Study Arabic in Palestine

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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

Questions & Answers

Reviews

93%
based on 76 reviews
  • Academics 9
  • Support 9.3
  • Fun 8.7
  • Housing 8.9
  • Safety 9.1
Showing 31 - 45 of 76
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Jana Evi
10/10

Volunteer at Excellence Center Hebron

My name is Jana Lindner and I'm a volunteer from Germany.
This was my first time to Hebron and the West Bank in general, where I have been doing the teaching program with Excellence Center for the past 2 weeks and it has truly been one of the best experiences I've had so far.
I have had teaching experience before as I've been volunteering with another NGO in Tanzania in 2016 but volunteering here in Palestine was something completely different, challenging in another way.
In my time volunteering here I was helping local teachers with their English classes, as well as planning different English lessons suited to the individualities of the pupils, which also was the most challenging part, working with a lot of students with completely different English levels.
During my stay I also had 6h of Arabic lessons with my great teacher Ahlam. As for the Center's Palestinian teachers, they were very enthusiastic and willing to teach us as much as possible. I am a university student studying Middle Eastern studies and political sciences as well as Arabic, so it was an amazing opportunity for me not only to learn an Arabic dialect but also to practice my spoken Arabic with my host family.
Therefore I can only recommend this to everyone that is learning Arabic or wants to learn Arabic.
One of the best parts about the whole experience definitely was the love and respect as well as the courteousness and generousness that people in Palestine as well as my host family would constantly express. Locals would always be so excited to see us and they would always want us to eat or have coffee and tea with them. I've been having a lot of very warm and friendly conversations with people from many different backgrounds . Having travelled to a lot of other Arab countries before, I think my visit to Palestine is going to be the one with the best memories at pretty much every turn. I have never experienced a country with such a great hospitality like Palestine.
The country also has various different landscapes and it is very easy to visit other cities around the West Bank or even in Israel.
I have been doing trips to Ramallah, Jericho, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, all of them very different and very beautiful. Yet, nothing can compete with Hebron. It definitely is my favorite place to be in Palestine.
The staff from Excellence Center is more than willing to provide you with any information.
All in all, the Center is more than dedicated to its work and providing local communities with help for English classes as well as caring about their students and the well being of their volunteers. So if you're thinking about volunteering in Hebron, the Excellence Center is the place to be.
I'm leaving with a lot of great memories and I'll definitely be back to Hebron sometime soon, staying for a longer time, as 2 weeks were definitely not enough.

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Mohammad
10/10

1-2-1 Arabic at the Excellence Center in Hebron, Palestine

My name is Amir, I am an IT consultant from London, England. Having visited the a number of Arabic speaking countries I chose to learn Arabic in Palestine due to my experience with the people when I visited in Ramadan 2016.

I was very pleased with my choice and it totally surpassed my expectations; both from the perspective of learning Arabic but also the amount of activities the centre takes you to.

I couldn't have asked for a better teacher than Dua. The standard of teaching was of high quality and I don't think I would have learnt as much as I did if I wasn't pushed like I was. Dua is definitely good at what she does and is able to recognise when I am having a bad day or my brain is a little frazzled and therefore mixes up the structure of the class. It is impressive considering she has no formal qualification or training in teaching. I think the 1-2-1 sessions really make a difference and I've learnt a lot in a month. I hope I can continue to progress at the same pace when I'm back in London. I plan to come back but I guess I'll have to think twice if Dua isn't here.

In terms of activities, I was fortunate enough to visit Abraham's Oak, Abraham's Mosque, a sandal factory, a kufiya factory, a glass and ceramic factory to name a few.

From the perspective of a male, we lived together in an apartment which was basic but sufficient. We attended breakfast together at the centre as well as a number of dinners. Generally we had lunch outside and cooked dinner together in the evenings. Initially I felt a little lost in terms of cooking and wished I had bought more food with me but once I was familiar with the local shops, supermarkets etc. it wasn't a problem anymore. We even managed to make pizza Hebron style using the local bread and without an oven.

Palestine is definitely a safe place to visit. It is so easy to make friends here which meant that we could spend our time in the evenings with the locals. The hospitality at both the centre and Hebron in general is totally unreal. Everyone is so friendly, welcoming and ready to help, this isn't something you see anywhere else in the world and the best thing about it is that it is genuine and there are no hidden agendas. I can't tell you the number of times someone has stopped me to say hello, ask me where I am from or offer me some coffee. I was invited round to play table tennis at someone's house and on another occasion invited to play 5 a side football at a local pitch.

