Study Arabic in Palestine with The Excellence Center

Video and Photos

Dinner at my teacher Ibrahim's house
Dinner at my teacher Ibrahim's house
Road trip
Road trip
Dinner with Excellence staff
Dinner with Excellence staff
Center
Center
Excellence Center certificate
Excellence Center certificate
Excellence Center certificate
Excellence Center certificate
Excellence Center certificate
Excellence Center certificate
April feast
April feast

About

The Excellence Center would like to invite you to participate in the Study Arabic Intensive Program in Hebron. The Arabic Program combines studying Arabic with an immersion into the Palestinian culture and history.

International participants study the Arabic language with Palestinian teachers in interactive ways. Language studies include learning the Palestinian dialect and Modern Standard Arabic. We offer Arabic courses for all levels from starters to advanced learners. The Excellence Center provides international students with all necessary books needed in the course.

The Study Arabic Program is a singular opportunity for students searching to make a unique difference in their lives. While studying Arabic in Hebron, they are also involved in community development activities that are organized by the Excellence Centre.

The program is an optimal opportunity that gives an intimate, first-hand experience of Palestinian life and the political realities of that life in Hebron

Highlights
  • Stay with a Palestinian family in Hebron
  • Engagement with Palestinian youth in cultural and educational activities
  • Visit unique tourist attractions with a non-touristic perspective
  • Live and engage in the Palestinian daily life
  • Meet new people and make new Palestinian and international friends

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.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

94%
based on 108 reviews
  • Academics 9.1
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 8.9
  • Housing 8.9
  • Safety 9.2
  • Instruction 9
  • Support 8
  • Fun 9
  • Housing 5
  • Value 8
Showing 1 - 15 of 108
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Charlie
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Excellence Centre Review

I am a twenty-four year old master's graduate who studied Palestinian dialect at the Excellence Centre, Hebron for three months between September and December 2019. I also occasionally volunteered to teach English classes when there was a shortage of staff.
One of the main goals of coming to Hebron was to improve my Arabic and, in that respect, my experience was first class. Shayma Sinnokrot, my language instructor for the duration of the three months, was an outstanding teacher and, beyond that, always made me feel incredibly welcome and motivated to learn. Each class I would transcribe dialogue from a Palestinian television series- Salma wa Sari - and Shayma would help me with queries, vocabulary, and the nuances of grammar and pronunciation in dialect. Shayma's help was absolutely invaluable and my Arabic has improved immeasurably under her guidance. In particular, her command of English and her ability to identify differences between modern standard Arabic, which I had studied previously, and the Palestinian dialect were extremely helpful. Shayma is an exceptional linguist and a wonderful person. Anyone coming to Excellence would be blessed to have her as their teacher.
Aside from language studies, a significant amount of my time at Excellence was spent getting to know staff, foreign students, and Palestinians taking English classes at the centre. This was another really enjoyable element of the experience. Marwa and Khitam Shantir, who facilitate the daily running of the centre, are endlessly warm and friendly. Alongside Muhammad Tamimi (Abu Muhannad), they also organised numerous events in the centre and visits around Hebron which enriched my time here.
As a city, Hebron is unique. The contrast between life in the Palestinian-governed area (H1), where the Excellence Centre is located, and that governed by Israel (H2) is stark. In the three months that I was here, the atmosphere in H1 was invariably calm and relaxed with a similar feeling to some other Arab cities that I have visited in the region. It is also a great place to speak Arabic since everyone is extremely welcoming, but many people around town are not fluent in English and there are few tourists. Culturally, Hebron is more conservative than other parts of the West Bank and students should probably be aware of that before they arrive (modest dress and engaging with members of the opposite sex). I should also mention that, during my time here, several female students experienced unwelcome male advances or harassment in Hebron. For the most part, however, they indicated that they still had good experiences overall.
One less enjoyable element of my time in Hebron was my accommodation situation. Although I had agreed (and paid) to live with a Palestinian family in the hope of speaking Arabic to them on a daily basis, I was placed in a different apartment owned by them where I mostly lived alone. I had also been told I would have one meal a day with the family, but they were not willing to provide it. The family also repeatedly refused to give me access to the boiler in my apartment which made for weeks of ice cold showers just as winter was approaching. Having said that, I do know many of the students at Excellence had much more positive experiences with their families and, in my own case, it just meant I spent more time making friends in the town itself.
Overall, the warmth of everyone at the Excellence Centre will be my abiding memory from Hebron and that is something for which I am truly grateful. I learned a great deal, made good friends, and had a wonderful experience in Hebron as well as travelling around other parts of the West Bank. I highly recommend the Excellence Centre as an Arabic language institute.

