Claudette Habesch (right) and her friend Ruthie reminisce over their childhood in Jerusalem. One was allowed to stay the other forced from her home.
By Paul Wood
BBC News, Jerusalem
Claudette Habesch stood at the gate of what had once been her family house, tears in her eyes as she pointed to the garden shaded by a large date palm.
"It was beautiful, a lot of fun, a lot of happiness," she said, recalling an Arab childhood spent in Jerusalem before her family fled in 1948.
"(Then) there was the foundation of the state of Israel - on my own homeland, on my own home."
As a little girl, she often used to wonder "who is sleeping in my bed, who is playing with my dog?"
For Jewish Israelis, 1948 is celebrated as the year their war for independence was brought to a successful conclusion.
For Arabs, Israel's birth meant the "Nakba" or "catastrophe" when about 700,000 Palestinians were displaced and dispossessed - which is being marked and remebered this week.
"We had two bombs here in the back garden," says Mrs Habesch. "My father had to take us out for our physical security.
"We did not go out of here willingly and we were not able to come back."
The Israeli narrative of 1948 says the Palestinians left of their own accord; the Arab narrative says they were forced out.
The Israeli historian Tom Segev says the truth is somewhere in between.
"About half of something like 750,000 Arabs left and about half were expelled - so in a way both narratives are right," he told me.
"The basic dream of the Zionist movement was to have maximum land with minimum population," he went on.
"When the war broke out it was obvious to everybody, whoever wins would expel parts of the population. That was because 1948 was not the beginning of the conflict."
Looking around her former garden, Mrs Habesch bumped into her childhood friend, Ruthie, a Jewish woman.
She still lives in a small house in the grounds which her parents had first rented from Mrs Habesch's family before 1948.
The two women, both now in their 60s, swapped stories of hiding among the dahlias while male visitors to the house smoked nargila (water-pipe) outside.
"She has the right to live here. I don't grudge her this," said Mrs Habesch as we left.
"I don't want to throw anyone out on the streets but I have to have people recognise the right to my property."
There were more tears as she declared: "This is my home - and I go out as a stranger. Why? I need someone to explain to me."
Mrs Habesch says she is going to court to establish ownership - not that she has much chance of success.
The 1948 refugees and their descendants are now said to total some 4.7 million people.
The Israelis says that if all were allowed to come back it would mean the end of their country as a Jewish state.
That is why the "right of return" is one of the seemingly insoluble issues of the peace process.
Under any future peace deal, Israel might allow a symbolic number of "family reunifications", probably just a few thousand.
So with or without a peace agreement, very few of those who left in 1948 and their descendants will be back to claim their property.