On one occasion when I visited the local coffee shop I accidentally dropped 90 shekels on the floor. The locals that were with me handed it over to the owner and once we got out they asked everyone if anyone had lost any money. I checked my pocket and realised that I did, we returned to the shop and the owner went through the CCTV and happily handed over the money. I couldn't see that happen in England.

Regarding the centre, the staff really do make a conscious effort to look out for your well-being and on one of the days we decided to go hiking to Wadi Mukalak and the centre happily organised the transportation for us.

I would more than recommend anyone that would either like to volunteer or learn Arabic to seriously consider the Excellence Center in Hebron, Palestine.

Response from The Excellence Center

Salam Brother Mohammed,

Thank you so much for leaving a review. We are glad that you enjoyed learning Arabic at the Excellence Center. All the best to you in learning Arabic

We hope to see you in the future at the Excellence Center
With kind regards,

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Paul
8/10

My experience in Excellence centre

I knew Hebron before I came. I lived there for a few months before and was enjoying meeting people. Unfortunately, my Arabic, that I started learning really late in university couldn’t allow me to engage further more with the friends I made here. Therefore I decided to take classes in Excellence Centre. The result is fantastic!

Benefiting from one-to-one classes, I could learn a lot. My teacher is amazingly hardworking. She always adapts to any of my demands. I was trying to acquire knowledge that would be useful in my daily life as much as in a professional context and she was always planning classes according to my objectives. From literal Arabic to dialect, we went through texts, dialogues, and videos or any media that could improve my overall skills. Moreover, the centre was a place where I could receive help in any situation. I also enjoyed sharing lunch with all the teachers and volunteers.

Excellence Centre is more than a centre it’s a big family honouring the traditional hospitality of the city of Abraham.

Paul Elek

Yes, I recommend
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Tarik
10/10

great experience

Learn success has a lot to do with what you make it, so as the son of an jordanian father, raised by a german mother in Germany, I will never be satisfied by my arabic skills, compared to those of my jordanian siblings. However, having had access to the language before, and not beeing a youngster anymore, it was all up to me, and my excellent teacher was ready to try any approach I would choose. The human factor in Palestine of course plays into their cards within the school or outside, so the staff is lovely, but, of course, there are conflicts. People from all over the world come together and not only the women participants wonder why they have to be back home with their families at early hours while the guys come and go as they please. And they would not only ask why the girls are not invited to the traditional meals in Ramadan, they would demand it. Not an easy job for the staff to explain the extraordinary conservative environment in Hebron, on which, probably, the schools mere existence depends. I would encourage them to try hard and make the decisions as transparent as they can and not just blame far away boss Rafa. So there are long faces, and there are frustrated ambitions, but it is all a necessary part of the process. My experience was all great and I definitely want to and will repeat it. The whole region is one of the most fascinating of the world. It is not only al Quds, I travelled all of Palestine and crossed over to Israel and Jordan for a surprise visit to my family at the end of Ramadan. All of this provides a lot of mixed feelings and crossing borders is definitely a very special experience! In Hebron I was sharing a rather downbeat flat with students from all over the world, and we became a part of the neighbourhood in no time, being invited to meals, singing, dancing, political meetings and much more. (They immediately stopped using our yard as a waste dump and I am pretty confident Rafa will shell out some real beds next time.) To sum it up, it definitely was an unforgettable experience and I would encourage anyone to try it.

How can this program be improved?
As the school becomes bigger they were already in the process of expanding in summer 2016.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Zo
9/10

:)

What I expected when I came to Hebron was a week of Arabic lessons, a place to sleep, and a few excursions. What I got when I came to Hebron was a second family. Not only was my host family quick to adopt me - by my second day, they were calling me their new daughter - but the Excellence Center itself, staff, students and volunteers, felt like a big, chaotic, warm family. Everyone eats breakfast together in the morning, works or talks or drinks sweet tea and bitter coffee in the kitchen between duties, and cooks a communal dinner together on Thursdays. The students and volunteers come from all over the world - during my time here, I met people from Australia, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, the USA, and Mexico - and all of them have interesting stories. Equally, all of the Palestinians I met were incredibly welcoming, and happy to be able to show visitors their country.

I have studied Arabic for three years, including a year living and studying in Amman, Jordan, so this wasn’t my first experience in the Middle East. From my previous experience, I can say that the teaching at the Excellence Center is of a high standard. With my teacher Afnan, I studied both Palestinian colloquial and Modern Standard Arabic. We looked at a wide range of material and topics, from rap songs to poems to newspaper articles, jokes and comic folktales to documentaries. I really appreciated her calm and patient approach, as well as her ability to be flexible and adapt to what I wanted.

