Resources for Discussing the Israel-Hamas War with Students

As educators seek to discuss the Israel-Hamas war with students, SLJ has curated related resources and books.

As educators seek to discuss the Israel-Hamas war with students, SLJ has curated related resources and books.

Discussion and lesson planning

Chris Barton explains “How to Discuss Tough Topics with Children” (SLJ, 2020). The author of All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing, Barton writes about the larger lessons from his book and how help from educators often takes the forms of sharing and listening to stories, rather than problem-solving.

Facing History & Ourselves has created mini lesson plans for grades 6-12. Processing Attacks in Israel and the Outbreak of War in the Region “can help you guide your students as they process the loss of life, learn strategies for following breaking news responsibly, and consider how they can take care of themselves and others,” according to the organization’s description of the lessons.

From the New York Times, “The Israel-Gaza War: A Forum for Young People to React” provides a platform for teens to write about what they “thought, felt, discussed and wondered in the days since Hamas’s attack on Israel and Israel’s response,” along with links to information about the event, as well as the history of the region and conflict.

Media literacy resources

A Deep Dive into Deep Fakes: Media Literacy in a World Where Seeing Is no Longer Believing (SLJ, February 2020)

News Literacy Must Include Social Emotional Learning (SLJ, May 2020)

Spotting Misinformation and #FakeNews: 10 Resources To Teach Students Media Literacy (SLJ, August 2020)


There are titles on processing scary news, fiction and nonfiction accounts centering a relationship between an Israeli and a Palestinian, and finally, a compilation of folktales about peace.

What to Do When the News Scares You: A Kid’s Guide to Understanding Current Events by Jacqueline B Toner, illus. by Janet McDonnell. Magination. (What to Do Guides for Kids). Oct. 2021.

Gr 2-4–This very timely book should prove enormously helpful to parents, teachers, librarians, and especially children. Designed to be shared between a trusted adult and a child, the book deals with topics like identifying and investigating scary news to figure out what’s happening, understanding different types of news, understanding how reporters make news sound more exciting, identifying viewpoints offered, determining the reliability of sources, and asking questions to make sure your ideas are accurate. There are many interactive activities offered and spaces in the book for readers to draw and write. These drawings could serve as the basis of conversations. There are even activities that deal with “un-news,” the ordinary things happening all around us that are comforting to recognize. The book’s short chapters have titles such as “What is News?”, “What’s the Viewpoint?”, and “What’s Your Source?” The author, an experienced clinical psychologist, provides many activities and strategies that will help children feel safe and secure. The black-and-white illustrations include diverse family settings that highlight conversations between children and parents, as well as images that highlight news reporters on the job. In these times of climate change, infectious diseases, and political unrest, a book that focuses on helping children deal with their thoughts and feelings about news is welcome and much needed.
VERDICT Though purchasing books with fill-in sections isn’t the norm for libraries, this work’s content and usefulness proves the exception to the rule.

Wishing Upon the Same Stars by Jacquetta Nammar Feldman. HarperCollins/Harper. Feb. 2022.
Gr 5 Up–The Isreali-Palestinian conflict takes center stage in this middle grade novel. Yasmeen Khoury, an Arab American girl living in Detroit, Michigan, is devastated to hear she and her family will be moving to Texas. Yasmeen is used to her life in Michigan where there are many Arab American families; she has a lot of concerns about her new home, but her biggest worry is fitting in at school. As she feared, Yasmeen feels different and out of place in most of her classes, but she is soon invited to an after-school club called Math Lab. While she is excited about the club, she is worried her parents won’t allow her to join: the coach of the club is Mr. Cohen, the father of the Israeli family across the street. Meanwhile, Yasmeen’s dad watches the conflict growing worse in Israel, and Yasmeen is finding a new friend in Mr. Cohen’s daughter, Ayelet. Can Yasmeen’s family and the Cohens get along? Many readers will see themselves in Feldman’s debut novel. Yasmeen’s thoughts and actions feel authentic, and the friendship between her and Ayelet unfolds hesitantly, as would be expected. The information, thoughts, and feelings relating to the conflict are expertly done, especially for upper elementary readers. At times the plot feels a bit long, as it covers Yasmeen’s entire first year in Texas, but readers will likely enjoy her journey.
VERDICT This valuable title explores an issue rarely discussed in contemporary children’s literature. Highly recommended for middle grade collections.

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan. Bloomsbury. Nov. 2020.
Gr 6 Up–In this young readers’ adaptation of the 2007 book, Tolan details the true story of the unexpected friendship between Bashir Khairi, a Palestinian man of Arab ancestry, and Dalia Eshkenazi Landau, an Israeli woman of Jewish descent. These two individuals found they shared a connection. Their families lived in the same stone house at different time periods. Nineteen years before Landau’s family moved in, Khairi’s family lived in the house. During the formation of Israel in 1948, six-year-old Khairi and his family were forced to flee their hometown. Landau and her family relocated from Europe to Israel after World War II. In 1967, soon after the Six-Day War, Khairi and Landau met as young adults. For a time, they maintained a tenuous friendship and an openness to conversation. Tolan deftly explores both sides of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He connects news stories to real people and describes the mental, emotional, and physical impact of violence, occupation, and forced relocation. Although the text would have benefitted from a time line and a little more explanation about Zionism, the compelling narrative provides readers with insight into an impossible situation. Front matter includes territorial maps and information about Tolan’s research methods; back matter features an annotated list of books, articles, and films on the topic, as well as an extensive list of sources.
VERDICT Tolan makes an incredibly complicated topic comprehensible, creating empathy and understanding for people on both sides of the conflict.

Folktales for a Better World: Stories of Peace and Kindness by Elizabeth Laird, illus. by Mehrdokht Amini. Crocodile. Feb. 2023.
PreS-Gr 4–Some of our earliest encounters listening to stories might come from folktales, shared across generations; Laird offers folktales from Ethiopia, Sudan, Palestine, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and China. Amini adds an exciting visual dimension to traditional oral storytelling, making this an ideal book for story times, read-alongs, or readers who rely on visuals for reading comprehension. In clear, crafted language, the collection presents children with stories about community, reconciliation, and kindness from people living in hardship. As Laird explains in the introduction, “War, invasions, and oppression” have, and continue to, bring harm. Yet Laird writes of peace in the introduction, offering to share and complicate the oversimplified hardship narratives that dominate global understandings of places and people.
VERDICT Playful and serious, fraught and kind, these stories—and the accompanying illustrations—are essential, and will be at home when shared, or for one-on-one readings for lower elementary students.

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