Opinion

Israel 2048: Long Live the State of Tel Aviv

In 30 years, Israeli liberals will be living behind walls and no longer try to convince others of the justice of their cause, insisting instead on the right to exist cut off from the nationalist public

Moti Milrod

On its 100th anniversary in 2048, Israel will be a more clearly defined country, more open with itself, its citizens and those others subject to its rule.

I will have lost the connection with the operating instructions that it came with, which will have become some kind of marginal historical artifact whose existence doesn’t even bear denying. Israel will have taken off the various disguises that it had been dressed up in – from pretensions of a melting pot to the illusion that the country is part of the Western world. And it may also admit to itself, honestly and unashamedly, that it is just another Middle Eastern religious state, with a brittle democracy.

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The remaining Israeli liberal community will become a very distinct and rather tightly clenched minority, a large and crowded family unit of sorts that will congregate within its own living spaces with as loose and evasive a connection as possible with the country around it. To put it coarsely, a State of Tel Aviv, with cultural and economic pockets scattered across the country, will erect high walls and accentuate its separation from the ruling Israel, which will have cast it aside with disproportionate revulsion and disgust.

It might try to have a separate legal system, a separate economy and even a separate dialect of Hebrew (or even go as far, heaven forbid, as real animosity, i.e., war). But it should stop at political aspirations, pretensions to power, a desire to exert influence – measurements that are valuable when examining the extent to which a specific group belongs to the wider population and how the wider population relates to the group.

The passion of this liberal minority to chart a path, to convince society of the justice of its path and readiness to adopt its model, will be converted into efforts at survival and protecting itself. This will mean defending the right to exist cut off from the wider religious and nationalist public that will be defined as Israel’s default identity; defending the right to hold secular and humanistic values and to live according to them; defending the right to educate children in a worldview that to most people who will be living here would appear strange, even indecent.

As people with knowledge, resources and opportunities as well as privileges, this liberal minority won’t be forlorn. Neither will it be gathered into ghettos or labeled with distinctive badges as the creative prophets of destruction who spread fear would have it, inspired by threats from regimes of the past. But it will entirely lack the illusion of power and influence. Life as a political minority – and, even more than that, genuine recognition of this status – will be more daunting or, at best, less cushy (depending upon expectations).

There will certainly be those who, in such a situation, will prefer to find new shores in Europe (equipped with a Polish or Hungarian passport) or in North America (equipped with the offer of a high-tech job or a university research position). On the surface, such a choice would appear reasonable and even responsible, maybe even more so than the choice – to the extent that it exists – of staying.

And yet – and perhaps this is less a product of experience than a wish to look beyond the dark clouds – those leaving will be a minority. The secular, liberal minority with its worry lines, discomfort in the heart, catastrophic thoughts about the future and discomfort in the face of the tyranny of the majority – these people will remain in Israel in any event. Living in Hebrew, rearing children near their parents, the simple desire to remain in the house even when the house is no longer a home, will be decisive. When all is said and done, these are stronger reasons than any divine promise that anyone has been given.