Outside of lessons, I got to see much more of Palestine. In Hebron, we visited the Old City and the Ibrahimi Mosque, as well as excursions to see local industry, such as glass-blowing, pottery, and leather workshops and the factory which makes the Palestinian keffiyeh. Outside of Hebron, I went with the center to visit Ramallah and Jericho: we visited sites including the Mar Saba monastery and the new Yasser Arafat museum in Ramallah.

Additionally, I really benefited from the time I spent with my host family - being able to immerse myself entirely in spoken Arabic in a home environment was challenging but has proven really rewarding. It wouldn’t have been possible without their amazing hospitality. Practising my Arabic with the staff and teachers at the center outside of lessons was a great opportunity as well. I also appreciated getting to know the other volunteers, and the experience of being among only a few native English speakers in a place where English is the lingua franca has been eye-opening.

Finally, I have one piece of advice for anyone planning to come to the Excellence Center, whether to study or to volunteer: you really do get out what you put in. It might seem exhausting (I know it has been for me!), but if you try your best to participate, help out, and talk to people whenever possible, you will find you learn as much outside your lessons as you do in them, not to mention the real friendships you will create. I wish I could have spent longer than a week in Hebron, and I’m definitely hoping to come back in the future - inshallah! (“If God wills,” a phrase anyone studying Arabic will learn to use often...)

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Laura
9/10

My time in Hebron-Intensive Arabic program

My name is Laura, I am from Melbourne, Australia. I have a Bachelors Degree in International Studies. During my time in Hebron, I completed a one-month intensive Arabic course at The Excellence Centre. The intensive Arabic course helped me to improve my Arabic, by working one on one with my teacher. My teacher was highly skilled, professional, and provided a supportive and flexible approach to learning.

During my time at The Excellence Centre, I also participated in a number of excursions provided by the centre, including day trips to Bethlehem and Battir. The excursions were a great opportunity to explore Palestine, meet local people and learn more about Palestinian history. I was also able to visit a ceramic and glass factory and the old city.

The staff members at The Excellence Centre were welcoming, helpful and make a consistent effort to ensure I was happy and comfortable during my time there.

During my time in Palestine, I stayed with a local family, who were supportive and friendly during my stay. They were happy to introduce me to their friends and family, and I was even able to attend a Palestinian wedding.

The most enjoyable experience was a visit with my teacher to the Hebron Governate to meet with government officials. During this visit the officials discussed current government initiatives and programs such as women’s programs, youth programs and financial aid programs.

The most challenging aspect to my stay was the weather, visiting between November and February saw very cold weather, and it is important to be prepared for buildings with low insulation. A good quality sleeping bag or a hot water bottle is recommended for visiting in the colder months.

How can this program be improved?
A quiet study area would benefit intensive students,
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Franz
10/10

Studiing Arabic with Saymaa at the Excellence Center in Hebron

This is my first longer visit to Palestine. I am a 52 year old teacher from Passau, Germany and studied catholic theology from 1985 until 1991 and in these years I learned some basic Arabic for reading the Quran and to compare with Our Christian Bible. As a master of theology I teached the Old Hebrew language of the bible for some years at the University of Passau and at the Catholic University of Linz, Austria. Because of the many contacts with refugees during and after the refugee crisis I have many friends now from Syria and Iraq which speak Arabic and now learn German. For improving my contacts I now learn Arabic and did so for 2 weeks at the Excellence Center here in Al Chalil Hebron.

I learned at the Excellence Center in Hebron Arabic and travelled with the staff to many locations in Palestine to meet Palestinian people and discover the interesting country. Starting with Jerusalem on my way from the airport to Hebron by Bus and Taxi everyone was nice and gave me a friendly welcome. I remember Betlehem at most, because I am a Christian and teacher of Christian children in Austria. But also the national ecological garden in Battir was a very good experience when walking around and see the nice locations around the roman bath there and on the hills. Even the town of Hebron with the Ibrahimi mosque and the Suq was a very interesting visit. In Betlehem even the wall and the political background was of interest as was the refugee camp nearby called xxx. We will visit on my last day Jericho and Ramallah and I am looking forward to this warm and healthy places now in winter with 22 degree!

