Volunteer and Learn Arabic In Palestine

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About

Are you interested in coming to Palestine? Would you like to live with a Palestinian host family? Would you like to volunteer with school and university students as well as community members? Do you want to learn about the Palestinian culture, situation and the Arabic language? If the answer is 'yes' to one of the above questions then Excellence Center, would like to invite you to volunteer in Hebron-Palestine.

During the last four years, the Excellence Center has hosted more than 250 international interns, students, and volunteers from every corner of the world.

Time: Excellence Center welcomes the application year-round, we are flexible, we can host you whenever you have time (from 1 week to 3 months).

The Volunteer in Palestine program is designed for students and people who do not possess experience in teaching English as EFL (English as a Foreign Language). All majors and nationalities are welcome to apply for the program.

Questions & Answers

I don't know for certain what the age limits are, but when I was there I met people from their early twenties to seventies. You don't need to have teaching experience as far as I know. They seem very willing to work with whatever level of experience you have. It is helpful to know some Arabic before you go. I didn't know any and it was difficult at times, especially with my host family, but not...
Hi, thanks for reaching out! We don't have the details on our site for classes. To learn more we recommend contacting the program provider directly to learn more! This helpful link will take you right to their contact info: http://excellencenter.org/contact-us/ .
Hi, great question! The monthly fee to participate in the program is $695 (U.S.$). Anything extra you save can go to personal spending and exploring the area! For an estimate of how much you should bring for personal spending we recommend contacting the program provider more details, which you can do here: http://excellencenter.org/volunteer-in-palestine-2/ .
No. Not at all. Even West Bank Palestinians need a very good reason to go, and getting approval from the Israeli government can take months. The only way I know of for a foreigner non-NGO member to get to Gaza is by crossing the Rafah crossing from Egypt. I believe this is technically illegal though.

Reviews

92%
based on 108 reviews
  • Impact 8.8
  • Support 9.1
  • Fun 8.6
  • Value 8.9
  • Safety 9.2
Showing 1 - 15 of 108
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Daria
10/10

My month in Hebron

I spent July of 2018 volunteering at the Excellence Center as an English teacher - and it was the best experience ever. Most of us had 2-3 classes a day (max 4, but that was when a lot of people took an extra day off) - I always finished no later than 5 pm (usually 2 or 4 pm).

As for Arabic classes: I already have quite a good grasp of MSA but didn't know any dialect at all. By the end of the month, I was thinking in dialectal Arabic. My teacher was the wonderful Marwa Shantir, who always made sure I got my 3 hours a week - although some other volunteers did have a little trouble. As long as you remind the teachers at the centre about your lessons, you'll receive all of them.

As a female, I lived with a host family, and I can honestly say that I had never experienced such hospitality before. I felt very welcome and almost pampered - I had to convince them to let me wash the dishes at least :) Also, living with a host family means that you get to practice Arabic every waking moment of the day. Marwa regularly checked in with me to find out if I was okay, and openly told me on the very first day that if I don't feel comfortable - no matter the reason - I could move to live with a different family. So don't be scared about that.

Finally, safety. As a solo female traveller, I was a little concerned - but there wasn't any reason to be. Everyone was happy to help me and looked out for me. Obviously, you should still use common sense, there are treacherous people everywhere - but nothing out of the ordinary.

How can this program be improved?
Tbh, that's a difficult question. I can't really think of anything...
Yes, I recommend this program
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Irene
10/10

My second experience at the Excellence

My name is Irene and I am a 22 years old Spanish student with a BA in International Relations. I have been volunteering at the Excellence Center as an English teacher in Hebron twice. I spent two months at the center last summer 2017 and I decided to come back in 2018 for month and half so, of course, I can say I am one of those who absolutely enjoy their time in Palestine!