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

My experience in excellence center

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.
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Danny
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience in Hebron

I studied Arabic for 1 month at the Excellent Centre, Hebron. I had a fantastic teacher who tailored the lessons to my own needs and interests and I left know lots more Arabic than when I arrived.

Everyone at the Centre was very welcoming. There were Arabic students and volunteers from all over the world and it was very interesting to experience Palestine with them.

I was able to visit the Dead Sea, Jericho, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. All of these places are very different and offer a different insight into Palestinian culture.

I also went on several tours organised by the centre, including to a refugee camp and to the Old City.

Hebron is a very, very save place to visit and to stay - it felt just like any other city in the Middle East.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Camel - this on the first day of Eid and was a very memorable experience.
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Abusus
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

1 week intensive Arabic course

I really experienced a lot during my time in Hebron. Not only the city but also the Excellence Center made my stay worth it. The intensive course I took gave me a huge step forward in arabic language, even though one week is way too short. I arrived with being able to read the alphabet and saying some basic things, now I feel like I have the knowledge to have full conversations, yet I need waaaay more practice. Which is only possible with more time. So the center gave me the perfect start.
The teacher tailored the course to my special needs and I felt in good hands at all times. Also the welcoming and authentic atmosphere is another reason why I'll recommend the center to friends who'd like to learn arabic.
If I'm back in Palestine I will definitely come back to the center, even if it's only to say marhaba to the nice people here.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
If you start with arabic, stay more than only a week! I felt that I'd like to stay longer but I already had further plans. This city is really a experience, especially in such a nice environment like the one at the center.
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Lena Marie
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An incredible and memorable stay

My name is Lena, and I come from Denmark where I am currently studying Political Science. I spent three weeks in July 2019 in Hebron, Palestine studying Arabic at the Excellence Center. I participated in the individual Arabic program which meant that I together with a teacher studied Arabic three hours a day, five days a week. My teacher did not speak much English and thus I really got a chance to practice my Arabic. However, for future students I would recommend that you tell the school before coming whether you think you need a teacher who speaks a higher level of English or not. I loved my teacher and I learned a lot from her, but at times it could have been useful with some deeper clarifications in English.

Before coming to Palestine, I had already studied the Levantine dialect for a year through an evening school program in Denmark. I was interested in improving my spoken Arabic by learning new words and engaging in conversations with Native-Arabic speakers. Studying for three weeks at the Excellence Center did just that and it has encouraged me to improve my Arabic even further.

I had been very excited to live with a Palestinian host family because I was highly interested in learning about the Palestinian culture and people. It was truly an amazing experience. The Palestinian people in general are some of the most hospitable people I have ever met. My host family was warm and welcoming towards me and I quickly integrated into the family. We spent many hours either visiting other family members or hosting friends and family at our house. It was a great way to learn about Palestinian customs and practices, practice my Arabic and have a good time. I was also very lucky to have a host mom who cooked the most delicious Palestinian food.

As written above the Palestinian people is one of the most hospitable and helpful people I have ever met. I experienced this on a daily basis regardless of whether I was with my host family, on the street looking for the right bus, or at the Excellence Center studying Arabic. Two experiences stand out in particular. During my stay in Palestine I visited Nablus in the North with two other girls from the center. Because we visited Nablus on a Friday everything turned out to be closed. We were walking around looking for a place to eat but couldn’t find anything. At some point a man approached us and offered his help. He showed us the part of the city, where shops and restaurants were still open and of course the best place to eat knafe in town. The second experience involves my lovely teacher who invited me to her brother’s wedding. I felt truly honored that she wanted me to join this very special moment. It was my first Palestinian wedding, and what an amazing experience. Because there was not room enough at my teacher’s house her aunt and uncle, whom I had never met before, offered to let me sleep at their house after the wedding. Palestinian kindness at its best.

The Excellence Center also offered a lot of activities before or after class. I participated in a political tour through the old city of Hebron, a visit to the Mosque of Ibrahim, a trip to a Bedouin camp surrounded by Israeli settlements, and a political trip to Shuhada street and the surroundings of the Israeli settlement inside the old city. All very interesting tours that informed us about life under Israeli occupation. Other activities though were less serious. Together with the center I visited a kufiyah factory and a traditional Palestinian glass factory, and I learned how to make stuffed egg plants and zucchinis – yummy. There was always something interesting to do.

