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Al-Masmiyya al-Kabira

This article is about the depopulated village in historic Palestine. For the ancient village in southern Syria, see al-Masmiyah.
al-Masmiyya al-Kabira
A house east of the village centre, 2006. Then part of a base education corps of the army called Sha'arei Avraham.
Arabic المسمية الكبيرة
Name meaning from "to be lofty"[1]
Also spelled al-Masmiyya
Subdistrict Gaza

31°45′27.00″N 34°47′05.00″E / 31.7575000°N 34.7847222°E / 31.7575000; 34.7847222Coordinates: 31°45′27.00″N 34°47′05.00″E / 31.7575000°N 34.7847222°E / 31.7575000; 34.7847222{{#coordinates:31|45|27.00|N|34|47|05.00|E|type:city_region:IL |primary |name=

Palestine grid 129/129
Population 2,520[2] (1945)
Area 20,687[2] dunams
20.7 km²
Date of depopulation July 8, 1948[3]
Cause(s) of depopulation Military assault by Yishuv forces
Current localities Bene Re'em, Hatzav, Yinnon, Achawa

Al-Masmiyya al-Kabira (Arabic: المسمية الكبيرة‎) was a Palestinian village in the Gaza Subdistrict, located Script error: No such module "convert". northeast of Gaza.[4] With a land area of 20,687 dunams, the village site (135 dunams) was situated on an elevation of Script error: No such module "convert". along the coastal plain. It was depopulated during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Before the war, it had a population of 2,520 in 1945.[5]


In 1596, Al-Masmiyya was a village in the nahiya of Gaza with a population of 385. It paid taxes on crops such as wheat and barley and other produce such as honey and goats.[6] Al-Masmiyya was mentioned by the Syrian Sufi traveler Mustafa al-Bakri al-Siddiqi in the mid-18th century,[7] and in the 1780s, the French traveler Volney noted that the village produced a great deal of spun-cotton.[8]

In 1863, the French explorer Victor Guérin visited the village, which he found to have seven hundred inhabitants. Around the well were stones, some large, and apparently ancient. The village was surrounded by plantations of tobacco, watermelons and cucumbers.[9] The adjectival al-Kabira ("major") was later added to Masmiyya's name to distinguish it from the nearby al-Masmiyya al-Saghira, established in the mid-19th century. In the late 19th century, al-Masmiyya al-Kabira was laid out in a trapezoid-like pattern, with the long base of the trapezoid facing west. The village was surrounded by gardens and its houses were constructed of adobe bricks or concrete. The most recent expansion of it was westward and southwestward.[10]

British Mandate era

In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Mesmiyet Kabira had a population of 1390, all Muslims,[11] increasing in the 1931 census when Masmiya al Kabira had a population of 1756 Muslims and 4 Christians, in a total of 354 houses.[12]

The village contained two mosques and two schools. The boy's school was built in 1922 and had an enrollment of 307 students in 1947, while the girl's school was built in 1944 and had 39 students 1947. Al-Masmiyya al-Kabira was one of the few localities in the district to be governed by a village council. The town had a gas station and a clinic.[5]

Agriculture was the main economic activity of the village and the dominant crops were citrus and grains; in 1945, a total of 1,005 dunams were devoted to citrus, while 18,092 were allotted to grains,[13] while 135 dunams were built-up land.[14] Beside crop cultivation, residents raised livestock and poultry. Some also worked in the nearby British Army camp. Al-Masmiyya al-Kabira had a weekly market on Thursdays that attracted residents from neighboring communities.[5]

1948 War and aftermath

The village was fenced in by Hagana forces purportedly to protect the village against Deir Yassin like incidents.[15] Al-Masmiyya al-Kabira was captured by the Israeli forces of the Givati Brigade during Operation An-Far. The The New York Times reported that it had been occupied on 11 July, blocking an Egyptian attempt to break through to Latrun from the direction of al-Majdal. However, the Haganah claim it was captured during "several clearing operations in the brigade's rear guard, to eliminate the threat and danger posed by the presence of Arab civilian concentrations to the rear of the front."[5]

Morris reports that by 27 May 1949, 21 of the approx 400 former Palestinian Arab villages had been repopulated by newly arrived ‘olim, Al-Masmiyya al-Kabira along with Aqir, Zarnuqa, Yibna, Ijzim, Ein Hawd, Tarshiha, Safsaf, Tarbikha, Dayr Tarif and that six more including Deir Yassin were slated for colonization.[16]

According to Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi, in reference to the remains of al-Masmiyya al-Kabira:

The two schools and several village houses are extant. The girls' school is deserted, while the boys' school has been converted into an Israeli army installation. Some of the houses are inhabited, but others have been turned into warehouses. One house serves as a shop where juice is sold. All are made of concrete with simple architectural features—flat roofs and rectangular doors and windows. A date palm tree grows in the yard of a house that belonged to a Palestinian named Tawfiq al-Rabi. An Israeli gas station is located on the same spot where the village's gas station (once the property of Hasan Abd al-Aziz and Nimr Muhanna) once stood. The lands in the vicinity are cultivated by Israeli farmers.[17]
Four Jewish settlements were established on village lands; Bene Re'em and Hatzav were founded in 1949, Yinnon in 1952 and Achawa in 1976.[5] A Palestinian Arab family was able to remain in the area and was used as Shabbat goy by the community of Bene Re'em.[18]

See also


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 272
  2. ^ a b Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 46
  3. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xvii village #273, also gives depopulation method
  4. ^ Khalidi, 1992, p.124
  5. ^ a b c d e Khalidi, 1992, p.125.
  6. ^ Hütteroth, and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 149. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p. 130
  7. ^ Al-Rihla, cited in Khalidi, 1992, p.130
  8. ^ Volney, 1788, p. 336. Also cited in Khalidi, 1992, p. 125
  9. ^ Guérin, 1869, p. 88
  10. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, p.411. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, p.125
  11. ^ Barron, 1923, Table V, Sub-district of Gaza, p. 8
  12. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 5
  13. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 87
  14. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 137
  15. ^ WRMEA The Story of Al-Masmiyya Al-Kabira as I Know It By Maha Mehanna, Rimal, Gaza
  16. ^ Morris, Benny, (second edition 2004 third printing 2006) The Birth Of The Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-00967-7 p 395
  17. ^ Khalidi, 1992, pp.125-126.
  18. ^ Nurit Peled-Elhanan, in Dolón and Todolí, 2008, p. 102



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