The Excellence Center Logo

The Excellence Center

About

The Excellence Center/Engage in Palestine was established in June 2011 to provide educational, cultural, social, and community services to its diverse group of international students, interns, and volunteers, as well as to Palestinian children, refugees, women and youth in Hebron, West Bank, Palestine.

The ongoing success of the center has pushed us to continue our work in Germany, specifically in the city of Halle. The Excellence Center in Germany started to offer educational and community programs to both locals and internationals in 2018. Both Centers have had a great impact on refugees, children, migrants and members of local communities as well as on the internationals who come from different countries and backgrounds.

The Excellence Center believes strongly in the fundamental role that education plays in the lives of the Palestinian and German communities. To this end, the center will continue to develop and create new programs and activities that further this role.

Reviews

Default avatar
Lara
4/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Volunteer one week, healthcare system

I loved that it was so flexible and that you could bring your own ideas and wishes up what you want to do. I met great people with interstings stories to share, not only from the healthcare system but also other people from Hebron. And it was nice to spend so much time with the other volunteers as well (breakfasts together and them joining the activities). I think or this kind of programm (without teaching English) two weeks are a good timespan, I was here one week and could easily stay another week.

Pros
  • flexible
  • host family
  • You can start at the center quickly after applying
Cons
  • sometimes longer waiting times at the center
  • hostfamilies sometimes host a lot of volunteers at the same time
  • could be more program per daz
Default avatar
Hanneke
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Study Arabic Hebron

I was here only for one week, but I liked it a lot. The people are very nice and helpful.
The classes are fun. I came here to get rid of my fear to speak Arabic. I know already a lot of words, but talking was difficult, but it is going better.
I enjoyed to be in Hebron. Went to the old city, alone or with my peers. It is easy to get from Hebron to Bethlehem and other cities. People are helpful and it safe walk around here and visit the cities. Eating out is easy, nice an cheap and you should do that :-)
It is fun to stay with a host family.

Pros
  • Staying with a hostfamily
  • Arabic lessons
  • Activities
Default avatar
Lamiha
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

One of the best and most memorable experiences of my life

Introduction + the Palestinian People
I would like to preface this by saying I visited the Excellence Center in Hebron for three weeks from Dec 2022 to Jan 2023. I am in the last year of my college and came from the USA to study colloquial Palestinian Arabic. Upon arrival to Hebron, I was extremely shaken up from the intimidation, inconvenience, and blatant racism I faced at the hands of the Israeli border control since I am of Muslim and South Asian origin. However, it was absolutely astonishing how my feelings and mood changed as soon as I arrived to my hosts' home. The family had stayed up hours waiting for me to come from the airport and I quite frankly have never been treated better by anybody. They were incredibly caring and wonderful during the entire three weeks I stayed with them and truly made me feel like I was a part of the family. One thing many volunteers like myself have noticed about the Palestinian people (from host families to shopkeepers to people you run into on the street) is how remarkably kind, generous, and welcoming they are despite language and global barriers. I have had teens chase me down to give me my cellphone I had accidentally left, to being walked to 3 different banks by a local man to make sure I was able to take out money from a working ATM, to my Arabic teacher from the center getting me a chocolate I had once mentioned I always wanted to try, to many other instances where Palestinians have gone out of their way to be so kind and helpful to me. I have truly never experienced anything like it ever, especially coming from quite a generous background myself. Despite the hassle at the airport that prevents many people from visiting Palestine, the experience I had in Palestine was 100000% worth it and overshadowed the negative inconvenience and intimidation at the israeli airport . It is the Palestinian people that truly make me yearn to visit again.

The Center
My Arabic teacher Mariam was incredibly kind and patient. Her lessons were thoroughly planned and organized. She also asked if there was anything specific I wanted to learn and loved hearing my thoughts and opinions on different things. The 3.5 hours of class did not simply consist of us doing the same thing. She would switch it up to keep me engaged. Homework was also not overwhelming and would reinforce what we learned in class. The other teachers Doha and Saja were also very fun to be around and often took me and the other volunteers out to restaurant, spas, shopping, and anywhere else we wanted to go. The center also organized trips for students to understand the reality of the occupation which were all very insightful. The center is quite unstructured so you might not know what you will be doing until the day of. If there is something specific you want to do for the center or have an idea, reach out to the center in advance with your plan. You do have a lot of free time to yourself though so it is not too intense and overwhelming.