Finally, I want to highlight the feeling of safety, especially for women travelling alone. I have been to Palestine travelling by myself several times now, and I have only been met with kindness and generosity from the Palestinian people. My friends often ask if it is not dangerous travelling as a woman by myself in such a place. My answer is that I take the same measures in Palestine as I would do in any other place. Regarding the Israeli Occupation, this is not something that directly affects you as a foreigner. The occupation is there, and it is visible both physically, and mentally, but it is not something that in my opinion affects the level of safety when travelling in the region.

I want to say a huge “thank you” to the Excellence Center, my teacher and my host family for making my stay in Palestine an incredible and memorable experience. Inshallah I will be back soon.

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Digby
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Studying Arabic at the Hebron Excellence Center

There is an immediate sense of hospitality and kindness that strikes you as you step into the center. The staff, volunteers and students welcome you with open arms full of food and coffee!

Alongside the well structured course tailored to your level, the one on one classes facilitate the opportunity to rapidly improve your knowledge of the language. There are ample occasions to converse with native speakers throughout your trip, getting first hand experience.

The teachers are friendly, providing a flexible schedule to accommodate your travels and trips around Palestine. I thoroughly recommend visits to Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Be prepared: you will leave with lifelong friends, from across the globe, and a desire to return for more!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice would be to stay as long as possible and be prepared to meet as many new friends as possible!
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Maya
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience with the Excellence Center in Hebron

My experience in Palestine

My name is Maya and I am 19 year old Belgian girl. This year I am having a gap year and I am ready to start my studies in September. I have spent one month learning Arabic in Excellence Center Palestine in Hebron. I followed the intensive Arabic course that gave me the chance to study Arabic very intensively and learn the dialect. Every day I got 3 hours class with a private teacher. This gave me the opportunity to improve my Arabic skills to the fullest. Beside the classes I learned a lot of Arabic from the people in the center and from my guest family.

My time at the center has been unforgettable. There were so many lovely people I got to know in the center and in Hebron. My favorite time of the day is for sure breakfast in the center. Than we all enjoy a super Palestinian breakfast together and have a chat. I really like that everybody here has a passion for Arabic culture and that really connects us. The center organizes different events, activities and day trips that have been always very nice. I for example went on a day trip to Wadi Qelt where we went for a big hike and swam in waterfalls. Sometimes we all cook together in the center and afterwards we enjoy our food and share stories. These evenings are really cozy and ideal to get to know traditional Palestinian dishes. Mostly we have five days classes and two days of. On these days it`s nice to explore Palestine. It's really easy from Hebron to get to other places in the West Bank with public transport. Often people of the center make plans together so you always have people to explore with.

During the week you spent most of your time in Hebron. The center is situated in the most central street of Hebron which makes that everything is really close by. After the class you can easily go to restaurants, to the shops and also the old city is very walkable. Most of Hebron I got to know thanks to my guest family who took us to many places and always let us know where we could eat delicious Palestinian food. Hebron is as well a very safe place. I often walked alone in Hebron and this was never an issue. For me it is mostly because there are so many people in the streets that I never feel scared. Most people are very helpful and know English. Especially in daylight I feel very safe, in the night I prefer to not walk alone in the streets and have somebody with me. But that’s the same in a lot of Belgian cities. Also the other Palestinian cities are very nice to spend time in.

I am already planning my next trip to Palestine and probably I will come back to the Excellence Center. It is just the ideal way to learn Arabic and explore Palestine. I am so happy I took this chance and that I had this unforgettable time at the Excellence Center.

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Lennard
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great experience in Hebron

My name is Lennard Swolfs. I am a 24-year-old journalist from the Netherlands. I have recently completed my bachelor’s degree in Journalism at the HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht in the Netherlands. I have completed another bachelor’s degree in Journalism, Media and Communications at the University of Tasmania in Australia last year.

I decided to come to the Excellence Center in Hebron to study Arabic and therefore I participated in the intensive Arabic program for two months. The reason for this is that I have the ambition to become a correspondent in the Middle East. During my stay in Hebron, I not only learned a lot about the language but also about the culture and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was all in all a very interesting and valuable experience.

