With over eight million inhabitants and a flourishing economy today, it is almost impossible to imagine what kind of place Israel was in 1948, the year that it was founded. The people, the landscape, the aspirations, and the national spirit were very different than they are now. The total length of the roads was 2,122 kilometers, in contrast to today’s over 25,000. The mean monthly family expenditure was US$380, more than half of which was for food, as compared to today’s US$3,000, only 10% of which is for food.
But economics and population is not the whole story. In 1948, Israel was a poor country in the midst of an extended and difficult war. At the same time, it was absorbing thousands of new immigrants and building the physical and ideological infrastructure of a new country. These challenges were met with a spirit of “we shall make this work.” It was not euphoria, but a feeling of being present at a unique moment in history.
The photos of that period embody this. Many of them are posed, carefully staged to convey the sense of renewal and togetherness that flourished during the creation of the new state. Even so, they portray the reality of those days of faith in a better future, the days when the Jewish people returned to their homeland. 1948: Israel The First Year, a photo album published by ERETZ Magazine and excerpted here, aspires to capture this spirit – not only as a work of nostalgia, but also as an indicator of what seems to be missing in Israel today.