The Middle East conflict and terrorism are issues we hear about almost daily in the news. This lesson uses video segments from Wide Angle's "Suicide Bombers" (2004), a PBS NewsHour segment about a terrorist attack on a synagogue in Israel, web sites, and primary sources to examine the roots of the Middle East conflict. The Wide Angle videos contain interviews with young Muslim Palestinians who participated—or intended to participate—in suicide bombings. These young Palestinians share the personal, religious, political and emotional reasons behind their participation in these terrorist operations. The PBS NewsHour segment contains graphic imagery. All videos should be reviewed before sharing with students.
This lesson could be used to review information about the three major monotheistic religions and their connections to Israel, to relate post-World War II policies to the current political state of the Middle East, and/or to get students to understand the roots of the Islamic terrorism that threatens the world we live in.
We encourage teachers who use this lesson to strongly condemn terror and any assertion that it is ever appropriate.
- Describe the connections that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have to Israel;
- Evaluate primary source documents relating to the origins of the Middle East conflict;
- Analyze why the Middle East conflict began and continues today;
- Discuss how religions can unite or divide people;
- Explain why individuals and groups sometimes turn to tactics of terrorism, and evaluate how terrorism affects the world we live in.
Two one-hour blocks, including the Culminating Activity
- Brainstorming! Student Organizer
- Document Probing Student Organizer
- Religion and Conflict Student Organizer
- Newspaper Article Template Student Organizer
- Answer Key to Student Organizers
- Jerusalem Attack Escalates Violence in Region - Student Handout
- In Israel 1
In Israel 2
In Israel 3
These three Web sites are from the main site of www.inisrael.com.
This Web site is designed to assist someone planning a trip to Israel; however it also offers excellent virtual and 3-D tours of important religious structures in Jerusalem. The three sites above will allow students to see 3-D video images of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall, and the Dome of the Rock. The sites also provide pictures of holy sites in Jerusalem that can be printed out so students can look at them at their desks if classroom Internet access is not available.
- BBC: "Israel and the Palestinians: Jerusalem's Holy Sites"
In this activity, it is important that students understand WHY Jews and Muslims feel control of Israel is so important. This site lays out the locations of holy sites for Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem. Information pertaining to the importance of these sites is also available.
- Israeli -- Palestinian Pro-Con: "Palestine: Arab/Jewish population 1914-1946."
This site includes a chart showing population changes of Arabs and Jews from 1914-1946. This chart will allow students to track the numbers of Jews and Arabs in Palestine during those years.
- The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: Balfour Declaration of 1917
This Web site was designed at Yale Law School. The Avalon Project mounts digital documents relevant to the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy, and Government. This particular Web site will give you access to the Balfour Declaration, which will allow students to understand the foundations of the Middle East conflict and terrorism. This document can be printed and distributed to students if Internet access is not available.
- The Truman Library: U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181
The Harry S. Truman Library is a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. This particular site contains the entire U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181, which is the U.N. plan for the partitioning of Palestine. The document is very long, but students can be directed to the beginning to understand who wrote this document and why. Parts of it can be printed and distributed to students if computer access is not available.
- BBC: Summary of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181, November 29, 1947
This site provides a summary of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 from November 29, 1947, in addition to a map of the partition plan and links to other information about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. This can be printed and distributed to students as well.
Part I: Introductory Activity
- Tell your students that they are about to see three different structures. Provide them with a focus for media interaction by asking them to try to identify what kinds of structures these are and who might visit them. Go to http://www.inisrael.com/tour/jer/vt_church.htm. Click on the images of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and show the students the exterior and interior of the church (this site allows you to navigate around 360-degree panoramic pictures of the church). Ask your students what type of building it is (a church). Ask your students which religion worships there (Christians). Tell them that this is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and that Christians believe it is the real site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.
- Go to http://www.inisrael.com/3disrael/kotel/index.html. Show the students the Western Wall images. Ask your students if they know which religion considers this wall significant (Judaism). Ask your students if they know why it is significant (he Western Wall is a remnant of the retaining wall built by Herod the Great in the 1st century BC, that surrounded the Second Temple enclosure).
- Go to http://www.inisrael.com/tour/jer/vt_temple_mount.htm. Show your students the image of the Dome of the Rock. Ask them what type of building it seems to be (a mosque). Ask your students which religion worships there (Islam). Ask your students if they know the significance of this building for Muslims (the Dome of the Rock is the site at which Muslims believe Muhammad ascended into heaven).
- Explain to your students that all of these religious sites are located in Jerusalem. (You may show students a layout of the city showing the location of the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/holy_sites/html/default.stm.) Ask them in which country Jerusalem is located (Israel). Ask them what these three religions have in common (Answers might include: holy sites in Jerusalem, monotheism, holy books, places of worship, trace their roots to Abraham).
- Ask your students if they can recall any conflicts these religions have had with each other in the past (Some examples -- Crusades: Christians, Muslims and Jews fight for control of Jerusalem; Middle Ages: Jews are blamed for the Black Death and persecuted; the Muslim Ottoman overthrow of the Christian Byzantine Empire). Ask the students if they know which religions are currently fighting over control of Israel today (Islam and Judaism: Palestinian Muslims and Israeli Jews).
- Distribute the "Brainstorming! Student Organizer to the students. Ask the students to write down ten words or ideas that come to mind when you say the words "The Middle East conflict." Have the students share their answers aloud. Discuss any common themes among their lists (Student answers will vary).
Part II: Learning Activity #1
- Show or distribute copies of the Balfour Declaration to the class (an online source is http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/balfour.htm). Distribute the Document Probing Student Organizer to the students. Provide your students with a focus for media interaction by asking them to examine the Balfour Declaration and Resolution 181 while filling out the top of the Document Probing Student Organizer.
- Show or distribute sections of the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181, available at http://www.trumanlibrary.org/israel/unres181.htm. The sections to show students should include the first six paragraphs of the introduction (starting at "The General Assembly" and ending at "... B. Steps preparatory to Independence...") Have students continue with a focus for media interaction by asking them to examine Resolution 181 and fill out the second part of the Document Probing Student Organizer.
- Next direct students to the chart available at http://www.israelipalestinianprocon.org/populationpalestine.html#chart3, "Palestine: Arab/Jewish population 1914-1946." Have students continue with a focus for media interaction by asking them to examine the chart showing population changes in Palestine and fill out the third part of the Document Probing Student Organizer.
- Now direct students to http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/middle_east/israel_and_the_palestinians/ key_documents/1681322.stm, which includes a map of the partition plan and a summary of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181. Have students continue with a focus for media interaction by asking them to examine Resolution 181 and fill out the fourth part of the Document Probing Student Organizer. Ask students to share their thoughts about these documents aloud. Ask them to draw two faces that show emotions -- one face for a Palestinian Muslim after seeing these documents, and one face for an Israeli Jew -- after seeing these documents on the bottom of the Document Probing Student Organizer. (For example, a student may draw a happy face for an Israeli Jew and an angry face for a Palestinian Muslim). Call on students to share what type of faces they drew and why.
Part III: Learning Activity #2
- Provide your students with a bit of background on the segment they are about to see: explain that this segment is taken from an interview with an 18-year-old Palestinian named Mohanned Abu Tayyoun, who entered Israel carrying a bag of explosives with the intention of carrying out a suicide bombing. He wavered, however, and returned home without carrying out the mission. He was arrested several days later and this interview was conducted within an Israeli jail. Provide your students with a focus for media interaction by asking them to identify how Mohanned views his life and how he feels it differs from the lives of Israelis (Jews). Play the Martyrdom video for the class. Check for understanding by asking students to respond to the focus question. (Mohanned feels he would rather die and by a martyr than live his life, sees his life as hollow -- in contrast he sees Israelis as happy, going out, having fun, traveling.) Ask your students why Mohanned may feel that way (Answers may include: Palestinians have less land, fewer privileges, cannot come and go as they please.)
- Provide your students with a focus for media interaction by asking them to consider how religion played a role in the decision Mohanned made not to detonate the bomb. Play the Suicide Bombing video. Ask students to share their thoughts on why Mohanned didn't carry out the plan. (Mohanned felt that not all Jews were guilty of being against him, and that God wanted him to continue to live.)
Part IV: Learning Activity #3
Part V: Learning Activity #4
- Explain to students that the next segment they’re going to see, a news story about a 2014 attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, will give them a different perspective on the conflict. Play the video Jerusalem Attack Escalates Violence in Region. The accompanying student handout includes critical thinking questions to help focus class discussion after seeing the video.
- Distribute the Religion and Conflict Student Organizer to the class. Ask students to complete the organizer answering the questions regarding how religion plays a role in religious conflict. Discuss the answers to the questions aloud.
Part VI: Culminating Activity
Students can research poetry written by young Palestinians and Israelis to gain insight into how young people living in the Middle East deal with the conflict taking place around them. One source is a magazine Web site called "Crossing Borders," at http://www.crossingborder.org/CB29Low.pdf. This is a site bringing youth and educators in conflict areas of the world together. The magazine has poetry, articles and editorials written by educators and youth living in the Middle East.
Investigate other methods of protest in the Middle East by examining vandalism-type art at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4748063.stm, a BBC article depicting vandalism art on Israel's West Bank wall. This could be compared to vandalism art from the Berlin Wall as well.
Examine contemporary rock and roll music to see the cross fertilization between Israeli Jews and Arabs in Israel and in Palestine.
Visit a local Muslim mosque or invite a member to come in and speak to your class about current issues facing Muslims in your community.
Visit a local Jewish synagogue or invite a member to come in and speak to your class about current issues facing Jews in your community, and the persecution of Jews.
Visit a local Christian church or invite a member to coe in and speak to your class about current issues facing Christians, and the persecution of Christians.
Contact your local law enforcement agency and ask how their policies have changed since the issue of Islamic terrorism has become more pressing in the aftermath of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.