My Arabic lessons were an extraordinary experience, because my teacher Sazmaa forced me to immerse into the Arabic language as I hoped to when booking this course. I asked her to study Fuscha, the traditional high level language of the books, and she engaged totally during every lesson within my 10 days of study to lift my level from reading holy texts to also be able to speak and to talk about the experiences. I never had such an inspiring course even in University and she used modern teaching methods which made learning an adventure and activated all senses to learn Arabic. I am really grateful about this. I will try to write some Arabic at the end to show the effords I made with my teacher.
The hospitality of the people at the ME is really great and the mixture of students of Arabic and International volonteers helping Palestinian students to learn English by the help of native speakers was inspiring me even to learn some better English like I did before. Everyone is highly engaged in developing the education of the local people and the students and volonteers .
During my stay at the Excellence Center here in Al Chalil Hebron I lived with two other male students in an apartment with kitchen and 2 rooms where I as the oldest one could use one for me alone. The rooms are basic but comfortable and the cooperation in kitchen and when learning makes fun.
Safety had been guaranteed all the time at any area in Hebron. Even when walking around alone it was fun to be in contact very fast and feel a warm welcome everywhere. There was no security problem when I was visiting the mosque or Shahada street alone or when I went to the local barber. Everyone wanted to talk about Germany and the differences of my Christian faith and the Islam and the welcome of refugees in Germany which the Palestinian people appreciate and honor very much. I felt that it is a question of hospitality for any inhabitant in Hebron that I as the guest felt comfortable and of course secure at any time. Also when visiting alone Shahada street, the mosque or the suq I felt secure.. The hospitality when offering us local meals like maqluba or local Palestinian breakfast impressed me most, but also the historical places and the holy churches and mosques were amazing. Nature is nice even in winter.
When I arrived at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem early in the morning at 4 a.m. a nice guy started me speaking Arabic in front of bus 231 from al Quds to Betlehem, and the Arabic adventure begun in the first minutes. The first words I repeated and learned with him were the starting point of the studies here and this continued every day. The people here are kind and polite and I felt welcome all the time.
The tolerance between all the staff, the teachers, the volonteers and the students of the Arabic language was overwhelming (even jewish students could learn Arabic here during my stay).
I highly recommend the ME for studiing Arabic or volunteering and think about further chances to come to Hebron to continue my learning Arabic here. For older persons like me it might be of interest, that local hotels with a high standard of service might attract people which need a higher comfort.
انا درست اللغة العربية في المركز اكسلنس فالخليل من 27.12.2016-7.1.2017. انا احب هذا المدينة وكل الناس به. اليوم نحن درسنا كل العدد من 20 الى 20000. هذا كثير لي.
انا اريد ان ادروس لاستطيع لاقرا هذا اللغه الجميلة قي الكتب العربية

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Elissa
9/10

ِِA Month to Remember in Hebron

My name is Elissa and I am from the US. I am a university student, and I study International Relations and Arabic. I was at the Excellence Center for one month taking Arabic language classes.

The Arabic lessons at the Excellence Center are incredible. I have taken Arabic as part of my degree at university for two and a half years and I have also studied abroad in Oman, but I have never learned so much so quickly as I have at the Excellence Center. All of the Arabic classes I have taken in the past have been Modern Standard Arabic, but I decided that during my time in Hebron I wanted an introduction to the Palestinian dialect as well. I was able to arrange this with my teacher and create a customised programme which allowed me to study exactly what I wanted. My first week, I didn't understand anything when my teacher or host family would speak to me in dialect. Now, almost three weeks later, I am able to understand much more than I was at the beginning. I am very pleased with the amount of progress I have made at the Excellence Center.

The environment at the Center has really added to my experience here. I have never been in a learning environment that felt so much like a family. Every week, everyone at the Center stays late and cooks and eats dinner together, followed by coffee, shisha, and long conversations. I am very comfortable asking any member of staff any question I have or about anything I need. They are very knowledgeable about the city and about travelling around Palestine, and everyone goes out of their way to make sure you are comfortable.

While I was in Palestine, the Center also arranged trips to Bethlehem and Jericho. We visited the dead sea and had a barbecue together, and on the way saw monasteries, historic sites, and lots of camels! We will go on another trip to Ramallah before I leave, and I am looking forward to it very much as I know I will be in good company.

On my own and with friends I made at the Center, I also took trips to Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Nablus. Travelling in Palestine has been very easy, and all of the people are very willing to help, even if they speak limited English. I was able to spend Christmas Eve in Bethlehem and Christmas Day in Jerusalem, which was an incredible opportunity. I also spent New Years with a Palestinian family who invited me to stay in Nablus with them. Every city is different, and I have loved experiencing each of them.

