The Excellence Center in Palestine

The Excellence Center

About

The Excellence Center was established in June 2011 as a youth initiative to offer educational and community services to its diverse group of internationals and Palestinians. It is located in the main heart of Hebron on Ein Sarah street which is under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority.

The Excellence Center invites internationals year round to come to Palestine to volunteer, intern, visit or study Arabic. The Center organizes educational, cultural and community activities to introduce international interns, volunteers and students to Palestinian culture and daily life. Participants in the international programs have the opportunity to meet the local Palestinians who will share their lives and culture. Since the beginning, the Excellence Center has hosted over 250 international volunteers, interns and students from every corner of the world.

The Excellence Center is fully licensed as a cultural and educational center by the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

Founded
2011
Headquarters

Ein Sarah Street across from Al Hussein High School
Hebron
Palestinian Territories

Reviews

Default avatar
Mie Vibeke
9/10

My name is Mie and I am 21 years old . I live in Denmark and went to The Excellence Center during my second gap year. I finished the Danish ‘gymnasium’ (equivalent to high school) in 2016 and have worked as a substitute teacher since then. It was my work with children and my interest in art and travelling that lead me to The Excellence Center. I applied for the Art and Music program in the hope of teaching art here in Palestine.
The moment I walked inside the center I was welcomed by the other volunteers. My trip here was not as smooth as I expected, so it was nice to be welcomed in that way. As I sat in one of the chairs in the reception I heard volunteers speaking fluently with the staff – and I was speechless, I thought that if they all are fluent in Arabic I will be left behind in the social life at the center. This turned out not to be true, and at every activity and the everyday life at the center, English will always be the main language, especially when your Arabic is lacking or non existing, as it was in my case.
As you probably could guess from the text above – I DID NOT KNOW A WORD OF ARABIC. I knew the word for ‘dog’ and ‘animal’, but I learned from and Iraqi, which means that even those words were a different.
My very intelligent and sweet teacher Raghad learned me everything I know now from scratch. We started with the common greetings and during each class she would teach me five new letters. At first I didn’t see the use of learning the alphabet, but it will help me continuing my studies at home. She adjusted the classes to my needs, so I learned the different colours (to make my art class easier for the children and myself) and the numbers so I could go shopping and hackle with the prices as you are supposed to.
I quickly received many classes at schools and got my own class at the center. They do not have art at the schools, so no matter what kind of creative class I broad it was an improvement. The way of seeing art classes was also different: I was asked to choose the best drawing but refused – art is for me a place where judgment is put aside and it is more about the act of creating and the process than the product itself (especially when we are talking about children). It is the same reaction that art can bring children no matter the geographical place. Their smiles are the same in Denmark and in Palestine.
I also had drawing classes three times a week at the center, one for children and two for adults, who would also learn something about drawing techniques.
I was very fortunate and got the opportunity to travel around Palestine during my stay, even though I didn’t expect this when I planned my trip here. I have been to Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, The Dead Sea and Jericho during my five week stay and I have travelled both with friends I have met at the center and staff from the center. Seeing more than just Hebron has broaden my view on what Palestine is and what it is like living in Palestine. I have met different Palestinians living different lives both in Hebron, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem, this have helped me colour my view of what it means to be Palestinian.
I lived at a host family with another Danish volunteer for the first 3\4 weeks of my stay, and to have her as a link between the new and the known has been a big part of my positive experience in Palestine. There will always be some adjustments when you travel to a new place and live at a family, but to be honest it wasn’t hard. There is the language barrier – but one of my host sister was excellent in English and the other children spoke it okay as well, so it was only in my conversations with the parents that I needed help. The most different thing when it comes to food is how the Palestinians loves their bread, hummus and oily food. My skin bears the clear signs of the oily food (which tasted good but my body had to get used to all the grease). I have eaten grey food, and it tasted just as you might imagine, I have also eaten yellow rice, so much that I think I am going to stay away from rice when I come back home, and I have avoided all the neon pink pickles (food should NOT be neon pink!) – but dear Lord if eating falafel and hummus was a sin, I would be deemed to hell. I have had falafel for breakfast, lunch and dinner and tried many different falafel spots, but I must admit that I got the best falafel in Jerusalem.
I can only recommend coming to Palestine and volunteering at The Excellence Center. Prepare yourself to have very busy days that feels overbooked and very slow days where you (seemingly) have nothing to do. Be open-minded towards the staff, the Palestinians, their culture and the other volunteers – they will make you feel sad when you are leaving if you open yourself up to them. Say yes to new things such as wedding invitations, trips with the center, time with the family, grey food, and no when you feel like everything is a bit too much. I will definitely come back. Or as they say it down here to make sure that you know that their promises and plans can change any minute it should be (also when you have arrived) INSHALLAH

