The Story of Al-Masmiyya Al-Kabira as I Know It


THIS IS THE story of my
father’s Palestinian Diaspora
that he experienced at the age
of 12.
My father, Yousif Mehanna,
was the eldest of one brother
and four sisters. He recalls that
one day in 1948 he returned
home from the village school
only to find a fence around the
village. The fence was
supposedly built by the Israeli
army after the massacre of
Deir Yassin. In order to pass
through the fence to get to his
house, my father had to be
claimed by his mother from the
other side. Everyone in the village was
scared that a massacre similar to the one that took place at Deir Yassin would happen in Al-
Masmiyya Al-Kabira, as well as in neighboring villages. The Israeli army itself, and other radio
stations, added to these fears by broadcasting news of massacres in other villages. People started
fleeing their villages and went toward Gaza because it seemed safer, since it was under Egyptian
rule. The three main roads that intersected at Al-Masmiyya led toward Jerusalem, Ramallah, or

The safest way to leave was by the road leading to Gaza. While traveling on foot, leading
donkeys, sheep, goats and other animals, my father said that the Israeli army was bombing right
behind the traveling villagers to make sure they would not even think of retuning home. He
covered his younger brother and sisters with plastic containers whenever a bomb exploded so he
could protect them from the flying debris. Though the bombing was very near, there were very
few casualties. Those who were killed or injured were mostly older men and women. My father
could not have remembered or even observed everything that happened, since there was so
much fear and chaos at the time.
The villagers at last reached a place in Gaza and later migrated to a somewhat better location
within the city. This is what happened to most of the refugees who went to Gaza. I heard very
similar stories from people who were also forced out of the villages near Al-Masmiyya.
—By Maha Mehanna, Rimal, Gaza
Six years after they fled to the Gaza Strip, refugees line up at the
water pump in the Magazi refugee camp, 1954. (U.N. Photo/Mo)

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