One of the main reasons I chose the Excellence Center was because of the opportunity to live with a host family. My host family became like my own family while I was in Hebron, and I was treated like one of their own daughters. It made me feel very safe to know that I had a family looking out for me, and they taught me how to safely get to and from the Center. Although I was warned about safety issues before coming, I have never felt unsafe during my time in Palestine. I feel more safe in Palestine than I do in large cities in the US and Europe.

My favourite thing about Palestine has been the people. Palestine is beautiful, but it is the people here that make it so special. Everyone I have met has welcomed me with incredible generosity and hospitality. I feel like I have many people who care about me and my safety, and who are looking out for me. When you are in a new place, there is nothing better than being welcomed so warmly and being told that while you are here, you are home and this is your family.

Yes, I recommend
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Justin
10/10

Hey Hebron! Yay Palestine!

My name is Justin, and I am from the United States. I come from a city of about 200,000 near Texas, and my university degree is in Teaching English as a Second Language.
I began studying Arabic at the Excellence Center to improve my grasp of the language that I had not yet learned despite having already lived in an Arabic speaking country for the last 2 years. As I arrived to the personal warmth and welcoming atmosphere of the language school, it helped me deal with the chilly weather of winter in Hebron. The lack of central heating on an early morning at most buildings including the school is overshadowed by the heat in the kitchen coming from the tea kettle or the portable heater. Most volunteers and students crowd around these two spots to happily begin the day. Once classes begin, and I am comfortable with my glass of delicious sage tea, my teacher turns on the electric wall heater to begin the lesson. Arabic classes are personable with small sizes. Lucky for me, winter is usually low season for tourists learning a foreign language away from home, and I was able to get a one-to-one class with a teacher who had a degree in English. Lessons were low-anxiety and included communicative activities that specified task-based activities. These activities included role-plays between shop owners and customers, asking directions, writing stories, and even help with the local Palestinian dialect of Arabic. These lessons have made it much easier to live in the city and speak to the people. Because the Palestinians of Hebron are so welcoming and curious, it is easy to practice what you learn in class with the locals.
It seems to take a special kind of caring person to come work or study in Palestine in spite of all the rumors one might hear about how it is here. I have seen this special kind of caring in the actions of the volunteers coming to work at the Excellence Center from all different ages and countries. Working with them has been a very international story of travels and adventure.
During my time at the Excellence Center, there were always excursions to places in the city of Hebron and throughout the West Bank. We went to see Ibrahim's Mosque, one of the most well-known sights in the Holy Land and lies in the Old City of Hebron. From there, we went to Shuhada Street (Martyr Street) which used to be a bustling market place before the year 2000. On a Friday morning, a group of us with some of the staff from the Excellence Center took a trip to Jericho and the dead Sea. On the way, we stopped by Mar Saba Monastery of the Greek Orthodox Church near the beautiful Kidron Valley. After taking some amazing photos, we were on our way to the the Dead Sea, but suddenly our vehicle passed a herd of camels and their caretaker. We could not help ourselves but to ask our coworker to pull the car over for a few pictures. We ended up hanging out with the camels for 15 minutes as we spoke to the caretaker. It was amazing, and we had not even reached the Dead Sea yet. Upon our farewell from the lovely hump-backed animals, we drove another 5 minutes to our destination by the beach. Suddenly there was a view of a vast waveless body of water that stretched from Palestine across to the Kingdom of Jordan. It was the Dead Sea and we were ready to test the rumor that you float in the water. Well, the rumor was true, and we also learned not to put our heads under the water because it is so salty that it can burn your eyes for a while. I also learned about how very salty water keeps clothes wet. My blue jeans stayed wet for 5 days after the trip before I finally washed them. The trip to the Dead Sea was capped off by some amazing barbecuing by our Palestinian coworkers. Palestinians sure know how to cook, and the kebabs were plentiful. It was one of the most interesting excursions I had ever taken, and you should definitely plan to do it when you come to volunteer or study at the Excellence Center.
Traveling around the city alone can lead to interesting places, but I would not recommend walking alone in the Old Town alone after the sun goes down. The narrow corridors of ancient streets make for darkness and spooky experiences, so make sure you are with a group.
No tale would be holistic without mentioning the people and more about the food. My overall impression of people here has been positive. People will go as far as to invite you for a tea in their home. As a man, this has been a good experience to know a bit more deeply about the Palestinian families. I would not, however, recommend doing this if you are a female volunteer being asked by a man to come to his home. This is not a norm here in Hebron, and every Palestinian man knows it. The restaurants are mostly quaint and give a homely feeling. Choices of cuisine include delicious friend chicken, excellent shawarma, falafel, and popular Palestinian rice dishes called maklouba and mansef.
If you decide to make the trip to Hebron and volunteer or learn with the Excellence Center, I believe you are making the right choice. The food, the people, and the culture make it all worth your time.