The Excellence Center
The Excellence Center is a fantastic place to be and perfectly located near the centre of the city. The atmosphere in the Center is amazing and the people who work there are lovely, both the Palestinian staff and teachers as the international volunteers and students. Everyone helps each other out and I have never felt alone for a moment. Especially Marwa and Khitam make it a warm and welcoming place.

Because I did the intensive Arabic program, I had five days of class a week, about three hours a day. My teacher Dua’a has a lot of teaching experience and knows a lot about the language. During the classes we did both speaking, reading and writing. This really helped me to improve my Arabic language skills. Coming from almost nowhere, I am now able to have a basic conversation. Besides the regular classes in the classroom, we also went out sometimes. For example, we cooked shakshoukeh – an Arab dish that mainly consists of eggs and tomatoes – and we did a day trip to Bethlehem together.

Living in Hebron
During my two months in Hebron, I stayed in an apartment in the city centre with eight other students and volunteers. The owner of the place was always very friendly and often invited us to have coffee or tea with him. We also played football with his kids and hung around with his cousins. One day, he even took us on a hike near Jericho, which was a tiring but great experience. We walked around in a desert landscape and swam in a beautiful little lake in the mountains.

The evenings in Hebron are mostly very quiet. I often went out for food or drinks with the other students and volunteers. Sometimes we stayed in and cooked ourselves – shakshoukeh for example. One of my favourite places in the city that I would recommend to everyone who is coming to Hebron is the Peace Garden. This small garden in the old city is a quiet place where you can escape the busy everyday life of Hebron and relax with your friends.

Travelling around
During the weekends, the other volunteers and students and I often organised trips together. We have been to Bethlehem, Jericho, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Nablus, Haifa, Acre, Nazareth and Tiberius. In general, it is easy and comfortable to travel around Israel and the West Bank, but just keep in mind that public transport on Fridays and Saturdays can be more difficult because these are religious days for Muslims and Jews respectively.

The Excellence Center also organises all kind of trips and tours, which I can really recommend. For example, I have been on a tour of Hebron’s old city and to the keffiyeh factory. One of the highlights was the day trip to Israel with the Excellence Center. We went to Acre, both the beach as the old city, and to the border with Lebanon. Almost everyone from the Excellence Center joined the trip, which made it a great and fun day out.

Safety and hospitality
In the media, Palestine is often portrayed as a dangerous place to be. Journalists often focus on the conflict with Israel and the protests at the borders. However, I have never felt unsafe in Palestine. On the contrary, I felt very comfortable there and have never felt more welcome anywhere else. Palestinians are very hospitable and love to get in touch with foreigners. It often happened to me that someone I had met in the street invited me over for dinner with his or her family.

Although I have always felt safe, the situation in Hebron can be tense. Hebron is the only city in the West Bank where Israeli settlements and enclaves are inside the city itself. This occasionally leads to disturbances between the Palestinians and the Israeli army, especially on Fridays after Noon Prayer. However, these protests only take place at the checkpoint near the old city and are therefore easy to avoid. Other than these protests, there is nothing to worry about in terms of safety.

All in all, I do really recommend the Excellence Center to anyone who is planning to come to Palestine. It is an amazing opportunity to learn the Arabic language, to learn about the culture and to experience the Palestinian hospitality yourself.

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Alice
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Experience with the Excellence Center

