is burgeoning.

Israeli director Yaron Kaftori’s 2010 film 2048 imagines a dystopian future in which Israel has ceased to exist, fading into history. He needn’t have worried. The reality of a post-modern, post-Zionist Israel exceeds the hope of the country’s visionary dreamers of Zion. Both Theodor Herzl and Rabbi Avraham Kook would be delighted by what has evolved – a physical and spiritual homeland rooted in the ancient Torah and the modern Middle East. Just imagine. ■