How can this program be improved?
The staff is very experienced with foreigners and speak English very well. I would like more cooking classes at the Excellence Center.
Yes, I recommend
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Stephanie
9/10

JUST AN OTHER VISITOR

A week ago I arrived in Al Khalil. A Dutch girl living in Denmark, teaching young refugee children from Syria and there for trying to learn some Arabic. Arriving with no knowledge of the Arabic language and the Palestine culture.. now leaving with warm feelings towards the people in Hebron and being able to understand and participate in simple conversations.

Besides from interesting, useful, motivating and inspiring Arabic language lessons, the people from the Excellence center showed me a warm, loving, safe, historical culture and city. Unfortunately a week's visit was too short and I will have to come back some day to meet my friends again.

No where before have I only met a generous and warm staff, caring and loving for all volunteers, students and teachers. If you would ask me what I enjoyed most during my stay in Hebron, I would not be able to answer. Ibrahimi mosque, the old city, Masqubije, Bethlehem. Not even to mention my stay with the loving host family, who introduced me to their everyday lives, to their families and friends, to their children, to their city and to their culture.

I will miss my host family, I will miss the kind staff at the Excellence center, I will miss the joy of learning new Arabic words and sentences.. but most of all, I will miss the delicious foods like humus and the best falafel in the world.

Not only will I recommend any body to travel here and stay for a longer period of time, I will also look forward to visiting Al Khalil again myself.

Yes, I recommend
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Ariel
10/10

Finding Family in Khalil, Palestine

If one word describes my experience here it is “warmth”. I came to Hebron in the depths of winter (note to winter travelers: bring layers!) but warmth permeated every moment of my stay. I spent hours in the Excellence Center kitchen huddled around the fire, drinking sweet and warm Palestinian tea while exchanging sweet and warm words. My eagerness to learn the language and soak in the culture was received with an enthusiasm level that matched my own. Open arms, minds, and hearts opened doors for indelible friendships. I think I heard and used the word “habeepty!” (“my sweetie!”) as much as every other word combined, but it was never unmerited. Marwa taught me to wrap hijab. Shayma took me to a Palestinian glass factory. Abu-Mohamed showed off the Hebrew words he knows while he drove me on a tour through the city. My Arabic teacher Haifa taught me a traditional Islamic wedding dance and I showed her the Hora while we dreamed up plans for each of our someday-weddings.

And each of my new besties / habeepties are powerful and inspiring and brilliant. My teacher Haifa was my older-and-wiser role model until I learned her age. So now she is my younger-but-wiser role model. Her patience, energy, and Arab coffee fueled me through seven days of (brilliantly executed) 3-hour classes. The Center’s coordinator Marwa went above and beyond with around-the-clock assurance and support that made me feel welcome, safe, and loved. I am so grateful for these seven days, short but so full, of linguistic exchange and cultural give-and-take. Thank you for having me.

- Ariel Koren beginner Arabic course 12/21-12/29

Yes, I recommend
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Talha
10/10

LEARNING ARABIC IN PALESTINE

Talha, 29 came from Canada to learn classical Arabic (MSA) for a month with the EC in order to understand the Koran.

At Tel Aviv I was stopped by security for three hours and interrogated… three hours of stupid questions about my job in Canada, why I came here, if I knew anybody here, how long I’m staying here… It might be a lot harder to answer the questions the next time around now I know so many people here.

After the airport security issues, getting to Hebron was pretty easy. From the airport I got a bus to Jerusalem, where I spent two nights. The bus from Jerusalem dropped me on the Jewish side of Hebron (Khalil) and from there I got a cab to the Centre. My taxi driver also knew where the Centre was on Ein Sara Street, which was really useful since the street is pretty long.

After I arrived at the Centre, I got an orientation presentation which was good, telling me about safety in Israel, things I need to be aware of, some practical advice, and information about local customs.

Since I’m a guy, I don’t have a host family, so after presentation I was shown by Rafat, Centre manager to the EC dormitories. The dorms are about 10 minutes easy walk from the Centre, or 2.5 shekel 2 minute cab ride. Typically in the evenings I eat outside the dorms since food is so cheap if you just want like a falafal sandwich or shawarma. Sometimes though, I go to nicer restaurants, or I’m invited to a home cooked meal with someone from the Centre.