My name is Alice and I come from Switzerland. I have just finished highschool and after a gap year I decided to participate in the Intensive Arabic Program during a month at the Excellence Center. During my stay at the Excellence Center I participated several guided tours e.g. one to the old city of Hebron and one to the only church of Hebron. Also there was trip to Jericho and Bethlehem and a hike in a beautiful valley, namely Wadi Qult. Other activities were conversation classes, which all of the Arabic students could join and then we also cooked traditional Palestinian food like stuffed zucchini and eggplant. In the first two weeks of my stay, I also volunteered to teach English in the Summer Camp.
My Arabic lesson were mainly conversation classes to learn the Hebron dialect, but since I have been learning Standard Arabic for three years, I told my teacher I would like to read poems and newspaper articles in Standard Arabic as well. My teacher was really lovely and she asked me what I want to put my focus on, so I could really benefit from my classes. When I arrived the first day, I was glad if I recognized a word and I could not say more than introducing myself, but after only four weeks of Arabic I can have normal conversation about nearly every topic.
All the people I have met at the Excellence Center were really lovely people, be it the staff, English students or internationals. Whenever I had a question were to buy books or food, were to sleep over when I went to a city without the Center or anything else, I could ask a local from the center or an international who had some experience. Especially the Arabic teachers were very kind because all of them would talk in Arabic with me, correct my mistakes and answer questions concerning the language. Also I loved the daily breakfast at the Center with all the internationals. It was so interesting to meet people from all over the world, who shared the same interest in the Arabic language and culture. Also I really appreciated Marwa’s efforts to help me, whenever I had a problem or needed some help. She has always a lot of work and still she takes her time to listen to every student and help him to solve his problems.
It was the same when I went to the city of Hebron, and in general in Palestine. People are so kind here, you can ask anybody on the street how to get to the market or the old city, and then he will see it as his duty to make sure you get there safely. So I felt really safe in this country.
Maybe the most important and most beautiful thing about my stay was the possibility to stay with a host family. Especially my host mum and my host sister were so lovely, we cooked together, drank tea in the evening while they taught me important words of the Hebron dialect. My host sister showed me around in the city, told me how to use a taxi or a bus, told me how much to pay for it and actually how much to pay for everything, so that I would not get the touristic price and my host mum was as mums are: always there for me and treating me not as a stranger but from the first day as a daughter. Also I enjoyed the time with my host brothers’ families, and their children. My family took me also to a Palestinian wedding, an incredible and wonderful event, and we visited my grandmother, which was one of the most beautiful and heartwarming visits I did here in Palestine. I think this was also one of my favorite experiences, although it might seem very unspectacular. When I visited my grandmother and met all the other people of my family I realized once again, that I have become a part of the family and that I am not just a stranger from Europe.
Of course I also enjoyed the food, and I will take a lot of recipes back home to Switzerland, sadly this is the only thing I can take with me when I am leaving this wonderful country, but I am looking forward to my next stay in Hebron. So I would definitely recommend the Excellence Center to everyone who considers learning spoken Arabic, because you can apply what you have learned during your lesson and also you get to know so many people, in the mean time you start to understand the culture. So, thank you very much, Excellence Center, for this wonderful experience.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Enjoy every single moment at the center and in the city, and try to get in touch with locals. This is the most wonderful thing you can do here because the people are so lovely and accommodating.
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Sophia
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

4 weeks stay in Hebron

My name is Sophia, I am a medicine student from Switzerland and I have been learning Arabic for three years now. This year I decided to travel with my sister to an Arabic country to improve our Arabic skills especially the spoken language, therefore we both applied for the intensive Arabic program at the EC in Hebron. The first day we arrived at the center I didn’t understand anything since I had been studying standard Arabic and it was a little shock to realise how much the dialect differs from the standard language. Honestly, the first two days were hard because I felt like a child repeating every sentence I heard and I had the impression all the standard Arabic I had learned was totally useless. But after a few days I got used to the differences that turned out to be less than I had thought in the beginning. Our wonderful host family helped us a lot to become more fluent in the Khalili dialect. From the first second we felt at home in our family. We were welcomed as a real family member, spent time with our host mother, sister, brothers and their families drinking tea, cooking delicious Palestinian dishes, chatting, joking and thereby improving our Arabic more than I had thought would be possible within four weeks! We even had the opportunity to attend a Palestinian wedding. At the weekends we had time to visit other cities such as Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nablus, Ramallah or to join trips organized by the EC. Travelling was no problem since public transport exist between all the cities in Palestine and as long as one sticks to some basic safety rules, it is no problem to travel. In fact during my whole stay I have never been scared or felt unsafe. In all the places I have been to, I have met friendly and caring people who were very welcoming and willing to help when we didn’t find a place or had a problem. There was no way to get bored since we had lessons every day and apart from the lessons, the EC organized visits to local factories such as the famous Hebron glass factory or Kuffya factory and also guided tours to the old city of Hebron and the tomb of Abraham. The lessons at the center were really intense but that’s why we improved our language so fast. My Arabic teacher is a wonderful person and I enjoyed so much spending time with her talking about any subject that came to my mind. The lessons were never boring: we talked a lot about topics that I am interested in, we went out to have coffee in a coffee shop near the center, we listened to Arabic songs, read poems and short texts and so on. All the teachers at the center are really flexible and willing to adapt the style of their teaching to the individual wishes of their students.
If I think back of my stay now, the first thing that comes to my mind is the picture of me and my sister sitting on the stairs between the apartments of our families, where all our family members had gathered in the evening to prepare Mahshi (stuffed vegetables). We were sitting there, the air fresh and cool after a hot day, the guys smoking shisha, the kids playing and joking and the girls preparing zucchini, pumpkin and eggplant to be filled. It was such a lovely and warm atmosphere and it pictures so well how we got involved into the daily life of our family! I could tell a hundred stories, impressions, feelings and thoughts of my stay in Palestine but I would never be able to transmit the real feeling of being here. So the only advice I can give you: Visit Palestine!

