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“I was in the Palmach, when we fought the British and the Arabs, you know?” The Palmach was the elite strike force of the underground 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.”
“And then of course I was in the 1948 war, and got wounded,” he says, squeezing his knee. The war that created the state of Israel, he means - when many Arabs were expelled from Jaffa and some ended up as refugees in Gaza.
Emanuel’s big sculpture “Boat”, carved out of steely grey basalt from the valley of the Sea of Galilee, sits in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
Older now and with a bad shoulder, he carves smaller sculptures in his railway wagon and watches the world go by.
Sunday was the fourth straight day of sirens followed by explosions in the greater Tel Aviv area, as Gaza’s militants display their new menace in the form of rockets that can reach the Israeli metropolis, or at least its southern end.
Startled Israelis strolling along the popular Jaffa promenade don’t know where to run for safety. There are no bomb shelters like in the towns down south next to Gaza where Palestinian rockets have been a fact of life for eight years.
They stop, then hear the bang, and look up at the sky and point. Then stroll back to their cars or take another photograph of the kids by the seaside.
Old men who daily play backgammon and fish from the seawall don’t bother much to jump for cover when the siren goes. Or they crouch a bit, on creaky knees.
“This will go on forever,” says Emanuel.