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

Join Our Family in Palestine and Germany

Welcome to the Excellence Center: People who are between 18 – 75 years old are eligible to participate in all of our programs in Palestine and Germany. All nationalities and majors are welcome! You do not have to have any degree to join us. The Excellence Center hosts internationals year-round. Participants decide when they would like to start and end their programs. We are very flexible when it comes to starting and ending dates.

Reviews

Default avatar
Maiko
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I am Maiko from Japan participated in Individual Arabic study course for two weeks. I enjoyed the stay here a lot thanks to Excellence center.

In Arabic course, I learnt Palestinian Dialect mainly. My teacher is very kind and friendly, she taught me not only Arabic, but also Palestinian cultures and traditions. And her teaching way is brilliant. I had never studied Palestinian Dialect before, so it was really challenging, especially the pronunciation was so hard for me, but she found my weak points and taught me focusing on my weak points. Therefore, after two weeks, I found myself having small conversation in Arabic with host family and shopkeepers in the local shop.

During my stay here, I visited some places in Hebron as Excellence center organized some programs to visit old city, refugees camp and other cultural places. These programs made my stay more meaningful. Especially, the trip to the refugee camp widened my view and brought me deeper understanding about the situation in Palestine. If I was not attending the course in Excellence center, these special opportunities might not be gained. Also, I visited other cities such as Jericho, Jerusalem and Ramallah, sometimes with friends from the center, and sometimes by myself. All places were beautiful and different from each other. To visit new places talking to Taxi drivers and asking the way to local people were like an adventure, and I enjoyed it very much.

Another thing which made my two weeks more special was to stay with host family. I really appreciate their great hospitality. I have never felt lonely in Hebron as they treated me as one of their family members. All Palestinian dishes host mother cooked were very tasty and the teatime which I had with them in almost every night made me cozy and comfortable. Besides host father made me laugh with their cute four children. Therefore, the feeling that I want to communicate with them in Arabic was getting stronger day by day, which encouraged me to learn this challenging language. The time spending with them are so precious.

When I told my family and friends about the trip to Palestine, they worried about me because of negative perspectives which the media provided. But, actually I had never felt unsafe during these two weeks. All staffs, international volunteers and others in Excellence center are very warmhearted. They answer any questions kindly, for example, how to get the bus, how to reach other city and so on. Furthermore, Most Palestinians are helpful, so they give help kindly when we ask them.
For these reasons, I recommend participating in Excellence center in Hebron. Here is the right place to learn Arabic and also to know Palestinian traditions, their cultures and their lives.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Excellence center is very supportive, and people are friendly so, Do not hesitate to come here. you will have special experience which you cannot get in other places.
Default avatar
Ciprian
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Every single day was a new adventure and I was impress by the hospitality of the people from Palestine and the friendliness of the other volunteer. I felt always connected to the people there while also exploring Palestine and learning about the life, culture, habits, food in Hebron. It is a must do program for everyone who wants to expand their knowledge.
The lectures I gave to the students at the universities were very rewarding. In 2 weeks I also got the chance to learn basic words and expressions in the arabic language which I found it very useful. It is definitely a different world that I wasn't accustomed with and made me leave my confort zone in every single way. The Center of Excellence helped me with everything I needed during my stay there as well.

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Agnes
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I stayed in Halle for ten days during August. I met so many wonderful and interesting people from many countries and we were unified by the constant warmth, humour and food of the Syrian people who run or use the centre. Endless conversations in a glorious mix of English/German/Arabic were had. Everyone was friendly and respectful to each other and I felt very appreciated for my contribution to the work at the centre. The cultural exchange and learning was such a high point for me; whatever I taught I received in equal measure.
I had some great German lessons and overall my German has improved. Admittedly, I wasn't immersed in the German language as much as I had hoped as English was the common language between all volunteers. However, due to the welcome, kindness and friendship that I received during my stay in Halle, my experience was a very positive one.

I

What would you improve about this program?
I would have liked a key to my host family's flat as I had to wait outside for someone to return a couple of times.
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Yuzuki
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I came to Palestine after studying abroad in England for one year in the field of peace Studies program. Here at the Excellence Center, I joined two-month internship programs that consist of some short trips, two-week intensive Arabic lessons, and teaching English program.

As for the Arabic course, I really enjoyed every class for two weeks and I can now make simple sentences in Arabic, although I had not studied the language before. Apart from the classes, my Palestinian friends at the center, such as the teachers, stuff, and volunteers, were willing to teach me Arabic when they had time. Thanks to everyone here, I came to love this language. I would like to continue studying Arabic after I go back home.

In addition to that, teaching English to the local students was great, although it was hard at the same time. Students here listened to me very attentively, which helped me a lot. Due to the language barrier, certainly there were times when I struggled over how to communicate with them, but they were full of curiosity about different cultures and tried speaking eagerly to me in English. They always motivated me to do my best for them. I will miss my students I got to work with this summer in Palestine!

Most importantly, what made my stay in Palestine wonderful and unforgettable were the people themselves. Hebron is often said to be the most conservative city in Palestine, but it doesn’t necessarily mean exclusive. People in this city are very friendly and I received a warm welcome from them. The warm and welcoming atmosphere especially at the Excellence Center made me feel like part of the family. I hope I can come back to this place! You don’t need to worry about coming to Palestine alone. I am sure you will have lots of fond memories here.