What was your funniest moment?
When a shopkeeper in Bethlehem asked me whether I am arab.
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Eilidh
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Study Arabic in Palestine

Hi, my name is Eilidh and I am from Scotland. I participated in the intensive study Arabic program at the Excellence Centre for a month in July, 2019. I choose to come to Hebron after two university friends recommended the program to me. I have just finished my third year at university studying Arabic and International Relations, so I have a background in formal Arabic. However, this is pretty useless in terms of communicating with people on a daily basis, so I’d say that the opportunity to learn the Palestinian dialect was my main motivation for participating in the program.
I had a total of 20 days of lessons over the four weeks, normally between Sunday and Thursday with a total of 3 hours of lessons per day. While some people had lessons in the morning I had mine from 12pm – 3pm, which I preferred as it allowed me time before and after class to study as well as more flexibility in my other plans, such as going to the gym or participating in the Excellence Centre run trips which normally began at 1030. The teachers are absolutely wonderful and very flexible, so if you were running late or wanted to do a trip on Thursday for example, I was able to change my lessons to a Saturday. The structure of the lessons was pretty informal, but overall, we covered basic grammar, day to day vocab and customs and traditions in Palestine. I also felt like 3 hours of lessons was enough for one day and I am glad I choose this program as opposed to one in Lebanon which offered 6 hours of classes a day.
I participated in a few of the centre run trips, such as a visit to the Hebron glass and ceramics factory, the Royal factory, and in particular the Ibrahimi mosque with one of the teachers who grew up in a neighbourhood next to the mosque. I found these trips a great way to get to know Hebron on a deeper level, and would recommend them to anyone. I also did a hiking trip to a wadi near Jericho which cost 60 shekels (although a little expensive for just transport), it was something I would have struggled to do by myself and also had the chance to see more of this beautiful country.
I found everyone at the centre (teachers, students, volunteers etc) generally to be lovely and from all of the world, which made conversations really interesting and fun.
It is important to mention that Hebron as a city is very socially and religiously conservative compared to the rest of Palestine. There is very little tourism, which can make you feel a little out of place as a foreigner. If you have travelled to morocco or Egypt before then you will hardly notice the attention in comparison, however, if this is your first visit to an Arab country then the attention and sometimes harassment can be a little overwhelming. Despite this, I found the people of Hebron, generally to be very welcoming and helpful in particular, Marwa and the teachers at the centre.
I unfortunately moved host families as my first family was on the edge of town and I was initially sleeping on a mattress on the floor. They were lovely people and always gave me food but the location meant that I had to rely on lifts from my host mum and as I was there for a month, I wanted more freedom. My second host family was fortunately only a 25 min walk and getting a taxi was very easy, however, they were busy so I hardly saw them. This meant I had a very different experience to some of the other students/ volunteers. This was simply because there were so many volunteers that month so it was hard to find host families, however Marwa was really understanding when I asked to move.
I visited the main cities in Palestine, except the dead sea. Bethlehem is only 45 mins away by servees (shared taxi) and you only really need 3 hours to see the main sites. I often passed through it on my way to Jerusalem. I’d recommend at least three days in Jerusalem because there’s so much to see and I’d recommend sandemans free tour around the old city. Ramallah is a pretty modern city with the best bars etc in Palestine and I’d strongly recommend visiting the Yasser Arafat museum.
The weather in Hebron in July is much more pleasant than elsewhere in Palestine, and the food is also amazing, with vegetarian options almost always available. Overall I enjoyed my time at the excellence centre massively, however, it wasn’t always an easy experience for a variety of reasons. I would mainly advise being aware that there is no public transport in Israel between 4pm – Friday to 7pm Saturday and that many things are closed in Palestine on Fridays. I’d therefore advise planning your trip as much as possible and doing thorough research. I also lost my purse with 300 shekels in a taxi in Hebron which, of course, I never got back. The days can be pretty tiring so I’d make sure you always know where your valuables are.
I would definitely recommend studying at the Excellence centre for the overall experience, as I feel I am leaving Palestine with an invaluable holistic view of the country and history. While there are cheaper studying programs in Lebanon for example, I’m glad I came to the EC and don’t regret it at all.

