Visit WIDE ANGLE on pbs.org
lesson plans
Printable Page Dying to be a Martyr by Heather Auletta
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students
Learning Objectives Learning Objectives    Standards Standards    Media Components Media Components    Materials Materials    Prep for Teachers Prep for Teachers


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)

back to top  

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

Photo of Mohanned Abu Tayyoun talking about the reasons behind his decision to conduct a martyr operation.
Suicide Bombing
Photo of girls sitting in a cafe.
Israel and Pales.
Photo of Majdi Amer descibing the daily state of violence in Israel and the occupied territories.

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.

Printable Page Next: