learn more at: www.thirteen.org/edonline/wideangle

Dying to be a Martyr
by Heather Auletta


TIME ALLOTMENT: Two one-hour blocks, including the Culminating Activity

The Middle East conflict and terrorism are issues we hear about almost daily in the news. This lesson will use video clips from WIDE ANGLE's "Suicide Bombers" (2004), Internet sites, and primary sources to examine the roots of the Middle East conflict. The video contains interviews with young 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 suicide operations.

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 terrorism that threatens the world we live in.

SUBJECT MATTER: Global History and Geography/World History


Students will be able to:
  • 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.


New York State Learning Standards for Social Studies
Standards available online at http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/socst/pub/sslearn.pdf.

    Standard 2. World History (commencement)
    Performance Indicators:

      1. Students:

      • Understand the broad patterns, relationships, and interactions of cultures and civilizations during particular eras and across eras.

      • Analyze changing and competing interpretations of issues, events, and developments throughout world history.

      2. Students:

      • Analyze evidence critically and demonstrate an understanding of how circumstances of time and place influence perspective.

      • Explain the importance of analyzing narratives drawn from different times and places to understand historical events.

      • Investigate key events and developments and major turning points in world history to identify the factors that brought about change and the long-term effects of these changes.

      3. Students:

      • Analyze the roles and contributions of individuals and groups to social, political, economic, cultural and religious practices and activities.

      • Explain the dynamics of cultural change and how interactions between and among cultures has affected various cultural groups throughout the world.

      • Examine the social/cultural, political, economic, and religious norms and values of Western and other world cultures.

      4. Students:

      • Identify historical problems, pose analytical questions or hypotheses, research analytical questions or test hypotheses, formulate conclusions or generalizations, raise new questions or issues for further investigation.

      • Interpret and analyze documents and artifacts related to significant developments and events in world history.

      • Analyze different interpretations of important events, issues, or developments in world history by studying the social, political, and economic context in which they were developed; by testing the date source for reliability and validity, credibility, authority, authenticity, and completeness; and by detecting bias, distortion of the facts, and propaganda by omission, suppression, or invention of facts.

    Standard 3. Geography (commencement)
    Performance Indicators:

      1. Students:

      • Understand the development and interactions of social/cultural, political, economic, and religious systems in different regions of the world.

      • Analyze how the forces of cooperation and conflict among people influence the division and control of the Earth's surface.

New York State Regents Global History and Geography Curriculum Tie-Ins
Curriculum available online at http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/ciai/socst/pub/sscore2.pdf

    Unit One: : Ancient World-Civilizations and Religion (4000BC-500AD)

      E. The emergence and spread of belief systems

        1. Place of origin and major beliefs

          e. Judaism

          f. Christianity

          g. Islam

        2. Expansion of Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, and Buddhism

    Unit Seven: The 20th Century since l945

      F. Conflicts and change in the Middle East

        1. Human and physical geography

        2. The creation of the State of Israel, Arab Palestinians, and Israel's Arab neighbors

        4. Role of terrorism

Advanced Placement World History Curriculum Tie-Ins
Course Description available online at:
(Requires the Adobe Acrobat Reader)

    Foundations: c. 8000 B.C.E. - 600 C.E.
      Major Developments:

        5. Major belief systems -- Basic features and locations of major world belief systems prior to 600 C.E.

        • Judaism

        • Christianity

    600 C.E. - 1450
      Major Developments:

        2. The Islamic world -- The rise of Dar al-Islam as a unifying cultural and economic force in Eurasia and Africa, Islamic political structures, notably the caliphate, Arts, scientists, and technologies.

    1914 - Present
      Major Developments:

        6. Social reform and social revolution (changing gender roles; family structures; rise of feminism; peasant protest; international Marxism; religious fundamentalism)


WIDE ANGLE, "Suicide Bombers" (2004) (selected clips)

Web Sites:

  • In Israel
    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.


For the class:

  • Computer monitor or computer connection to television/projector for clip viewing

  • Computer with Internet access for all or groups of students OR a computer with a projector for the whole class to view

  • Recent newspapers or news magazines

  • Poster paper

  • Scissors

  • Glue

  • ANSWER KEY to Student Organizers

For each student:


Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:

Bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom, or upload all links to an online bookmarking utility such as www.portaportal.com.

Preview all of the video clips and Web sites used in the lesson to make certain that they are appropriate for your students, currently available, and accessible from your classroom.

Download the video clips used in this lesson onto your hard drive, or prepare to stream the clips from your classroom. RealPlayer is needed to view the video clips. If your classroom computer does not have it, download RealPlayer for free at www.real.com.

Make copies of Student Organizers #1-4 for all students.

Gather recent newspapers and news magazines that may contain articles relating to the Middle East conflict.

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

Procedures for Teachers


  1. 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.

  2. 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).

  3. 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).

  4. 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).

  5. 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).

  6. Distribute "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).


  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 "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 Organizer #2.

  2. 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 Organizer #2.

  3. 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 Organizer #2.

  4. Next direct students to http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/middle_east/israel_and_the_palestinians/
    , 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 Organizer #2. 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 Organizer #2. (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.

  1. Provide your students with a bit of background on the clip they are about to see: explain that this clip 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 Clip 1,"Martyrdom," 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.)

  2. 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 Clip 2, "Suicide Bombing," for the class. Ask your 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.)

  1. Provide your students a bit of background on the next clip -- this is taken from an interview with 25-year-old Majdi Amer, who in March 2003 built a bomb and prepared a suicide bomber for a bus bombing in Haifa that killed 17 people and wounded 50. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to compare Majdi's opinion of suicide bombing with Mohanned's opinion. PLAY Clip 3, "Israel and Palestine," for the class. Ask the students how Majdi and Mohanned's opinions differ from one another, even though they are both Palestinians involved in suicide bombing plots. (Majdi feels that Islam calls for him to defend his land any way he can, he does not recognize the Jewish state, he will kill an Israeli for every Palestinian killed. Mohanned did not see every Jew as an enemy, did not want to kill innocent people, felt that God wanted him to live.)


  1. 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.


  1. Students will create an objective newspaper article from the perspective of a reporter who has just witnessed a suicide bombing. The title of the article will be "Suicide Bombings Impact Both Israelis and Palestinians." The article will include background on the conflict, motivations of the bombers, impact of the bombing on Israelis, and a conclusion. The "Newspaper Article Template" student organizer can be used as a template to compete this assignment.


Language Arts

  • 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 mosque or invite a member to come in and speak to your class about current issues facing Muslims in your community.

Visit a local synagogue or invite a member to come in and speak to your class about current issues facing Jews in your community.

Contact your local law enforcement agency and ask how their policies have changed since the issue of terrorism has become more pressing in the aftermath of the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.

© 2006 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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