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Miet
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Wonderfull experience with the Excellence Center in Hebron

I am Miet, I am 29 years old. I live in Belgium where I teach Dutch to low-literate adults. I really wanted to experience the feeling of learning a totally different language in a foreign country. That’s why I decided to come to the Hebron Excellence Center to study Arabic. At this moment, in the last week of my month here, I can only say that coming here was a great decision.

I am participating in the ‘study Arabic in Palestine’ - program. Everyday I have 3 hours of individual Arabic lessons with Bisan, an amazing teacher. I was a complete beginner. I couldn’t write or read and I couldn’t say more than ‘shukran’ and ‘marhaba’. From my own experience I know that teaching the beginners can be hard and it requires some good teaching skills. And I can only say that my teacher has it all: not only great teaching skills but she is also really funny and so encouraging. I am so grateful that she is my teacher. Not only because I am happy that she taught me the basics in Arabic but also because I have learned a lot of things that I can use when I go back to my own class in Belgium.

Staying in the Hebron Excellence Center is not only about learning Arabic. The staff also organizes a lot of activities. During my stay I participated in some small excursions like visiting the Ibrahimi Mosque in the old town, the Koffiya-factory and the glass-factory. I was really touched by our visit to Susiya, a Bedouinvillage in the neighbourhood. We had the opportunity to talk with some people there to learn more about their daily struggle against Israeli occupation. Every day we have breakfast in the center with all the volunteers and students and we also cooked together for a couple of times. We also went on a trip to Akko and the beach with a whole bus full of staff, their families, volunteers and students. What a great experience. During the first weeks of my stay there was a summer camp for children in the center. It was nice that I could also help with some teaching for a couple of days. The staff is not only good in organizing things, but they are also here for us all the time; for a quick chat or to check up if everything is okay. I think that is why the Center really feels like a safe space.

Spending my days in and around the Center is great. But I can’t find enough words to say how grateful I am that I can go home to my host family every day. I stayed in a family with two young kids, who gave me their room for the month, so that I could have my own little space. Although I couldn't speak any Arabic in the beginning and their English was also very limited, we found our way to communicate. The basic rule during my stay was: ‘our home is your home’. They showed their hospitality by giving me the best food in the world (and really a lot of it), by introducing me to the whole family and to take me to special places like the Dead See. But the most special thing is that I am staying in their home in a really intense period. My host ‘mom’ is really pregnant. Each moment now she can have her baby and I will probably still be here when it will happen. In Belgium women at the end of their pregnancy would never host ‘strangers’. That’s why at first I felt a bit like an intruder at such a special moment. But each day it became more clear to me that she really is looking forward to share that moment with me. So now I am really looking forward to it and I feel really honoured that I can be a part of their family on such a special moment.

After my stay in the center I will be travelling around for 3 more weeks in Jordan and the Westbank. I have got a lot of good travel advice from other volunteers, the staff, my host family and all the other people I have met. Leaving here gives me some really mixed feelings. I am looking forward to use the things I have learned here in my own job, to talk Arabic with my students and to share the beauty of Palestine with my friends and family. But I also know that I will really miss Hebron, its food, the nice atmosphere and the amazing people. I am sad that I have to leave the center and my wonderful host family. But the thought that I will come back, sooner or later, eases the pain.

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Orla
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

How is living in Hebron for two weeks

My name is Marta and I’m from Spain. I studied journalism in the university and currently I’m doing some freelancer work for some Spanish media. What I like the most is to write about social topics, which gives me the opportunity to go deeper in issues I’m interested on and to be able to understand better how the world works.
I came to Palestine just to experience myself how is the daily life here, coexisting with the eternal Israel and Palestine conflict. Here, in the Excellence Center of Hebron, I’m doing an intensive Arabic course and living with a host family. The best way to learn a language is always being forced to use it, to listen and practise it, for this reason, the combination of intensive course with the host family is probably one of the best ways of learning Arabic. I’m quite happy for all I learn in just two weeks and how I improve in communication skills and understanding.
A part from the lessons, the Center organizes almost daily different activities for volunteers and students, whose give to option to learn further more than the lessons themselves. Also it’s a meeting and socialization space, where everybody is very receptive to meet new people and understand and respect others, so students as stuff from the Center. This creates a healthy work environment, made of dozens of people coming from everywhere in the world and local Palestinian stuff and Palestinian children and teenager students who learn English on the Center from volunteers.
Among all this activities, in my case, I’ve participated in visiting the two main factories in Hebron: the Kufiye factory and the glass factory, and also in one of the human rights meetings the Center also organizes. I’ve also been to the hikes some members programme almost weekly to the natural sites of Palestine. But during my time here I also get some time to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem, two quite important, historical and remarkable places in the world. Obviously, during my free time, I’ve found some time to visit Hebron, with its beautiful but also sad historical centre. Living with a local Palestinian family gives me the perspective on how locals life their lives despite the checkpoints, the restrictions and the tense atmosphere. Even this tough situation, Palestine and also Hebron are save cities to move around. Probably the most dangerous thing here is the traffic.
Staying with the Excellence Center in Hebron has been a completely recommendable experience to practise Arabic, to learn the way of living of an Arabic family in a complex and complicated political, legal and unfair situation.

