The Excellence Center in Palestine

The Excellence Center


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.


Ein Sarah Street across from Al Hussein High School
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.


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My name is Sam Halton, I am originally from San Francisco Bay Area, and I am both an Irish and an American citizen. I have a BA in Political Science from the University of California and a Master’s degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London University in Near and Middle East Studies. I volunteered with Syrian refugees in Turkey and I felt that a future career in the region would require me to learn Arabic. Because of this I wanted to find an Arabic program in the Levant (Bilad el Sham). Additionally, I have always been interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I have always dreamed of volunteering in the Occupied Palestinian territories to witness the politics of the Occupation first hand.
During my stay in Hebron I studied Arabic and volunteered as an English Teacher. The Excellence Centre made teaching very easy. Teachers are gradually weened into teaching by initially working side by side with a Palestinian teacher. I did this for a short period before eventually teaching my own classes at the centre. Initially I was worried that I would not receive enough Arabic because of my volunteer schedule but this was not the case. I received about an hour a day. My Arabic teacher Marwa Shantir, was incredibly helpful and was very good at fitting my Arabic courses in with my volunteer schedule. Though male students are not generally kept with a host family the accommodation for male volunteers is in the centre of a lively Palestinian community. Our neighbour and friend Sheikh Abed Hijazi lives directly above us and socializes with us on regular basis. The Hijazi family treats us like one of their own, and the frequent visits and socializing not only made me feel at home here in Hebron, it has also helped me with my Arabic. Our close friendship with the Hijazi family allows us to learn new words and use our Arabic on a daily basis.
Many people from the United States and the United Kingdom are concerned about whether or not living in Palestine is safe. I can personally say that I feel much safer walking around Hebron at night then I do in many parts of the San Francisco Bay area or parts of London. The Occupation is a reality, but living in H1 it is very easy to forget about the political issues that plague the Occupied West Bank. The hospitality and kindness of the Palestinian people is beyond words. Given the current leadership of the Trump administration and Americas lopsided approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I am often ashamed of my American nationality. The Palestinian people are directly affected by American policy, most often negatively. Because of this one would assume that Palestinians would rightfully hold some negative feelings towards Americans. Despite Americas policy toward the Palestinians I have found that Palestinians are more capable of separating the actions of the U.S. government from its citizens then many people in the United States are when judging other nations. It does not matter if I tell people that I am Irish or American. I am always politely welcomed and treated with respect, kindness, and hospitality.
The excellence centre is a fantastic way for any individual studying Middle Eastern politics, Human Rights, or Arabic to experience the region firs hand. The staff are extremely helpful and have become very close friends. The excellence centre can be as hands on or hands off as volunteers wish. They have been extremely helpful in connecting me to local human rights groups and Universities and have even helped me in my job search in Palestine. They know people are here to learn and make connections and they are happy to help volunteers in this endeavour. My time at the excellence centre has been amazing I feel that two months was not enough. I fully intend to return as soon as possible and I have recommended the excellence centre to all my friends studying Arabic in Europe and America.

Yes, I recommend this program
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I really enjoyed the lessons and have made a substantial progress thanks to my great teacher. We designed the lessons together so that it fit my needs perfectly. The atmosphere was relaxed and very friendly and it was fun practicing Arabic with my teacher and the others in the center.

I liked the fact that the international students and volunteers meet there with locals studying English and am impressed with the work the center does for their community. I also appreciate very much the many tours and presentations we had, through which we got to know the city and the situation in Palestine in general.

Unlike the female students, who are living in host families, are the men sharing an apartment near the city center. This offers more flexibility and was a very nice experience, also because the owner and neighbour at the same time was very welcoming and invited us to spend time with him and his friends and family almost every evening.

On the weekends I had the opportunity to travel through Palestine, either with the other students, their host families or alone. I visited Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Jericho and the Dead See and was always impressed by the beauty of the places and the people’s hospitality. Everyone on the street is ready to answer your questions, give you directions and often even invite you for coffee. I felt very safe and welcome during my whole time in Palestine.

I was surprised to find out that the weather in Hebron is very pleasant even in the middle of summer, because of the relatively high altitude and low humidity, which doesn’t necessarily apply to other cities like Jericho.

Overall I had a great time and hope to come back again in future.