Traveling
It is pretty easy to get around Hebron. Everything I needed was walking distant from the center and my hosts' house. Going to different cities with the shared taxis and buses was also very affordable and easy. If there is anywhere specific you want to go or need help planning a trip, you can just ask the center and they will gladly help you figure it out. Many of us volunteers from the center would also plan trips and outtings together which was nice.

Food
Food in Hebron is cheap as well. It also tastes very fresh and is relatively healthy. There are a lot of authentic places for Middle Eastern cuisine as well as pizza, burgers, juice and smoothie shops, bakeries, and cafes. All the food I had in Hebron was delicious. Most Palestinian cuisine does have meat and dairy so if you are vegetarian or vegan, just let your host family know.

Safety
I felt very safe walking around in Palestine especially as a young international female who had a limited understanding of Arabic. If you get lost or need directions, almost any local will be glad to help you. Many people also speak English.

Pros
  • Everyone is so hospitable, kind, and welcoming
  • Affordable tuition and flexible dates
  • Prime location
Cons
  • Can get very cold inside the center
  • Emotional toll seeing the reality of the occupation
Default avatar
Sonia
4/5
Yes, I recommend this program

One Month Teaching English and Learning Arabic

I am really glad I found out about this opportunity. There are not many places like this that allow people my age to teach English and learn a critical language like Arabic. I think the center is a great place for cultural exchange and to develop cultural competency. The staff was very helpful and if I had a problem, I felt comfortable discussing it with them. I taught around 7-10 hours and received 2-3 hours of Arabic lessons a week.

My teacher, Muaz, introduced me to Arabic-speaking countries, the different dialects, and helped me learn the alphabet to be able to read some Arabic. I also learned some basic phrases and practiced them outside the center. He even took me to a falafel shop, and I learned about his experience as a refugee.

It was a really moving story. As for my English students, they were a range of ages from 8 to 32, some regular German students, others refugees from Ukraine/Syria. I really enjoyed listening to their experiences and understanding how Halle is an ideal place for those who have been displaced. Another thing that was great was that I had a lot of creativity with my classes and how I taught them; a majority of them were English conversation classes, but with my oldest student I had him give me a tour of Halle in English to practice it outside the classroom, and with my younger students I taught them the names of countries on different continents in English (a fun activity).

Most of the students come in with a good understanding of English grammar and vocabulary, but I wish I had been able to explain things about the English language that did not make sense to them (i.e. varied pronunciations). Here are some things I think would be helpful to know before you come: January is the quietest time of the year to come. I met two volunteers my first week, but was the only one left for the remainder of my time. There was nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I wish I could have done activities/traveled with other volunteers.

I think summer is the most ideal time to come. Another thing is that you may have to get your own dinner when living with a host family. Breakfast is covered at the center and then lunch/dinner are on your own. I think this was the most surprising thing for me because it had not been like that with other host families I had stayed with. I was able to eat with them on weekends but not weekdays because my host mom was not able to prepare as much food. I can understand this, but it was a little lonely eating dinner by myself in my room. However, the family I stayed with was very nice and the younger sister gave me my own room.

So, I think if you are going to stay with a host family, just know that it might only just be for accommodation purposes, and it is up to you to interact with the family and feel included. I wish I had practiced my Arabic with them more often and had been less shy, but towards the end I started to feel less isolated. It takes time to adjust to being in a new country, and just when you starting making friends and feeling settled, you have to leave.

This was a positive experience and I hope to return to Halle in the summer. Thank you Rafat, Radwan, and Muaz for this unique experience.

P.S. You get bonus points if you can make Radwan smile :)

Default avatar
Tenzin
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Five stars

Studying Human Rights at The Excellence Center was a fantastic experience, lead by thoughtful, dedicated and organized people. I found Palestine safe, stimulating and educational, and the center itself to be accommodating, with well thought out programming and excellent teachers. Osama and Marwa have created an incredible environment, and went out of their way to ensure that I and everybody had their needs met. And the food is something I miss daily! I look forward to going back! 5 stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Rosalind Dyveke Dale

Rosalind Dyveke Dale

Why did you choose this program?

