For Palestinians in 1948 it meant being driven violently and deceptively from their homes and country by the terroristic forces of the Israeli military.
Much like the "Trail of Tears" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trail_of_Tears in America, many Palestinians never made the journey to safe refuge. Many perished along the way.
Today is the 61st anniversary of an Israeli military terror campaign (Al Nakba) that forced 750,000 Palestinians to be expelled and/or flee Palestine for their lives. These people have never been allowed back into their country or their homes. The primarily live in countries surrounding "Israel", as refugee's. They have few rights...and no respected right to return to their homes...which were all confiscated or destroyed by the Israeli military.
Since that disaster/catastrophe or even "Holocaust, those 750,000 refugee's have grown to 4.9 million. If a Palestinian still living in Gaza or the West Bank leaves Israel to visit a refugee family member, they are not allowed to come back to Israel.
For personal stories on the "Nakba", firstname.lastname@example.org is a good place to start.
Of course, wikipedia makes an attempt at a fair history as well:
I urge everyone to spend the day in quiet reflection on the families who were separated and never again to be reunited. Think about the brutality of a military occupation...we do have plenty of examples, don't we?
I urge you to spend time looking at the photos of those who were displaced and imagine they are part of your family. Your Mother, your Children, your honored Elders, your Father who can do little to ease your sorrow...because he may have been in an Israeli prison or killed for resisting.
I urge you to reflect on the slaughter of whole villages. Every living thing killed.
Reflect on the barbarity that drove God's "Chosen People" to bulldoze 500 Palestinian villages into dust.
I urge everyone to close your eyes and slip into the shoes of a Palestinian family, walking down a dusty road, lined with Israeli military soldiers.
Walking down a road with their possessions on their back...toward a distant and unknown horizon.
Hopefully, a compassion will form and lodge permanently in your heart. And next time you hear a politician trying to stir your heart or your mind into hate for a fellow human being, you will pause and recall the images you have saved in your soul...and you will refuse to follow that kind of person and instead, reach out a helping hand, to the descendants of those road weary travellers...because instead of 750,000, there are now almost 5 million on that road. And they are still being starved and shot at and bombed and demonized.
They are still being denied hope. Hope for a future.
I have hope for these people, because I know it is against the nature of good people everywhere, to allow a nation of brutal occupiers to flourish for long, on the backs of those they oppress.