Palestinians are very warm welcoming people and it’s a very closed society, you know, it’s under occupation. They typically don’t get a chance to travel outside of Palestine, so people are really eager to share their experiences and ask about my life in Canada. I’m often told this is the first time that a person is meeting a Pakistani. Our passport says not valid for Israel on it, so that’s not surprising. But people also really open up here, about their lives. They tell you everything you know… the amount of times I’ve heard people say they’d love to own a car but they can’t afford it since cars are so heavily taxed by the Israelis.

One of my neighbours asked me round for coffee, and told his friends I was coming. Before I’d been sitting in his lounge for five minutes, his brother turns up to talk to me, and then some of his neighbours - just like that - that would never happen in Canada. People can really talk here… I guess partly because they don’t have a lot of outside activities to do, they often just sit in the lounge, talk and smoke, and relax.

Times like that were a good opportunity to use Arabic a bit. Fusha, which I’m learning, is also 70% similar to regional dialect (the pronunciation is different, and a few words) so if you have a grasp of Fusha, the transition to spoken dialect is quite easy.

When I started studying with the Centre, I was at Beginner one level and I studied one month for 15 hours per week. At the beginning, I knew how to read - not very well but - moderate level because I’m Muslim.

I felt from the lessons that I could quite quickly begin to start to break down lines from the Koran and understand it. Even after just two weeks I had enough vocabulary to start recognising a few words, here and there.

The lessons were good and pretty varied. We translated small suraah from the Koran, and one lesson we listened to the national anthem, mawtani (my homeland), and translated it.

Another cool thing about my experience here was meeting a lot of foreigners at the Centre. Like I’d never properly met a British person before, but I met a British girl here, as well as people from Denmark, and Norway, and everywhere. It’s rare to have the chance to meet people from all over the world like that.

We did a lot of trips together, both with the Centre and in our own time. The staff here took us to Battir one Friday, which was a very nice hike close to Bethlehem. The landscape is really striking - all arid and rocky - very different to Canada.

After Battir we went to Soussia, which was a rural Bedouin village. Soussia is under threat from occupation and settler expansion. They don’t have access to electricity because they’re forbidden to construct anything, and their wells are often demolished. Also the caves they’d been living in were filled in by the Israeli Government, so they’re living in erected tents. It’s sad, but really important to see how people are living in the face of the occupation.

My favourite trip was without doubt Jerusalem. Being in Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock was a really special feeling as a Muslim. It’s the third holiest site in Islam, so I felt very happy and very privileged to be able to be there and pray there. Jerusalem is a very beautiful place; there’s a lot of history here.

After Friday prayer at the mosque, I went into the Arab quarter, which is so lively with people buying and selling you get totally lost in the crowd. And at the same time as you see people selling like galaxy phones, you feel so much history every it’s like a museum. The ancient walls and cobblestone road, and so many old buildings. Every army that came here has left something behind; the Crusaders, Muslims, Jews, it’s an incredible place.

What’s also amazing is that when you’re in the old city in Jerusalem, you see all of the Abrahamic faiths. The Wall of the Al-Aqsa mosque is also the Western Wall, so when you’re the mosque you can see the Wall like fifty metres away. I felt like all of these religions with a special connection to this place are so close together; we come from the same source. But at the same time, we don’t talk to each other. The Jews and Arabs, but we don’t talk. Christians talk to me more, but politics poisons all of that.

There are so many things to see here in Palestine, and everything is so close by. Twenty minutes from the Centre, and you’re in Bethlehem, forty five, and you’re in Jerusalem. And there’s really local things to do as well, like Battir and Masaba.

Response from The Excellence Center

Dear Talha,

Thank you so much for leaving a review. We still remember the nice time at the breakfast table discussing some issues in Palestine. We also were amazed how your Arabic skills were improved in a short time

We wish you all the best and we hope to see you soon in Palestine and at the Excellence Center

Salam Habibuna

EC Team

Yes, I recommend
Erik
10/10

Great place!

The Excellence Center offer great opportunities for those who want to study Arabic. Classes are on a 1-1 basis, with really good and inspiring teacher. Having said that, what really sets the Center apart is the environment. The center provides a very friendly atmosphere where there will be a lot of social activities and trips outside your normal schedule. So not only will you improve you Arabic, you will also learn a lot about the culture and political situation in Hebron and the West bank.

Response from The Excellence Center

Dear Erik,

Thank you for reviewing the Excellence Center. We are very pleased to hear that enjoyed the Arabic classes with Ms. Duaa.