Yes, I recommend this program
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As a place to study Arabic, the Excellence Center is, as its name suggests, truly excellent. The classes are tailored directly to the level and needs of the students, and as such, they are structured in such a way that challenges students to think, learn, and excel in entirely new ways. This is largely due to the strength and experience of the staff and teachers, though credit must also be given to the warm and inclusive environment created by the students and international volunteers that come to the Center, no matter the length of their stay or their form of involvement.
A real strength of the Center is that the instruction does not stop at the classroom. As students, we have opportunities to visit places within Hebron like the old city, a kuffiyeh factory, a refugee camp, and even a settlement, among many others. There are even more places to explore outside of Hebron, including Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus, and Jericho, all of which are simple, inexpensive, and safe to reach. Prior to coming to Palestine, I received all of the usual, worried warnings about the security situation here, and though it is wise to be cautious in any situation (in any part of the world), I have felt entirely safe during my stay.
And more than feeling safe, I have been welcomed with open arms by so many of the people here. This is likely what I will remember the most about Palestine as a whole; it will not necessarily be the food or the weather (which is definitely a challenge in the middle of July), but the kindness and generosity of the people of Palestine. Included in this is, of course, my host family, every single member of which is incredible and kind and intelligent. They enhanced my experience here in nearly every way, and I am so grateful to have another family and another home to return to next time I visit Palestine.
On the whole, my experience with the Excellence Center in Hebron has been incredibly rewarding. That is not to say that there were no challenges - of course there were - but these challenges were mediated by the fact that being here is not about being comfortable, but about learning (sometimes difficult) lessons, both inside and outside of the classroom. I recommend anybody interested in taking on such challenges to give the Center a chance. I’m positive the experience will be well worth it.

Yes, I recommend this program
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I spent 3 months volunteering in Palestine with the Excellence Center this past winter/spring. I participated in the Volunteer to Write about Palestine program and the Volunteer to Teach English program.

Over the course of the 3 months I spent in Hebron, I met amazing people both within the Excellence Center and outside. When entering the Center as a volunteer, intern, or Arabic students, you are truly entering into a family. The dynamic of the Center is nothing short of communal. The staff members are lively, exciting, and fun people to be around. The warm work environment makes for enjoyable days spent volunteering at the Center as well. Also, the constant coming and going of internationals means that I had the opportunity to meet many people from all around the world. Many of whom I have stayed in touch with! I truly loved meeting everyone who walked through the door - both internationals, local Palestinian students and, of course, the staff members.

Marwa was my personal Arabic teacher and I shared so many fond memories with her during my time learning Arabic and being at the Excellence Center. She quickly became a great friend to me. I came to Palestine knowing the basics of fusha, but had no knowledge of the Palestinian dialect. My Arabic language skills improved slowly but surely during my time at the Excellence Center. My motivation to come to Palestine was fueled by a desire to learn Arabic and I found that there was no faster way to do so than through immersion.

In addition to being immersed in the Arabic language, I enjoyed being immersed in Palestinian culture. I attended many joyful events, such as weddings and birthday celebrations, during my time in Hebron. I loved getting the change to experience everyday life in Palestine. As much as I thought I would travel to various cities during my 3 months in Palestine, I hardly left Hebron because I had developed such great friendships within the city. Apart from two trips to Bethlehem and a trip to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, I spent most of my days in Hebron and most of my weekends with my host family. This was also my second trip to Palestine, so that is why I went on fewer trips to other cities and spent more time settled in Hebron. I grew very attached to the host family I was placed in and am thankful for the way they welcomed me in with open arms. I truly felt a part of the family and when I come back to Palestine, which I hope happens sooner rather than later, I would not want to live with anyone else. From my host family to the staff members at the Excellence Center, I felt as though I built lifelong friendships in my short 3 months there. The people are certainly my favorite thing about Palestine (the food, certainly being the runner-up).

This is my second time to Palestine and during both of my trips the thought of danger had never crossed my mind. I never felt scared or threatened in Palestine, even when walking alone around the city. If the fear of danger and violence is a worry for any prospective volunteers I hope you listen to the experiences of past volunteers when we say that Palestine is a very safe place to visit.

Leaving Palestine meant many hard goodbyes for me, but I pray that those goodbyes were only see you later's. I cannot wait to return and visit my host family, my lovely Arabic teacher, and the friends I made while at the Excellence Center. I felt supported during the entirety of my trip and cannot say enough great things about the Center!

My one piece of advice: If you are on the fence about volunteering with the Excellence Center, do it! I treasure the time I spent in the West Bank and am expecting to be back soon.

How can this program be improved?
Culturally, things operate very differently in Palestine than in the United States. This is to be expected. I had no problem adjusting to the flexible and changing weekly volunteer schedules, but I know that some volunteers struggled with the Center's organization and wished weekly work schedules would be more fixed and clear-cut. I think this could be one area of improvement for the Excellence Center, as I spoke with several volunteers that desired for there to be more organization when it came to the coordination of their volunteer projects.
Yes, I recommend this program
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I would recommend the program to anyone from all over the world who would like to support the bright future of Palestine and make yourself experience something very precious. Once you would come here you will know exactly what I mean. You can learn the language and culture on a daily basis by meeting people of this beautiful land and also international supporters from various countries. The volunteer program at the Excellence Center in Hebron is such a wonderful opportunity to experience and learn lots of things at the same time.

How can this program be improved?
It is already an excellent program like the name of the center itself.
Yes, I recommend this program


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