How can this program be improved?
Better contact with the students. Maybe have a facebook group just with the teacher and the students so it will be easier to ask and answer questions
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Joanne
10/10

مرحباً,
my name is Cathrine from Norway and I’ve spent the last 3 weeks studying Arabic at the Excellence Center. I have an undergraduate degree in political sciences and am currently studying for my Masters in Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter in the UK. I came here with two friends from university. We wanted to spend some time in the Middle East to improve our Arabic, but also to gain a better understanding of the region by talking to people and getting to know their culture. The situation in Palestine is one we have all studied as part of our course, however, there are obvious constraints to what you can learn within the boundaries of a classroom. The Excellence Center in Hebron offered a unique opportunity to learn colloquial Arabic and at the same time observe and learn more about the lived realities of the Israeli occupation – and by that challenging the twisted representations frequently occurring in the media. By living with a host family and engaging in conversation and spending time with the people here in Hebron, we have learned a lot about the Palestinian mentality, their culture and experienced first-hand their incredible warmth and hospitality. You don’t have to spend more than 2 minutes on the streets here in Palestine before you are invited for coffee, tea and a chat, or even dinner.
The Arabic lessons were intense, but very enriching. Although there is so much left to learn, I feel I have improved a lot in the 3 weeks I’ve been lucky enough to spend here at the centre. Usually the lessons are one-to-one, but since we were two friends coming at the same time we did the lessons together. My friend, Joanne, loves the grammar and it was hard to keep up with her impressive vocabulary. However, Dua’a made sure we were both on board, and was very patient and encouraging as a teacher. Both Joanne and Dua’a have inspired me to work hard, and to hopefully become an expert in Arabic grammar within the next few years, Inshallah! The part I enjoyed the most about the lessons were our conversations. Together with Dua’a we decided on a few topics each week, and she prepared for us a presentation and provided us with the vocabulary necessary for us to engage with the topic at hand.
It has been nice having the weekends off, as this gave us the chance to travel around and explore bigger parts of the West Bank. We got to visit Jericho, swim in the Dead Sea, go rock climbing in Ramallah, see Banksy’s graffiti on the wall in Bethlehem, and of course explore the holy sites in Jerusalem. It’s been amazing! The Center is also good with arranging smaller trips in the local area, like the famous glass factory, the kufiyeh factory, and al-Ibrahimi mosque. It is also worth going down to the old city, to see the settlements and the checkpoints that many Palestinians are forced to go through every day just to make their way to work. The people working here at the centre are very nice, and they do everything for you to feel at home. Together with the host family and the other people either studying or volunteering here at the centre, they have made my experience here in Hebron one which I will never forget.
With regards to safety, as a foreigner I have discovered myself to be in a very privileged position here in Hebron, and in Palestine in general. As a tourist you are not really affected by the occupation, and as long as you do a little bit of research and take precaution you are highly unlikely to feel endangered during your stay. If you are uncomfortable on your own, the people at the centre are more than happy to show you around, to get you in touch with local organisations, or give you traveling advice in general.
I have learned so much from my stay here in Hebron and really hope to get the chance to come back soon. I really recommend Hebron and Palestine – and especially the Excellence Center!

