This is a role playing activity in which students will portray historical figures who were influential in the United States’ recognition of the state of Israel. In order for students to become familiar with the figure they are portraying, students will read biographical information on their figure as well as primary documents that help to reveal that person’s views. Students then will advise the president as to the appropriate course of action. After President Truman has reached his decision, students will have the opportunity to reflect on the decision.
The lesson requires students to be engaged in the learning process within a small group. Students will not only become more familiar with important historical figures, such as President Truman; George C. Marshall; Clark Clifford; Chaim Weizmann; and Truman’s friend Eddie Jacobson, they will also gain a better appreciation of the complexity of issues involved in Truman’s decision to recognize the state of Israel. Further, students will acquire important skills in interpreting and applying primary documents.
- understand the complexity of Truman’s decision to recognize the state of Israel.
- make a persuasive case as to what the United States’ response to the new state of Israel should be.
- evaluate and explain whether Truman’s decision was the right decision.
- Show-Me Standards SS2: continuity and change
- SS3: principles and processes of governance systems
- SS7: the use of tools of social science inquiry (documents)
Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.
1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.
2. (A) develops historical questions on a specific topic in United States history and analyzes the evidence in primary source documents to speculate on the answers.
3. (A) uses primary and secondary sources about an event in U.S. history to develop a credible interpretation of the event, evaluating on its meaning (e.g., uses provided primary and secondary sources to interpret a historical-based conclusion).
4. (A) compares competing historical narratives in United States history by contrasting different historians’ choice of questions, use of sources, and points of view, in order to demonstrate how these factors contribute to different interpretations.
For background and chronology of events leading to the recognition of Israel see
For perspective on Israel since statehood see
For primary documents related see:
Students will need internet access for the primary and secondary materials.
The teacher should begin by mentioning the major wars that Israel has been involved in (1948-49, 1956, 1967, 1973). Ask students why they think there is so much fighting in this part of the world. Steer discussion toward the idea that many nations in the Middle East do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. What is the view of the United States? How and why did we come to that view? Was it the right decision? In this lesson we will be answering these questions.
The teacher will introduce the topic to students with a short lecture on events leading up to the question of Israel’s statehood. The teacher should briefly explain the following: the Balfour Declaration, the British mandate in Palestine, the U.N. partition plan, expiration of the British mandate, and the announcement by Jewish leaders of the new State of Israel.
Students must then come to terms with how the United States should respond to the new State of Israel. Students will be divided into groups of five. Students within each group will be assigned one of the following to portray: Chaim Weizmann, Eddie Jacobson, Clark Clifford, George C. Marshall, Harry S. Truman. Students will use primary and secondary sources to research the historical figure that they are portraying and how that person would respond to Israel’s declaration of statehood. Students should use, but are not limited to, the electronic sources that are cited above. The teacher should assist students in finding relevant documents. Students must write a short autobiographical sketch (3-4 paragraphs) of the person they are portraying and how he views the recent developments in Palestine. President Truman will seek advice from Weizmann, Jacobson, Clifford, and. Marshall.
After listening to advice from the influential players, the presidents from each group will meet together and discuss how the United States should respond to Israel’s declaration of statehood. The presidents will work cooperatively to draft a response and explanation to the American people. This will be presented to the class by one of the presidents. Remaining students will work in their original groups to come up with questions for the president.
Finally students will produce an essay of one to two pages in which they evaluate Truman’s decision. Students should take a stance on whether it was the right decision and why or why not. In formulating their response they should consider the various pressures and influences that Truman had to deal with, conditions in the United States and Palestine prior to statehood, as well as the history of the United States and Israel since 1948. Students will likely need more research time to complete this task. Students should peruse the link at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7385156.stm for perspective on Israeli statehood.
Students will be informally assessed throughout the research session and simulation based on their involvement, participation, and depth of understanding. Students will be formally assessed based on their successful completion of the autobiographical sketch and summary of their historical figure’s views, as well as their evaluation of Truman’s decision. The two writing assignments will be evaluated on the following: depth and accuracy of information, the depth of analysis, clarity, and effort. Each of these criteria will given a point value of 4(exceptional), 3(moderate), 2(below average), 1(very low).