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The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Through Children's Eyes

Subjects

Social Sciences
--World history
--Civics
--Geography
World religions and cultures

Grade

7-12

Brief Description

Students learn about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and explore the lives of three children who live in the troubled West Bank region.

Objectives

Students will

  • Understand past history and current events with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly in the West Bank region.
  • Explore the issue from the perspective of three children who live in the area.
  • Consider how their own lives are different from the lives of young people in the West Bank.
  • Consider the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on day-to-day life and compare/contrast it with the impact of other similar challenges in U.S. and world history.

Keywords

Israel, Palestine, conflict, Bedouin, Arab, Jewish, Muslim, West Bank, history, multicultural, diversity

Materials Needed

  • Internet access
  • Pencils and paper
  • Method of projecting images for students to see


Lesson Plan

FIRST, sum up for students the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly in the West Bank area.

Begin by reminding students that information on this very complex and long-standing conflict always comes from a particular perspective and contains certain inherent assumptions. For any online source recommended throughout this lesson, it is safe to say that others may dispute the content.

You may choose to have older students use the following links to research and then write (in pairs or groups) short 5-minute summaries, which they can then either read to the class, or use to teach a partner.


Here is a sample summary to use as a reference point:

The Jewish state of Israel was established in 1948 (following World War II and the Nazi Holocaust). Prior to that time the area was called Palestine and was home to Arab Muslims, who were displaced and became refugees when Israel was established. Adjacent to Israel is a turbulent area called the West Bank. The West Bank includes many sites that hold cultural, historical and religious significance for Jews, Muslims (identified as Palestinians) and Christians, and there has been a very long history of violent conflict as Israelis and Palestinians have both laid claim to this region.

Since 2007, the West Bank has officially been governed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), a provisional government created as a stepping-stone to eventually creating a United Nations-recognized state of Palestine, much like the Jewish state of Israel. The West Bank is occupied by Israeli military (as it has been since 1967), and the area is considered 60% under Israeli control.

In an effort to prevent violence, the Israeli military limits Palestinians' places of residence (including refugee camps) within the West Bank, and their movement within the region is controlled by numerous barriers and checkpoints. In addition, nearly 500,000 Jews live in the West Bank in Israeli-organized settlements. These settlements are technically illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

In November 2012 in Gaza (another highly disputed area adjacent to Israel), Israel launched a serious offensive in response to what it perceived as “relentless” Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel. Palestinians, meanwhile, have said that Israeli “surgical strikes” frequently kill civilians. Violence erupted in and around Gaza again in summer 2014, following the breakdown of a fragile Palestinian reconciliation deal.

Hamas, a militant fundamentalist Islamic organization operating in both the West Bank and Gaza, has refused to recognize the state of Israel but said it would support a Palestinian state. Peace talks between Israel and Hamas were considered unlikely as of summer 2014.

Learn more about the conflict with these additional resources from various perspectives.


SECOND, encourage students to locate the West Bank on a world map and learn a little more about the geography, demographics and weather of the region. Following are some questions and answers students can work on. The CIA World Fact Book on the West Bank is a good starting point if you'd like students to generate the answers themselves.
 

  1. Where is the West Bank located, and how large is it?
    The West Bank is located along the Jordan River and covers roughly the land area of the U.S. state of Delaware.
  2. What countries is the West Bank near?
    Israel and Jordan
  3. What are some geographical points of interest in the West Bank?
    The Jordan River, the Dead Sea, and several cities of Biblical note including Jericho and Bethlehem
  4. What is the average per capita (per person) income in the West Bank?
    Less than $2,000 U.S. dollars per year (in the U.S. this figure is about $27,334). Many have argued that compared to Palestinians in the West Bank, Jews in the region tend to have better jobs, higher incomes and a better general quality of life.
  5. What are some of the area's economic challenges?
    Despite implementation of economic and security reforms and the easing of some movement and access restrictions, Israeli closure policies continue to disrupt labor, trade and commerce. Since mid-2007 the Palestinian Authority (the governing body for the West Bank) has depended on more than $3 billion in direct foreign donor assistance. As of December 2006, unemployment in the West Bank had risen to over 50 percent (compare to the U.S. unemployment rate of 8%). Two-thirds of Palestinians live below the poverty line.
  6. What is the most likely religion of someone who lives in the West Bank?
    Sunni Muslims make up 75 percent of the population, 17 percent are Jewish, and 8 percent are Christian and other. Consider how Sunni Muslims differ from Shi’ite Muslims.
  7. What languages are spoken?
    Predominantly Arabic (Palestinians) and Hebrew (Jews). English is also widely understood.
  8. How does one say “hello” in Arabic and Hebrew?
    Arabic:  "Marhaba"
    Hebrew: 
    "Shalom"
  9. What is the weather like in the West Bank?
    In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, the temperature ranges from about 50 degrees Fahrenheit to about 80 degrees, depending on the time of year. Access to adequate water is a concern in the West Bank, making farming challenging.


THIRD, discuss the complex issue of human rights as it applies to life in the West Bank. (This discussion many be more appropriate for older students.) Consider two opposing viewpoints:

  • A Palestinian columnist discusses what he perceives as human rights violations faced by Palestinians as a result of the Israeli occupation. According to this writer, what are at least three quality-of-life and human-rights issues that Palestinians face?
  • A pro-Israel site addresses reported Palestinian human-rights violations that it considers myths. Choose one of the identified myths and describe the evidence the site uses to support its claim.


FOURTH, introduce three children who live in the West Bank under very different circumstances.

