Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May-June 2008, page 30

Voices of the Nakba

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

  • 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)

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 Gaza.

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