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Joanne
9/10

My name is Joanne, and I’m a British student studying Arabic at the Excellence Centre in Hebron.
I have spent the last three weeks living with a host family, taking part in intensive lessons during the mornings and exploring the city and surrounding areas in the rest of the day. Hebron is a great city for a base; it’s fascinating to wander through the old city and experience the reality of the settlements and how they affect the southern side. It’s a regional centre, with shops, markets and restaurants of every kind imaginable.
It is very easy to explore the rest of the West Bank too; the public transport is cheap and usually friendly, and despite restrictions on Palestinian-vehicular travel by Israeli checkpoints, Hebron to Ramallah is just under two hours by servees. The Excellence Centre organise a ton of trips each week – either to local places like the last remaining keffiyeh factory or the Maskobiyeh church, or to areas further afield, like Jericho and the Dead Sea, or to Bethlehem. The staff are really lovely and
The chief purpose of my stay in Hebron was to learn Arabic, so each morning I’ve had 3 hours of lessons with a wonderful tutor. Usually the classes are on a 1-2-1 basis, but my university friend and I have ours together – this is helpful because we can revise vocabulary and classwork together afterwards. We’ve covered a lot of material; basically we re-covered all of the basic grammar again and addressed a few topics such as human rights, future plans, marriage (!) and Palestinian cuisine. Both of us had been learning Modern Standard Arabic at university, but since no-one actually speaks MSA, we decided to focus on amiyya. Conversations with local shopkeepers, waiters and taxi-drivers has been getting much easier over the course of our stay – it is rewarding to be able to communicate in Arabic rather than switching back to English!
A number of friends from the UK were concerned about security issues and my personal safety when travelling around Palestine; I was also somewhat apprehensive about what the situation here might be. But the reality is that most of the time there is no overt difference between the lives of the locals here and those who live in other Arab countries – of course, the occupation means that there are restrictions for Palestinians, that many of them find themselves unable to travel to work or visit relatives in other areas of Palestine or even abroad because of new checkpoints, and it is impossible to drive anywhere without coming across settlements or Israeli military bases – but the lives still go on. They still go to school, go shopping in the evenings on the ein sarah street, attend university, work in every kind of business and go on day trips to amusement parks or other villages and towns. It’s been a right privilege to have lived with a host family in the north of the city, close to the main university, and see the familiar pattern of school term-time played out in another culture! The family are very welcoming – as are most of the people were have met here.
I thoroughly recommend the Excellence Centre to anyone who wants to visit Palestine, learn Arabic, meet wonderful people and eat awesome food.

How can this program be improved?
Perhaps with a member of staff meeting the students in Jerusalem to take a servees together - lots of the international students were given wrong information by Israeli bus drivers, who said that there was no direct transport available from Jerusalem to Hebron. This is not true, but the Israeli bus drivers wanted us to go to Bethlehem or Efrat first and then get a taxi.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Maj
9/10

My name is Maj, and I have studied Arabic and taught English with the Excellence Center from February 2018 to May 2018. I am from Denmark where I study at the university in Copenhagen. In the spring 2018 I took 6 months off between my bachelor and my master to travel to Palestine to improve my Arabic.

I studied Arabic with the competent teacher Maryam. We had Arabic class every day for three hours in the morning. The topic of the class changed almost every day which suited me very well. The teaching methods varied so I have never been bored during a class. As I am studying Political Science I asked my teacher to focus on this topic in our class which led me to have a great vocabulary on politics and have the skills to talk and discuss a difficult subject.

I started volunteering at the same time as I started studying Arabic. During my three months in Hebron I have taught the same class together with another volunteer twice a week at the Excellence Center. This has been a very good experience for me as I got the opportunity to get to know the students very well. After class we sometimes went out to eat ice cream or to have dinner which was something I enjoyed very much.

Besides from teaching at the Excellence Center I have also taught at public schools. This gave me the chance to see how the school system in Palestine functions. At the same time I enjoyed speaking with the children and teaching them English. The wonderful thing about teaching children is that you get more familiar with their native language which in this case is of course Arabic. In that way teaching English also helped me understanding Arabic better.