To find photos and brief descriptions of three children who live in the West Bank, access the photo slideshow and accompanying articleWhere Children Sleep: A Moving Look at What Kids Have—and Lack.” These materials are based on Where Children Sleep, a book by documentary photographer James Mollison in which he documents the lives of children in very diverse circumstances around the globe.

Here are partial screenshots of three slides from the slideshow. Each pictures a West Bank child who lives in a context very different from the others.

Bilal (below; also slide 2 in slideshow)
Bilal is from a family of Bedouin Arabs, an often-displaced tribal people who endure a harsh existence without electricity, running water, sanitation and medical facilities. Bedouin homes are makeshift structures made of available materials. At the time of the photo, Bilal lived in a one-room shack in Wadi Abu Hindi, a district northeast of Jerusalem. To the left is the place where Bilal slept. It is unlikely he still lives here, as in spring 2011 many Bedouin families were expelled from the area when the Israeli military said it was illegal for them to live there. Many Bedouins' homes were demolished so that a security wall could be built.

James Mollison's images of children are viewable on msnbc.com.

 

Tzvika (below; also slide 12 in slideshow)
Tzvika lives in the Jewish settlement of Beitar Illit, a fast-growing community of 36,000 with one of the highest birthrates in the West Bank. Located near Jerusalem, the settlement is home to Haredi Jews, who represent the most conservative subset of orthodox Judaism. To the left is Tzvika's bedroom, which he shares with his three siblings. Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law (although Israel disputes this), and Palestinians strongly oppose them.

James Mollison's images of children are viewable on msnbc.com.



Douha (below; also slide 13 in slideshow)
Douha lives in a Palestinian refugee camp in Hebron (in the southern part of the West Bank) along with her 11 brothers and sisters. Her brother (pictured in the poster in Douha's bedroom on the left) killed himself and 23 others in a 1996 suicide bomb attack against Israelis.

James Mollison's images of children are viewable on msnbc.com.

 

Discussion questions:

Bilal


Tzvika


Douha

(For a description of this type of camp, see the culture section of the New World Encyclopedia entry on the West Bank, this source or this source.) NOTE: The United Nations defines a "Palestinian refugee" as a person (or his/her descendants) whose "normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 [prior to the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel], who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.”
 

Wrapping it up

Have students break into groups. Ask each group to complete a KWL chart to indicate what they learned--and what they'd still like to learn--about the West Bank and the children who live there. Have each group choose to focus on the experience of one particular child (Bilal, Bedouin; Tzvika, Jewish; or Douha, Palestinian).

Then, as a group, discuss the following:

  1. What worries do you think these children have as a result of the instability and conflict in the area where they live?
  2. What kinds of things have these young people probably seen going on around them?
  3. What do you have in common with these young people? (Consider thoughts, goals, fears, joys, etc.)
  4. What are some ways in which these young people’s sleeping arrangements differ from yours? (If you like, obtain parent permission and have students bring in pictures of their bedrooms.)
  5. What are some ways in which war and violence affect children over the course of their lives?

With older students, you might want to take things a step further:

Israel sees its restrictions on Palestinians as necessary to prevent terrorism, which throughout history has been a major concern in the region. Back in 2007, for example, the Islamic militant group Hamas staged a violent takeover of the Gaza strip. And in 2012, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza in response to what it perceived as “relentless” Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel.

Critics of Israeli policies have argued, however, that the status of Palestinians in the West Bank is similar to the experiences of Black Africans during the period of South African apartheid, which involved laws and policies promoting racial segregation. (Apartheid laws and policies were in place for nearly 50 years, from 1948-1994.) Critics also have suggested a possible parallel with the United States' post-Civil War period of racial unrest, beginning in 1865 and involving “Jim Crow” laws that were put in place to enforce racial segregation.

  • If the peace process moves forward successfully between Israelis and Palestinians, do you think security policies and restrictions in the West Bank will change as well? If so, how?
  • How is the situation in the West Bank different from the context of South African apartheid or segregation in the United States?
  • In times of war and turbulence, can there be a difference between official laws and policies (what political leaders and/or the military say) and how citizens actually experience those laws and policies?
  • How would you characterize the current level of trust between Israelis and Palestinians? Do the two groups tend to perceive and interpret events the same way?

Talks remain stalled on establishment of a United Nations-recognized Palestinian state. In late 2012, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wanted Israel to halt its Jewish settlement activity before he considered resuming peace talks, but Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made no move to stop settlement.

In summer 2014, violence erupted again, shattering a fragile Palestinian reconciliation deal that had brought together both militant and moderate factions under President Abbas’ leadership. Days of rocket and missile fire left many dead and injured in and around the Gaza Strip. Israel argued that it was forced into the conflict by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip that was condemned by leaders worldwide. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said strikes would continue until "quiet" was returned to Israeli citizens.

  • What do you think will happen in this region in the future?

Assessment

Evaluate students on the following:

  • Accuracy of 5-minute summaries of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • Research accuracy in answering questions
  • Participation in class discussion
  • Completion of KWL chart

Lesson Plan Source

EducationWorld

Submitted by

Celine Provini, EducationWorld Editor


National Standards

Social Sciences

World History
Grades 5-12
NSS-WH.5-12.7  Era 7: An Age of Revolutions, 1750-1914
NSS-WH.5-12.8  Era 8: A Half-Century of Crisis and Achievement, 1900-1945
NSS-WH.5-12.9  Era 9: The 20th Century Since 1945: Promises and Paradoxes

Civics
Grades 5-8
NSS-C.5-8.4  Other Nations and World Affairs
Grades 9-12
NSS-C.9-12.4  Other Nations and World Affairs

Geography
Grades K-12
NSS-G.K-12.2  Places and Regions

 

Education World®    
Copyright © 2012 Education World

Updated 07/14/2014

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