Posted by E. Yaghi
on January 12, 2001
My name is Shaker Abdul Fattah Mousa Mohammed Hussein Yaghi. I was born in Al-Masmiyyah Al-Kaberrah. At the time of the Jewish invasion in Palestine and the ensuing massacres in such villages as Deir Yessein, I was 12 years old. My immediate family included 5 brothers and myself, four sisters, and my parents. The night before we left, some Arab Jews came to the head of our village and told us that there were hoards of invading Jews coming from different places outside Palestine such as Europe, and that these Jews were not used to our traditions and were rude and brutal. The Jewish army had given us an ultimatum according to our Arab Jewish neighbors. The ultimatum was that either we surrender, fight, or leave. All the people from the surrounding villages had already left, so the people of my village decided to leave as well. Even if they had chosen to stay and fight, no one had weapons. Under the British Mandate, Palestinians were not allowed to possess any kind of firearm and those who were caught with a firearm in their possession were incarcerated. Thus, we were basically a weaponless civilian people with no means of defending ourselves.
The night after the Arab Jews came to warn the head of our village, my oldest brother, who was married and had children,
and who lived in separate housing, stopped by our home and said, "We'd better leave because the whole village is leaving."
My father and my uncles did not want to leave. They said that they would just go to the edge of our orange orchards and wait there until the trouble passed. But the women in the family started screaming and shouting such things as, "No, they will kill us all and our children too. Let us go somewhere safer until this fighting is over."
My family left in the evening after Iftar on the first day of Ramadan, in the Hijreh year of 1367, or in other words, July 7, 1948. My parents hastily packed what they could onto a carriage with the belief that as soon as the trouble passed, we would be able to return to our home and orange orchard. We were all scared and could feel the imminent threat of Jewish massacres coming right to our own doorstep.
Some of the people from other villages that had fled to Masmiyya to seek refuge from the approaching Jewish terrorist gangs such as Haganah, Irgun and Stern, also left with the rest of the villagers and ourselves.
That night, my family and I approached the closest village to us and we found out that Jews had been shooting at the inhabitants of the village, so we spent our first night away from home sleeping under the trees without any kind of shelter.
After this, as more atrocities occurred, we kept moving from one village to another to escape Jewish armed groups who slaughtered Palestinians and pillaged a passageway of blood and agony as they went along. At last we arrived at a refugee camp in Jericho by the name of Aqabat Jaber where we found lots of other refugees who had also fled from the oncoming Jewish terror groups. These refugees came from all over Palestine. There we also found that the United Nations had already established camps for the multitude of refugees who had left their hometowns and had gone there to seek shelter.
My family and I suffered many hardships after we left Masmiyya. As young refugee children, we suddenly had to work hard so that we could survive. I never saw my village again and both my parents died without ever returning to their home.
Messimeyah was the largest of the surrounding villages. It was not far from the Mediterranean Sea. It had a school for boys built of stone, up to the 7th grade, located on a nearby hill. Some people who had the chance to go back as visitors later on reported that the boys' school is still standing. There was also a girls' school. Those who finished the 7th grade then went on to a school in a neighboring city. There was a main well for the whole village. The source for this well and all surrounding wells was fresh spring water. There were around 10 other wells privately owned so that the orange orchards could be irrigated.
We had our own private well and so did one of my uncles. Our home and our orange orchard was a veritable paradise. It was the best time of my childhood and my fondest memories are those of the days when I did not have a care in the world and spent my free time climbing up and down trees and playing with my younger brothers and sisters.
Our orchard consisted of all kinds of citrus trees and we also had apples, mulberries, figs and pomegranates. We grew our own self-sustaining garden, where we planted vegetables, wheat, corn and sesame. We also raised chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks and cows. Every day we had fresh milk, yogurt, butter and homemade bread. I can still taste and smell the fresh milk, the butter and the hot homemade bread that my mother baked every morning.
Masmiyya was situated at a crossroads. To the south was a road leading to Gaza, to the north, a road to Jaffa, to the east, a road to Jerusalem and to the west, a road led to Ishdod. It was a peaceful village and I can remember nothing but happiness living there. In the village, there was a meeting place for the Yaghi family, called a diwan in Arabic. The Yaghis used to gather there and talk while drinking their coffee. Guests were fed and entertained there and there were sleeping accommodations for those who wished to stay overnight. Not too far from our diwan, was a mosque built for the Yaghis too.
The main families in Masmiyya were the Yaghis and the Mahennas. The Mahenna family also had a diwan where they too gathered and entertained themselves and their guests.
It had been said that all people live in their countries, but for the Palestinians, Palestine lives in them. Palestine and Masmiyya live in me. I still have the titles to our land and many refugees still possess the keys to their homes.
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