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כתב עת בנושאי תרבות ותוכן

The Present as Predicted in the Past


התמונה של אלי אשד
תאריך פרסום קודם: 
2004

Review of  Israel in the Year 2000 (ישראל בשנת 2000) by S. Goldfluss (1951)

The year 2000 is over and the State of Israel finds itself at a period filled with social, technological and security changes whose end is unpredictable.  For that reason it is especially interesting to see how a science fiction writer in 1950 predicted the appearance of Israel in the year 2000.  How was he wrong, and how was he right?

The book is called Israel in the Year 2000 (ישראל בשנת 2000) and was written by S. Goldfluss.

Recently ar 2002 the book was published again in Israel by BAVEL .a search after the unknown writer was unsucceful . Perheps it was a pseudoname for a well known Israeli writer ,perheps he was a complet unknown.

 The book  is a strange combination of astoundingly accurate predictions with some ideas that look to us today extremely strange.

Israel in 2000, according to Goldfluss, is a country with no more firearms since the last war between the great powers in 1955.  That world war brought about the disarmament of all “atomic shells, freeze bombs, and death rays” of all nations.  As a direct result Israel in 2000 has no army but instead not very effective units of “security service” scattered throughout the country.

The Animal’s Rebellion

In 2000 Israel is struck by a crisis which a first glance seems completely absurd:  As a result of a very serious drought (here it seems the Goldfluss predicted the world warming which we are so aware of today), and the spreading of urban land at the expense of rural land and pasture, animals are suffering from unprecedented hunger and thirst.  As a result enormous herds of animals turn against human beings, attack and eat them.   (This is reminiscent of various 1970s Hollywood movies in which nature, in the form of animals, turns against man.)  In as much as the human beings have no available firearms, they are forced to defend themselves with axes, bows and arrows, and other “cold” weapons in fierce battles.  The book has a description of a savage battle between humans and animals next to the HaBima Theatre in Tel Aviv, during which the theater is destroyed.  Goldfluss describes with enthusiasm the destruction of well-known sites in the Tel Aviv of his day by rampaging animals. 

But the reader need not fear for the future of the state in 2000, for it all ends well:  the herds of animals are defeated by a new weapon, liquid gas bombs, developed by a scientist from the Weizmann Institute.  (The heroic scientist, however, is killed in battle, but a monument is erected in his memory.)

On the face of it the idea of a rebellion of animals seems absurd until we notice that in the entire book the word “Arab” never appears.  At this point the reader begins to suspect that when Goldfluss speaks of a rebellion of “animals”, he is actually referring to something else entirely….  These suspicions are strengthened when Goldfluss describes the reactions of the countries of the world, and the foreign media, which support the animal’s rebellion as a just response to the degrading and contemptuous attitude of the Israeli humans.  Goldfluss also speaks of partially humorous suggestions to calm the situation via giving citizenship to the animals, and voting rights to the Knesset.  But there is the fear that they will then be in the majority and will take over the country democratically.

Politics

Goldfluss describes in the course of his story political events quite familiar to us in the real year 2000, such as the contempt and scorn toward government officials who no longer receive the admiration which they enjoyed in 1950, but instead insults and vilification.  He describes attempts of extremist Orthodox religious groups to receive more and more benefits. The religious parties in Goldfluss’ 2000 are not less demanding than those of the real 2000.  On the other hand he describes how the animal’s rebellion brings about temporary fraternity between the embroiled sectors of Israeli society in the year 2000.

The Urban Environment

After finishing the story of the animal’s “intifada”, Goldfluss turns to a more detailed description of the country in the years 2000 and after, and it is worth noting that he has some accurate predictions.  City areas grow at the expense of fields and orchards.  Tel Aviv has become an enormous city composed of neighborhoods that were once separate cities, such as Ramat Gan and Holon.  But at the end of the book Goldfluss gives us a tour of various Tel Aviv streets and describes how they look, a description quite unlike their actual appearance today, as there are flowering parks everywhere. 

