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The Lemon Tree: A Case Study on the Creation of the State of Israel (1948)

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
Three to four class periods
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
The students will use both individual assignments and cooperative learning to explore a case study on the creation of the state of Israel.

The students will use both individual assignments and cooperative learning to explore a case study on the creation of the state of Israel.  Primary and secondary sources will be used to illustrate the multiple perspectives on this seminal event.

Rationale (why are you doing this?)

 It is important for students to realize that history is nuanced – that the same event has widely divergent interpretations.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict offers a remarkable opportunity to illustrate that point through the use of multiple narratives surrounding the creation of the state of Israel.

Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • Analyze primary source documents to understand the controversy surround the Nov. 30, 1947 UN Resolution to partition Palestine and the May 1948 creation of the State of Israel.
  • Explore historic documents related to the Israeli and Arab presence in Palestine.
  • Assess the implications for political negotiations in the Middle East post-1948.
District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met
  • Kansas High School Modern World History Standards (adopted 2013)
    • Standard 5: Relationships between people, places, ideas, and environments are dynamic.
    • Sample Compelling Question: What factors made the Middle East such an important region in the post-World War II era?
  • Unit: “Cold War and Beyond (1945-present)”


  • Common Core Standards – History/Social Studies, Grades 9-10
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.1 – Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.6 – Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
    • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.TH.9-10.9 – Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed
  • Tolan, Sandy. The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East. New York: Blooomsbury, 2006, pages 49-51.  This excerpt is a description of reactions to the November 30, 1947 UN General Assembly decision to partition Palestine in 1948.
  • NPR series entitled “The Middle East: A Century of Conflict” (aired in September 2002) – the companion website has an excellent collection of maps covering the period from 1900-2002 (  This site also includes a valuable timeline of events (
  • Learning Each Other’s Historical Narratives: Palestinians and Israelis (Peace Research Institute in the Middle East, 2003), Chapter 2
  • “Fact, Perspective, Narrative, Truth” chart – obtained at 2013 Truman Library Teacher conference from Samia Shoman’s presentation and modified at the end of this lesson plan
Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
  • The Yale Law Library has an online resource entitled “The Avalon Project.”  This site includes a collection entitled “The Middle East 1916-2001: A Documentary Record” ( For this lesson, the following documents can be accessed on this site:
    • Balfour Declaration (1917)
    • Pact of the League of Arab States (March 22, 1945) – specifically the section entitled “Annex on Palestine”
    • United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (November 1947) – the document is the UN plan for the partition of Palestine
    • Israeli Declaration of Independence (May 14, 1948)
    • other documents can be used as needed, depending on the needs of your individual classroom           
Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

Day 1

  • Start by asking the students what they know about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Write their observations and/or questions on the whiteboard.
    • Remind students of the history previously learned in class, specifically the lessons on imperialism in the Middle East, the Middle East between the World Wars, and the Holocaust.
  • Read the excerpt from The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew and the Heart of the Middle East, pp. 49-51.  This short segment details the response of the Khairi and Eshkenazi families to UN Resolution 181 announcing the partition of Palestine.  The Khairi (Arab) and Eshkenazi (Jewish) families are the primary protagonists in this book.
    • Make a T-chart on the whiteboard identifying the responses of the Khairi and Eshkenazi families to UN Resolution 181.  Discuss the similarities and differences in these responses.  Ask the students why there are different responses to the same document, and what this tells them about the nature of history.
  • Look at historic maps of Palestine, using the online maps available via the NPR website named above.  Only look at maps from 1900 to 1947.  Ask the students to use the maps to draw conclusions about why UN Resolution 181 was controversial.
  • Next, read together two of the historic documents available via Yale University’s Avalon Project website (mentioned above).  As the documents are read aloud, encourage the students to identify the perspective of each document, identifying where they are similar and where they are different.  Complete a Fact, Perspective, Narrative, Truth chart for each document.
    • Balfour Declaration (1917)
    • Pact of the Arab League States (March 22, 1945)
  • Homework for Day 2: Read UN Resolution 181 (excerpts) and complete a “Fact, Perspective, Narrative, Truth” chart identifying how Israelis and Palestinians would respond to the UN resolution.


Day 2

  • Walk around classroom and assess completion of “Fact, Perspective, Narrative, Truth” chart for UN Resolution 181.  Discuss this document, focusing on each side’s perspectives and truths related to this document.  Relate back to the excerpt from The Lemon Tree read on Day 1.
  • Hand out Chapter 2 of Learning Each Other’s Historical Narratives: Palestinians and Israelis (Peace Research Institute in the Middle East, 2003), giving the Israeli section entitled “The War of Independence” to half of the class and giving the Arab section entitled “Al-Nakba (The Catastrophe)” to the other half of the class.  Instruct them to read their assigned chapter and complete a “Fact, Perspective, Narrative, Truth” for homework for Day 3.  As the students read their section during the remainder of class, the teacher should be available to assist as needed.


Day 3

  • Have the students get together in groups based upon whether they read the Israeli or Arab perspectives on 1948 for homework the night before.  In groups, the students should compare their “Fact, Perspective . . .” sheets and then appoint one person to share the group’s conclusions with the rest of the class.  The teacher will write each group’s observations on the whiteboard.
    • Lead a discussion about the similarities and differences between each narrative.  Discuss the place of perspective in studying historical events.
    • Identify the major issues for the Israelis and Palestinians/Arabs.  What issues are non-negotiable for each group?  Is there any room for compromise?  Why or why not?  What does this tell us about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Middle East?
  • Give the alternate narrative to each group (the Israeli group receives the Palestinian narrative, and vice versa).  The students wil