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May 28th, 2009
Making a Difference in the Midst of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Lesson Activities

Funding for the educational materials was provided by The Overbrook Foundation.


1. Let students know that today’s lesson is going to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ask students to share what they know about the conflict in the region. Write down what the students say for the class to see.

Note: In the next activity, students will work in pairs or small groups to explore the history of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, using one or both of the following timelines:
o Timeline: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
o “Chapter 1: Timeline” and “Chapter 3: Diplomatic Efforts” in Crisis Guide: The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

2. Assign each group to one of the following five time periods, making certain that at least one group is assigned to each time period:

  • 1914 and earlier
  • 1914- 1949
  • 1949-1973
  • 1973-1993
  • 1993- present

3. Ask each group to explore the time period and select at least three major events to share with the class.

4. While students are working in their groups, post a blank timeline in the classroom. (See Prep for Teachers section for details.)

5. After students have had time to gather information about their assigned time, ask them to provide a brief summary of that time period and describe at least three major events with the group. Include their findings in the timeline.

6. Discuss the different sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, using the following fact sheets as resources to provide insight into the different issues surrounding the conflict:

Optional activity to replace Step 6 above:
1. Print out the “5-minute overview/Top 10 Pros and Cons” fact sheet from

2. Assign students one of the 10 topics (“two-state solution,” “significance of Jerusalem to Jews and Muslims,” “Refugee Populations,” etc.) and ask them to review and summarize the pro & con statements for each topic.

3. After students have had time to review their topics, ask them to discuss their findings with the group.

Learning Activity 1

1. Explain that today the class will be watching video segments from Heart of Jenin, a television program from the PBS series Wide Angle. Provide the following information: This episode highlights the story of Ahmed Khatib, a Palestinian boy who was killed by the Israeli army when soldiers thought the toy gun he was playing with was a Kalashnikov (an assault rifle). Ahmed lived with his family in the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, a refugee camp which was established in 1953. Upon Ahmed’s death, his father, Ismael, had to make a difficult decision about what to do with his son’s remains. There were many Israeli children who were seriously ill and needed organs in order to survive. The children who needed the organs were Palestinian, Druze, Bedouin and Jewish. Explain that Druze and Bedouin people are Arabic-speaking populations residing in the region.

2. Ask students if they would want to donate their organs when they die and whether they would care who the recipients were. Ask students if there would be some organs they would not want to donate. (Why? Why not?)

3. Before showing the video, ask students what decision they think the father, a Palestinian man living in the West Bank, might have made and discuss their thoughts. (Do they think the father might put restrictions on who could receive the organs? Do they think there might be organs he might not want to donate?)

4. Play The Gifts of Life. After showing the video clip, ask students to discuss the decisions that Ismael Khatib made about donating his son’s organs. (He decided to donate any organs that children would need to whichever children needed them.) Some additional questions to ask: Why do you think Ismael was concerned about the heart? What do you think he should have done with his son’s body? Do you think Ismael made the right decision?

5. Discuss the Orthodox Jewish man’s response to the question about whether it mattered whether the donor was Jewish or Arab. (He said that he would prefer if the donor was Jewish.) If you needed an organ to save your life, would it matter to you who the donor was? (What if it was someone who had been mean to you? A racist? A convicted criminal?)

6. Explain that about two years after Ahmed’s death, his father, Ismael Khatib, met the Orthodox Jewish man, Yaakov Levinson, in Levinson’s home and Levinson apologized for saying that he preferred that the donor be Jewish. He expressed his gratitude to Ismael and his family for donating their son’s organ to Levinson’s daughter. Explain that the next video segment provides more information about Ismael Khatib and Yaakov Levinson. Ask students to look for similarities and differences between these two men as they watch the clip.

7. Play In Search of Peace. After showing the segment, ask students to list similarities between Ismael Khatib and Yaakov Levinson. (Possible answers: Both grew up in the region. Both are married and had six children. Both would like to see peace.) Discuss differences between the two men. (Khatib is Palestinian and Levinson is an Orthodox Jewish Israeli. Levinson is a cook and Khatib runs a children’s center and has run a clothing store, been a car mechanic and has fought against the Israelis.)

Learning Activity 2

1. Ask students to brainstorm reasons why they think conflict persists in the region. Explain that now you will be showing another video segment from the PBS program: Wide Angle: Heart of Jenin, featuring an interview conducted by Aaron Brown, host of Wide Angle with Gordon Lichfield, deputy editor of Ask students to observe what they say are reasons why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persists.

2. Play The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. After showing the segment, ask students to provide details, based on the excerpt they just saw, about why conflict persists in the region. (Both sides keep trying the same things, which produce the same results. Each side has limited human contact with the other. Politicians tend to be motivated by short-term goals and by actions which will help keep them in power.)

3. Discuss this comment by Gordon Lichfield, featured at the end of the clip:
“More and more, the only Israeli a young Palestinian is likely to know is an Israeli in uniform, and the only Palestinian that an Israeli is likely to know is a Palestinian that he has seen on television blowing himself up, so that common ground of humanity starts to get lost.”

Culminating Activity

1. Remind students that in the previous segment Gordon Lichfield, although not very optimistic about peace in the region, points to grassroots efforts, such as the Bereaved Families Forum, which are making a positive impact. [Note: See details in #2 below about this organization, now called “Parents Circle- Families Forum.”]

2. Divide students into pairs or small groups. Ask each group to conduct research to find examples of one individual or organization that is helping foster peace and understanding in the Middle East. Ask students to compile the following facts:
• A description of the individual or organization.
• The action(s) the individual/organization has taken to foster peace and understanding.
• The motivation for the action(s).
• Results and/or impact (if known).

Here are some examples that students could explore:
Parents Circle- Families Forum
The Families Forum is a group of Palestinian and Israeli families whom have lost immediate family members due to violence in the region. Founded in 1995, the organization aims to help Palestinians and Israelis reconsider their views toward the conflict and the other side and to promote peace in the region.
Seeds of Peace
Seeds of Peace, founded in 1993, aims to provide young leaders from regions of conflict with the leadership skills required to advance reconciliation and coexistence.

A Slim Peace
Slim Peace Groups, which began as a documentary, is designed to help women of all ethnic and religious backgrounds in the Middle East pursue weight loss and healthy lifestyles together.

Jewish-Arab Center for Peace
The Jewish-Arab Center for Peace, established in 1963, aims to foster better relations and understanding between Arabs and Jews. Its “Face to Face” program is designed to create better understanding and create basis for dialogue between Jewish and Arab high-school students.

4. Ask students to share their findings with the class. Each group should describe the individual or organization they researched, the actions the individual/organization has taken to foster peace and understanding, the motivation for those actions and the results of those actions.

5. Ask students to write an essay about the role that individuals and/or organizations can play in helping to promote peace and understanding in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Ask students to cite examples from history to support their arguments.

6. Lead a discussion with students about what they have learned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the roles that individuals and organizations can play in fostering communication, respect and understanding between the diverse groups in the region.

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