Technology

Goldfluss describes various technological inventions such as television which is connected to a special “sense communication” device which can receive not only pictures but also such senses as touch and smell.  (Israeli and other companies are working on such a device today.)

In the sea next to Tel Aviv there is a large artificial island which has been built so that people of the city will have a comfortable bathing beach at some distance from the city….

Over Tel Aviv floats another artificial island called “Aeolia”, connected to the city by giant cables, to which people can go using four huge elevators.  On this island there is an airport and hotels.  This is the favorite recreation center of the Tel Avivians, who far prefer it to the city itself.  From the description it appears that this is a sort of floating shopping mall.

In order to increase the areas available for gardens in the small country, they are built hanging in the air as in ancient Babylon.  There will be intensive use of solar energy, which will be stored using a variety of devices.  Goldfluss describes attempts to bring about climate changes via changes in the direction of the axis of the earth.

Medical care is free, and medicine attempts of immunize people against diseases. 

Tel Aviv of the year 2000 has a subway!  (Unfortunately, in this matter Goldfluss was too optimistic.)

Social and Sexual Customs

Goldfluss also describes social and sexual customs, and here he seems to us ridiculous.  In his opinion couples will no longer hug in public, or walk hand in hand, since people of this period reject such “vulgarity”.  On the other hand, marriage is made official only after a year of living together, in order to test their compatibility to each other, and only when both sides declare their desire to stay together.

Dress has become shorter and sportier.  Women continue to use makeup but do not use lipstick as they have come to the conclusion that it just makes the woman’s face ugly.  Similarly, earrings are no longer worn.

There are no longer physically unattractive people because everyone uses plastic surgery.  Goldfluss foresaw the obsession with physical beauty of the real year 2000. 

People no longer smoke nor drink alcoholic beverages.

Culture

Goldfluss tried to predict the state of culture in the year 2000.

He predicts that major changes will take place in books, and the printed book will be replaced by the audio book, which he calls “Librophone”, which “readers” listen to.  (The invention exists today under a different name, as anyone knows who listens to “Talking Books” which one can find in one’s local Steimatzky book store.)  The only books in print will be scientific books and textbooks.  In this matter Goldfluss seems on the mark with respect to the coming years. 

He also describes literary genres that will still be popular in the year 2000:  Science fiction will be very popular!  Historical romances will also be very popular.  (Salammbo by Gustave Flaubert will still be a best seller in the year 2000.)   Also travel books.  On the other hand, he says that detective and crime fiction will no longer be of interest, as in the year 2000 there will no longer be criminals….

He describes a new art form, flower arranging, brought from Japan.  Sculpture will be based on the Classical Greek style.  Theater will become more cinema-like in order to compete with movies.

Conclusion

Goldfluss was astoundingly right about certain things.  But like most science fiction books, it seems that while he was right about many technical inventions, he was way off in his attempt to guess what society would be like in the year 2000.

Nevertheless the reader in the real year 2000 comes away with the feeling that he has gone in a time machine to a parallel world, a world similar and yet different from the world in which he lives.  The expectations of a person from 1950 with respect to 2000 have partly come true and partly do not exist at all. 

Goldfluss correctly foresaw the continuing conflict between the religious and the non-religious, conflicts whose roots were in his time.  On the other hand he did not think of things which are so relevant to us today, such as computers (which already existed in his time), which have brought about drastic changes in society and in the work environment in the real 2000.  If Goldfluss were to come in a time machine to the real 2000, a world of Internet communities, start-up companies which rise and fall, multi-national corporations, communication devices which go with us everywhere, and more, he would find it far more futuristic than the world he described in his book.

( p.s  As a result of the Hebrew version of this article  which was published in my book FROM TARZAN TO ZBENG a history of Israeli pulp literature, the book ISRAEL IN THE YEAR 2000 was again published by BAVEL, 52   years after it was originally publish   )  

(article was translated by Aharon Shir) 

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