Thank you to my teacher and to my host family to make me feel like at home :D

What would you improve about this program?
The experience has been very nice and really worth it. The only think I would change is being able to stay for longer time here.
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Wietske
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Even better the second time around

I was very happy to be able to come back to the excellence centre this summer after having been there last summer as well. I studied Arabic and participated in the Human Rights programme, both of which were fantastic. The teachers and staff at the excellence centre are all wonderful people who have truly become friends, which is part of the reason why I wanted to come back. Also, I met lovely new people upon my second stay. Please don't worry about feeling lonely when coming to Palestine alone, you will meet lots of people and make many new friends! Both times I have felt completely safe staying in Palestine, and both times I felt like I was staying for too short! (5 weeks and 3 weeks). If you have any doubts or questions please feel free to contact me. I would highly recommend the centre for everyone!

What was your funniest moment?
Trying to say the Arabic for Friday and saying Cheeseday instead :) You gotta be patient when learning a new language, especially Arabic, but its all worth it in the end!
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Orla
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience with the Excellence Center in Hebron

My name’s Orla, I’m 21 and from Bristol, UK. I study Arabic and International Relations at SOAS, University of London and took part in the Individual Dialect Classes for 2 weeks at the Excellence Centre in Hebron, Palestine.

Whilst at the centre I took part in some of their trips and tours, including one to the village of Dura which was great. I also participated in the weekly conversation class.

I really enjoyed my Arabic classes. I found them really interesting and useful. My teacher Myriam was so lovely and helpful with my learning, her teaching style was very dynamic and she was able to adapt very readily to things I wanted to cover in lessons even if that didn’t fit with the lesson plan.

Whilst in Palestine I made a trip to Jerusalem and Bethlehem for the weekend. When I finish my studies I plan to go to Ramallah and Nablus too.

I absolutely loved living in Hebron, my host family totally fitted the Hebroni stereotype of being incredibly hospitable and kind. They didn’t speak any English so it was really great for my Arabic and I had lots of fun playing with the many children who seemed to always be around. I also really liked the city of Hebron, it’s not crammed with enormous amounts of things to do but there are nice cafes and gardens that me and some of the other volunteers went to and I found I was never without an invitation to someone’s house for tea, coffee or food.

I generally felt very safe in Palestine. People tend to really look after you and look out for you because of the culture of hospitality. I found as a white western woman I was treated differently to Palestinian woman and generally found the culture a bit conservative with regards to views on women. Sometimes this led me to feel unsafe as I (perhaps wrongly) was overly conscious of people’s intentions and felt anxious at night when walking alone. Additionally, while I was there-there were lots of protests in which tear gas is often fired. It didn’t make me feel particularly unsafe as it was definitely something you could avoid if you chose to.

There isn’t something I love most about Palestine, there is too much to write! I love the food (the maa’lubeh, hummus, falafel, kanafeh) the weather (was warm but not too warm - in late June and early July), the people were gorgeously kind and hospitality and I plan to embark on lots of walking trips so will let you know about the nature, but generally I’ve heard it’s beautiful.

A favourite experience was meeting my host family and playing endlessly with their granddaughter. We played loads of great games and they even took me to a Palestinian wedding.

I have found lasting impressions of Palestine. I really want to come back and volunteer at the centre and stay in Hebron for longer, two weeks was not enough!

I would definitely recommend the Excellence Centre to anyone wishing to gain a good grasp of spoken Arabic. It’s really immersive, with people engaging in conversation with you in Arabic from the minute you walk through the door. The staff and volunteers were a really lovely group of people and I had such a great (if short) time there.