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Ines
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My name is Ines, I’m 21 years old and I’m from the north of Spain, but I live in Madrid now. I study International Relations and Sociology there, and this year I’m starting a degree in Law too. I decided to come to the Excellence Center in a volunteer program, teaching English and attending Arabic lessons too. I ended up staying in Palestine for three weeks during the summer.
Once in the Excellence Center, Fridays were my free days, and I usually had another free day apart from it, so I was able to travel around. Also, staff, teachers and students are very flexible, so it was super easy to get to know such a wonderful country!. I usually had three hours of Arabic lessons each week, divided in two days. My teacher and the Excellence Center staff were very flexible with this too, so I was able to change my lessons if they didn’t fit right in my schedule. Apart from that, I usually had English lessons every work day. I worked with two wonderful Palestinian teachers, and some days we did oral exams too. Sometimes, I was with other volunteers in the lessons, so it was super nice to see how other people work with students and learn from them.
I really enjoyed my Arabic lessons. As they were private lessons (just me and my teacher), I always felt listened, and I was learning at my pace. I got to learn a lot of things: in just three weeks, I can introduce myself, ask for the price of things, talk with the taxist, say numbers and days of the weeks, and even read some words. It is a very good start if you want to keep learning Arabic in your country, as you have the opportunity to talk with native people here!
Anyway, my favorite part of the experience was the environment of the Excellence Center. I got to know such amazing people from all over the world, and I made super good friends. I really enjoyed staying at the center until its closing time, just studying (tables, books and computers are always available for us), or chatting with people. I have great memories of having coffee with the staff and some Palestinians students, and I can’t wait to come back here. Also, I got to visit the old city of Hebron with them, and it was a super nice experience, as they explained interesting things about the situation there.
As I wanted to visit the country, I asked for some free days and I went to visit Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerico, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. They are all amazing cities, and I especially liked Bethlehem, which is nice, because it takes less than an hour to get there from Hebron, and it’s super cheap too! It was very nice to swim in the Dead See too, and the landscape is just amazing.
About Hebron, I think it was the best place to stay. It has one huge street, and the center is right next to it, so it’s super easy to get there (most of the taxis go there). Also, there are two nice coffee shops just one minute away from the center. As it is not very touristic, Hebron is a very cheap place, and I loved the old city: it isn’t very big, but it’s probably the most interesting one, and people there is nice too. I always got free coffee and good conversation. As a woman, I was staying with a host family, and that was super great too, as I got to get involved in culture, and I met quite a lot of new people related to them. I also enjoy playing with children, and I got to be with two little girls at home.
Also, there was another volunteer staying with the same host family, so we spent a lot of time together, went to the center or to visit other cities together, and we became good friends. It was a very good way of getting to know Palestinian people, Palestinian culture, and, in my case, Japanese culture too.
When I decided to come to Palestine, I was a bit scared about safety, but here I was feeling as safe as in Europe. At first, it was weird and quite scary to see Israeli soldiers or to pass through checkpoints, but I didn’t see any conflict, and the only contact I had with them was they asking for my passport in the old city. In fact, they are only in some points of the old city and in the roads, so you might don’t see them at all if you don’t go specifically to those places. Routine and day to day life is very similar to European or American life, just normal people going to school, to work, having coffee of going shopping. Also, the main street is quite crowded, so it’s super safe to walk on it (I liked to go back home walking everyday, and it was about half an hour). The other reason why I was feeling safe during my stance here were the Palestinian. People here is super welcoming, always ready to help you (I got lost on my first day and I ended up with five or six people walking me to the center, and about another four or five sharing with me their phones or internet).
So, in general, I felt as safe as in Europe, during the daytime even more (people is definitely kinder and more welcoming here) and at night I just took the normal precautions (avoiding walking alone, but nothing that I wouldn’t do at home). Actually, most of my volunteers friends were also girls travelling alone, and none of us had any important problem. Catcalling wasn’t remarkable at all, better than in other countries I’ve been alone.
To conclude, what I liked more about Palestine was the hospitality of its people, I made a bunch of new friends, and I felt at home in every place I went. I got tons of free coffee, free tea, interesting conversations about the situation here, presents and discounts…every new person I met seemed like a distant cousin who really wanted to get in touch. I feel like I have a second huge family here!. This sensation is stronger in the Center, as every person I met there, staff, volunteers, students or just friends, was extremely friendly and made me feel completely at home.
I absolutely recommend coming to Palestine, and especially to the Excellence Center! You will get to visit a lot of wonderful cities (probably super different than the ones you have visited before), and I also recommend talking with every new person you meet. At the Center, you will get to meet amazing people, learn good Arabic and improve your teaching skills (or, as in my case, discover that you have them!).

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I really enjoyed the experience, but I regret not planning it with more time. I hardly recommend to read about the situation of Palestine, the important cities, how to get to them...I learnt a lot and I got to travel to four or five different places, but I would have traveled more if I had known how to get to them before!

Programs

Displaying 10 - 10 of 10

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.

More Interviews

Staff Interviews

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

Mohammed S. Tamimi (“Abu Mohanned”)

Job Title
General Manager
group photo

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!

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