I previously visited the Excellence Center in Hebron last year to do Intensive Arabic and I really enjoyed the two weeks I had; however, I wished I was staying longer, as two weeks went to fast. This year I was for one month and, in the future, I hope to stay for longer. I have a desire to become fluent in Arabic and coming to the Excellence Center was a great opportunity for me to improve my Arabic, even though that was not the main focus of the visit. The main focus was to conduct research for my dissertation in BSc Anthropology and, with the help from the Excellence Center, this became easier for me to complete.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I had in advance of this program created a questionnaire and interview questions and done some readings to prepare for the fieldwork. When I arrived at the Excellence Center, I had a short meeting with some staff at the Excellence Center about what I needed for my research and, from that point, the Center organised all the interviewees I conducted and all the questionnaires I collected. The only thing I needed to do was to tell them what I needed, and then they organised the rest. This made the research I conducted very easy and possible to complete within the limited time I had.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Be prepared for Arab time. You might have heard about the Arab time before, but if you haven't, now you will. It basically means that times works a bit differently; 9 might mean 9.30, the afternoon might be 12.00 or 14.00, and 5 minutes might be 30 minutes. When deciding to come to this Center, be prepared and accept that time runs differently, and embrace it!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

At 9.30 am, it is Palestinian traditional breakfast at the Center together with other volunteers and staff at the Center. After that, I usually talked to the Excellence Center staff about my day.

As I did research, some days the Excellence Center staff had fixed an interview or a focus group that could fill in my questionnaire. Other days I was working on transcribing interviews. I also had two 1.5 hour lecture of Arabic each week, so when I didn't work on my research, I practised my Arabic.

At around 5 pm, I would go back home and use the rest of the day with my host family and relax. As the main focus was my own research, the weeks were very flexible, and I mostly shaped the weeks myself.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

Last year was a bit more terrifying than it was this year. Traveling alone and living in a host family with a completely different culture than my own was a bit scary, as I did not know what to expect. However, the friendliness of the host family made this fear disappear and they actually made my stay even better as I had a family to come back to after a long day at the Center.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Mohammed S. Tamimi (“Abu Mohanned”)

Job Title
General Manager
Thumbnail

The Excellence Center has been offering English language training to local residents of Hebron, as well as Arabic training and volunteer opportunities to foreigners, for over six years.

One of the men who made our mission possible is Mohammed Tamimi, affectionately called by his friends, “Abu Mohanned.” Abu Mohanned founded the center all those years ago and he is still a fixture at the center’s offices. Volunteers and students visiting us from abroad will have close contact with Abu, whether chatting with them over coffee in the evenings, or traveling with him on tours of the Dead Sea or Jerusalem.

We thought we would introduce Abu Mohanned to any future volunteers reading, to give them a better idea of the people they will be working with.

What made you decide to found the Excellence Center?

I founded the center back in April of 2011. There was a need for students in Hebron to better their English language skills.

What makes English an important language to learn for people in Hebron?

All sorts of reasons. Many people in Hebron travel, or want to travel, overseas. There are business people, NGO workers, and tourists from around the world coming to Hebron as well. Being able to communicate with them is an important skill to learn.

How do you like working with foreign volunteers?

The volunteers we host from all over the world are very good people. As are the students who come to study Arabic. I’ve really enjoyed working with and getting to know them.

How is the Excellence Center different now than it was five years ago?

We have made a lot of improvements since I founded the center five years ago. In the beginning, we didn’t have many students, and certainly not many foreign volunteers. Every year, however, we attract more local students and more people from abroad.

We’ve opened up a second center in Hebron to host more programs. We’ve begun offering more workshops, an English Club, and have even begun offering local government staff English language training. Things keep getting better and better!

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Oh, I love traveling around Palestine and visiting the different cities. Frequently I’ll go to weddings and visit relatives around the country. That’s one of my jobs as well, taking the volunteers on tours of Palestine!

What do you wish foreign volunteers knew before coming to Hebron?

Well there are practical things, like the places they want to visit, and how to find their way from Tel Aviv to Hebron. Besides that, however, we really like it when people visiting Hebron are aware of and familiar with the Palestinian culture. One of my goals is to raise awareness of the Palestinian culture and all that Palestine has to offer, so that volunteers will tell their friends to visit our country when they return home.

One last thing that Abu Mohanned insisted we include is that he is eager to welcome more volunteers to the Excellence Center!