Emanuel Hatzofe, 84, took his time getting to the shelter yesterday when Israeli air-raid sirens over Tel Aviv warned of incoming rockets from the Gaza Strip.
The retired sea captain, once a guerrilla with the pre-state Jewish underground, carried his wooden stool with him, as well as a little cushion, for comfort.
The siren allows 90 seconds to take shelter. It had gone silent by the time Emanuel, easing the bad knee where he was shot in 1948, got down in a corner of the wall.
There was a double detonation in the sky somewhere over Jaffa, inland from the shore.
“That was two bangs,” he said. Israel’s Iron Dome interceptor had knocked out two long-range rockets fired by Palestinian militants for the fourth time in four days.
He screwed up his eyes and looked up at a lingering twist of white smoke and vapour trailing in the sky above the old Arab town of quiet lanes and little stone mosques, now a Tel Aviv district.
“There will never be a solution to this,” Emanuel says.
Sitting outside his cramped workshop in an ancient wooden freight wagon from Belgian railways, he casts his mind back a long way.
“I went to Gaza when I was eight on a school trip,” he says.
That would have been in 1936. “They threw stones at us and I got a bad cut in the forehead. Look.”
It’s hard to pick out the faint star of an old wound in his wrinkled brow. He moves on.
“I was in the Palmach, when we fought the British and the Arabs, you know?” The Palmach was the elite strike force of the Haganah at the time of the British mandate in what was then Palestine.
“It was the British who screwed this up. They should have divided the land between the Jews and the Arabs, but they didn’t.”
The United Nations voted in 1947 to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Rejecting this, the Arabs went to war and were beaten back by the Jews who, on the war’s conclusion, founded the State of Israel on expanded borders.
“I didn’t agree with that. But our government agreed.”