We wish you all the best in learning Arabic and we hope to see you in the near future in Palestine and at the Excellence Center

Greetings to you for the entire team

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Sarah
10/10

Excellent Excellence Center

The first thing I noticed about this center is how comfortable it is to be there. Really from the first day it was easy to feel at home. The staff, the students, and community that come by are all relaxed, joke around with eachother, and are welcoming in a genuine and calm way. We eat breakfast all together, people randomly make tea for eachother throughout the day, it really does feel comfortable and easy to be part of this learning family. This makes it easy to learn because it is a comfortable place and a supportive environment to make mistakes in Arabic.

Another wonderful thing about this center is how much it supports the education of people from Hebron. Most of the classes are for Palestinians who want to improve their English. I have a lot of respect for the way this center is truly focused on this mutual learning of both English and Arabic. It is inspiring to know that the infrastructure of the school is not just for the benefit of foreigners who want to learn Arabic, but is also, and maybe primarily, for Palestinians who want to learn English. By coming to this center that is located in Hebron, you participate in witnessing disparities, suffering and resiliency of the occupation in ways specific to Hebron and at the same time, you know that by supporting this center you are supporting an incredibly positive institution in society in Hebron and also in Palestine.

The quality of the teaching in the center is excellent. The teachers regularly get training and refresher training on teaching methods and the center has checked in with me a few different times to be sure the quality of the teaching is what I was looking for. They want to be sure there are no problems, and best of all, the did this in a discrete way so if I had anything to request, I felt I truly could have.

My amazing teacher Rashaa has gone above and beyond in a number of ways in the short time I have been here. She really listened to what topics were important to me and taught in creative and effective ways. For example, I am a nurse, so on the 2nd day I show up to a table full of medical type equipment she gathered from her family so we could learn and practice in 3D! Amazing! She also learned I plan to work in refugee camps in Jordan and she looked up videos about the camps in Arabic so we could practice the relevant vocabulary while looking at images and hearing from people living in the camps. Both of these were very effective ways to learn and I definitely feel like I have learned a lot of Arabic. Her dedication is contagious and motivates me to study more!

Overall, I would 100% recommend coming to this center.

Response from The Excellence Center

Hello Sarah,

Thank you so much for leaving a review. We are very happy that you had a good experience at the Excellence Center and Palestine in general. Thank you also for being nice with everybody at the center

We wish you all the best in learning Arabic and we hope to meet you soon in Palestine again

With kind regards
EC staff

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Damir
9/10

Teach English Speak Arabic

I spent two months volunteering at the Excellence Center teaching English. In addition to teaching English I took six hours of Arabic per week. My teacher was Du’a Qasim. Overall I was satisfied with her teaching methods and what I got out of the lessons. She’s very knowledgeable, communicative, and attentive to concerns. She has a lesson plan set up but she’s open to exploring personal interests her students may have. Moreover, she’s an exceptionally caring individual who is genuine in her goals and committed to her job. The staff at the center also encourage Arabic usage. This is helpful in applying what you learn in the classroom and translating it to everyday experiences. The fact that you’ll be living in a city of over 200,000 people who speak Arabic is just another incentive to learn and improve your language skills.

The center offers three hours of Arabic per week for every volunteer who works at the Excellence Center. However, one can certainly add more hours at a reasonable price. For those coming from the United States, it’s certainly more affordable than anything a university would charge per credit hour. And in my opinion, this is just as effective if not more. I’d encourage volunteers to take additional hours.

The Excellence Center is sanctioned by the Palestinian Ministry of Education and at the end of your volunteer period you will receive a certificate from the Center acknowledging your participation in the teaching aspect and completing the Arabic lessons. Moreover, one can certainly just enroll at the Excellence Center to take Arabic lessons. A few of the individuals I met in summer of 2016 at the Excellence Center attended the Center exclucivly for the Arabic lessons. Again, this a combination of reasonable cost, social environment, and a cadre of capable local teachers who take their profession seriously.

As I mentioned, my teacher was Du’a Qasim, who has been just wonderful in every sense of that word. Extremely helpful and effective as a teacher. I would strongly recommend her as my personal experience dictates as such. The Excellence Center’s staff are capable of working with people from beginner, to novice, to intermediate, to advanced levels. So if you want to learn basic Arabic to more advanced literary and comprehensive understanding of the language, the Center can provide teachers who are capable.

Lastly, the Arabic lessons are a good complementary experience that will certainly help you get around Palestine.

Response from The Excellence Center

Dear Damir,

Thank you so much for leaving a review. You are very eager and passionate to learn the Arabic language. We wish you all the best

We hope to see you soon in Palestine

Greetings from the entire team
Excellence Center's Staff

Yes, I recommend

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About 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...