Surely one of the great issues of the first decade of the 21st century is the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Because the conflict is tied to the American experience of the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 and because the conflict involves both needed natural resources such as oil and three competing world religions with a common historical source, the story of conflict in the Middle East is confusing, constantly changing, and difficult to resolve.
Students who participate in this lesson will work together to construct a history of the Middle East and will begin to sort out the conflicting claims of the many people for whom the Middle East is home.
Computer with Internet access, printer, paper, pen or pencil; art supplies; materials to create a PowerPoint or a news video (optional); large map of the Middle East (optional).
1. Introduce the lesson by giving students background on the area we call the Middle East, using the first two websites listed below, as well as any print materials that may be available.
2. Next, introduce students to the concept of the three Abrahamic religions, giving them a brief overview of the common origins of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and well as some of their common ideals. To see how much students know about the three religions, do the Comparative Religion Exercise (below), and identify and explain each slide after students have taken their best guesses.
3. Each student in the class should read the article, "The Path to Peace Runs Through a History of Tumult" (below). Discuss the article and give students an opportunity to ask questions raised by the article in their minds.
4. Then, divide the class into four groups. Using the Middle East Primer Worksheet, ask each group to identify the items in its list (e.g., People, Places, Events, Groups and Isms), by writing two to five sentences about the item, and its relation to conflict in the Middle East. Further, each group should create an interesting and informative way to share their findings with the whole class.
5. Each group should share its findings, leaving time for a Question and Answer period.
6. Each group member and the teacher should fill out the Middle East Primer Assessment for each of the four presentations.
7. Then, ask group members to create a Middle East Peace Primer Quiz for the class, sharing information among groups.
Extending the Lesson:
Using the large class map of the Middle East, have students place note cards or sticky notes on the map identifying important places and events that are central to the Middle East situation today.
Or, ask students to write essays outlining obstacles to peace in the Middle East.
Sources & Resources:
Gunderson, Cory Gideon. Countries in the Middle East (The World in Conflict—the Middle East Series). Edina, MN: Abdo and Daughters Publishing, 2003.
Gunderson, Cory Gideon. Afghanistan's Struggles (World in Conflict-the Middle East Series). Edina, MN: Abdo and Daughters Publishing, 2003.
Gunderson, Cory Gideon. Religions of the Middle East (World in Conflict-the Middle East Series). Edina, MN: Abdo and Daughters Publishing, 2003.
Rivera, Sheila. Women of the Middle East (World in Conflict. Middle East Series.) Edina, MN: Abdo and Daughters Publishing, 2003.
Defining the Middle East
Middle East Photography Archive
Comparative Religion Exercise: The Abrahamic Religions
Israel and Palestine: Historical Maps
A Jerusalem Timeline
Path to Peace Runs Through A History of Tumult
Middle East Primer Worksheet
Middle East Primer Assessment
Middle East Primer Answer Key
This lesson was developed by Marian Maxfield, Kent State University.