The Oslo Peace Accords in the early 1990s marked the beginning of a peace process to create a treaty between Israel and Palestine. Throughout these lengthy meetings, both Israeli and Palestinian representatives stayed in the same residence and often shared meals, leading to a growing bond among the participants. The Oslo Peace Accords were eventually signed by both sides on September 13, 1993, at the White House in Washington, D.C. One of the architects of the Oslo Peace Accords was Shimon Peres, a lifelong Israeli politician who became the nation’s president in 2007. The 1994 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin for their efforts to create peace in the Middle East.
Shimon Peres was born in Poland in 1923. To escape the persecution of Jews, the family fled to Palestine. Peres grew up in Tel Aviv, studied agricultural science, and was elected secretary to the Labor Zionist youth movement in 1943.
After statehood was declared for Israel in 1948, Peres served as head of Israel’s navy. He was elected a member of the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body, in 1959, but is perhaps best known for his work as Israel’s prime minister—from 1984 to 1986 and from 1995 to 1996. During his first term, he participated in 14 meetings in Oslo, Norway, with former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat, negotiating a path to peace. The Oslo Peace Accords were signed by both sides on September 13, 1993. In 1994, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Arafat, Rabin, and Peres.
The Knesset elected Shimon Peres president of Israel on June 13, 2007. At the time of his retirement in 2014, he was the world’s oldest head of state. In 2012, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Peres died on September 27, 2016, at age 93—the last of Israel’s founding fathers.
By studying Peres’ life and his 1994 Nobel Peace Prize lecture and by coming to understand the right to freedom of expression, students will develop a more nuanced understanding of the interpretation of peace. In one of the activities featured in the lesson plan, learners will create and use their own blueprint for peace to resolve issues in their school communities. In the “Become a Defender” portion of the lesson, students will determine a plan of action for how they can develop or improve a “condition for peace” or “blueprint for peace” in their larger community, with specific benchmarks and deadlines.
Because all the activities involve independent or group research that can be done online, this lesson plan fits into either virtual or in-person classrooms, with opportunities for discussion and collaboration on Zoom or with classmates.