During my stay in Hebron I have lived with a Palestinian family. You can choose to change the family during your stay to get different experience, but I enjoyed my time with my host family so much that it was never something that crossed my mind. I owe my host family great thanks for making my time in Hebron so amazing!

I didn’t know what to expect regarding the safety situation in Hebron before I arrived but after spending three months in one of the most conservative cities in Palestine where the occupation is close to daily life I discovered that there was nothing to be afraid of. I have not once felt unsafe during my stay. People are very friendly and if you need help finding your way there will always be someone guiding you. The Palestinians are very outgoing so if you want to practice Arabic with other Palestinians than your teacher you will have a great opportunity to do that with people in shops and everywhere you go. As a woman travelling to Palestine there are different rules than for the men when it comes to staying out alone in the evening. I chose to follow the general costumes regarding this though the few times I went out alone in the night I didn’t feel unsafe.

Choosing to volunteer at the Excellence Center and living with a Palestinian family have been one of the best things I have done. The staff at the Excellence Center is so friendly and you feel welcomed from the moment you step into the center. I would definitely recommend this to others who want to learn Arabic and get familiar with the Palestinian culture.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Shayma
9/10

My name is Maj, and I have studied Arabic and taught English with the Excellence Center from February 2018 to May 2018. I am from Denmark where I study at the university in Copenhagen. In the spring 2018 I took 6 months off between my bachelor and my master to travel to Palestine to improve my Arabic.

I studied Arabic with the competent teacher Maryam. We had Arabic class every day for three hours in the morning. The topic of the class changed almost every day which suited me very well. The teaching methods varied so I have never been bored during a class. As I am studying Political Science I asked my teacher to focus on this topic in our class which led me to have a great vocabulary on politics and have the skills to talk and discuss a difficult subject.

I started volunteering at the same time as I started studying Arabic. During my three months in Hebron I have taught the same class together with another volunteer twice a week at the Excellence Center. This has been a very good experience for me as I got the opportunity to get to know the students very well. After class we sometimes went out to eat ice cream or to have dinner which was something I enjoyed very much.

Besides from teaching at the Excellence Center I have also taught at public schools. This gave me the chance to see how the school system in Palestine functions. At the same time I enjoyed speaking with the children and teaching them English. The wonderful thing about teaching children is that you get more familiar with their native language which in this case is of course Arabic. In that way teaching English also helped me understanding Arabic better.

During my stay in Hebron I have lived with a Palestinian family. You can choose to change the family during your stay to get different experience, but I enjoyed my time with my host family so much that it was never something that crossed my mind. I owe my host family great thanks for making my time in Hebron so amazing!

I didn’t know what to expect regarding the safety situation in Hebron before I arrived but after spending three months in one of the most conservative cities in Palestine where the occupation is close to daily life I discovered that there was nothing to be afraid of. I have not once felt unsafe during my stay. People are very friendly and if you need help finding your way there will always be someone guiding you. The Palestinians are very outgoing so if you want to practice Arabic with other Palestinians than your teacher you will have a great opportunity to do that with people in shops and everywhere you go. As a woman travelling to Palestine there are different rules than for the men when it comes to staying out alone in the evening. I chose to follow the general costumes regarding this though the few times I went out alone in the night I didn’t feel unsafe.

Choosing to volunteer at the Excellence Center and living with a Palestinian family have been one of the best things I have done. The staff at the Excellence Center is so friendly and you feel welcomed from the moment you step into the center. I would definitely recommend this to others who want to learn Arabic and get familiar with the Palestinian culture.

Yes, I recommend

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 10
The Excellence Center
91% 92 reviews
Palestine
Starting at
$500
The Excellence Center
93% 71 reviews
Palestine
The Excellence Center
91% 13 reviews
Palestine
The Excellence Center
98% 6 reviews
Palestine
The Excellence Center
0 reviews
Germany
Starting at
$250
The Excellence Center
0 reviews
Germany