Volunteering at the Excellence Center is mainly focused on English teaching. Therefore, during the volunteer program I have primarily participated in teaching to beginner and intermediate groups of Palestinian students, both in Hebron's city center and in nearby villages, with whom the Excellence Center builds local development projects and partnerships. Usually the role I take when teaching in the city center is that of an Assistant Teacher, mostly helping with specific conversational activities and oral examinations. However, teaching in villages implies a greater deal of leading role as a teacher, what includes planning and structuring the learning objectives and content of the courses. Students are all engaged with the language and is a pleasure to share time with them during our lessons.

Learning Palestinian Arabic Dialect is a second component of the volunteering programs at The Excellence Center. In this sense, I must say that I began to learn Arabic the first time that I came here and that, just in year, my Arabic has improved enormously, now being able to read, write and talk at a beginner level; for which I enormously thank the work of Arabic teachers at The Excellence Center. Accordingly, I have received private Arabic lessons 3 hours per week. The teaching during the lessons is really practical and you will be able to learn useful vocabulary for daily conversational skills based on your previous knowledge of the language, interests and goals.

The Center's atmosphere is exceptional. I have been able to build strong bonds with both staff and teachers, they will support you with any question you might have and so will also make your experience in Hebron feel like home, as you will get to spend time together during breakfast and special dinners.

At the same time, the Excellence Center also gives you the opportunity to meet other international volunteers and Arabic students, among whom you will get to meet lots of interesting people from very diverse backgrounds and a shared interest for Palestine and the Middle Eastern region! During the program you will also have the time to travel to Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho or the Dead Sea; and making these trips together with volunteering certainly adds joy to the experience!

Hebron is, like the rest of Palestine, a very friendly, safe and welcoming place to be volunteering and learning Arabic. The host families make the stay really pleasant and will help you improve your Arabic conversational skills by spending some time together. In sum, I thoroughly recommend to come visit and consider the Excellence Center's programs!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Elizabeth
9/10

My experience with the Excellence Center in Hebron

My name is Lizzie and I am from England. At home I work with children- supporting a child with Down’s Syndrome in a primary school and teaching dance. I have been in Palestine for 1 month on the volunteer programme. Though I have never taught English before, and crossing the language barrier has been challenging at times, I have been able to use my experience of teaching other disciplines.

Whilst working at the Excellence Centre, I have taught and assisted with different classes. In the mornings, for my first two weeks was the summer camp. This was a mixed ability group of teenage students. I was assisting another volunteer, who had started the camp before I arrived. I enjoyed working in a team and it was interesting to see how the students engaged in the tasks they were given, a lot of which was based around self-identity. This gave me an insight into Palestinian culture and way that these students viewed their life.

In the afternoons I worked with Palestinian english teacher Ibrahim on the starter course. He would spend the first hour of the lesson teaching the subject, then in the second hour I would use games and conversation to encourage students to use the concepts and vocabulary that they had just learnt. I found that depending on the students, even if I had the same activity planned, it could go completely differently and I may end up doing a different activity. I really enjoyed working with Ibrahim, I had freedom to engage with the students, and I liked the challenge of communicating with them when they had limited english.

I also spent three mornings teaching in Kharass, a village just outside of Hebron. Each day consisted of two 2 hour lessons with young children, age 5-9. They had very limited English and there was a lot of focus on writing and learning simple vocabulary. There were some volunteers from the village who spoke English who were there to help up. After the first day I knew what to expect and quite enjoyed my time in Kharass, but 2 hours is much too long for children of this age to stay focused. I found that it was important to use a lot of repetition to help the children remember the vocabulary, and it was important to encourage them to speak individually as well in a chorus with the whole group. As much as I enjoyed working in Kharass, the organisation and resources were somewhat limited, and I feel that it would be a more successful programme if there was a set scheme of work so that international volunteers and volunteers from Kharass all knew what they should be teaching, and work together to teach it.

I enjoyed my Arabic lessons whilst at the excellence centre and have learnt some Arabic. I have previously studied languages, find grammar really interesting, therefore steered my lessons so that there was a focus on that. Though I enjoyed this, at times I felt it may have been beneficial to have shared a lesson with another volunteer so that I could develop my conversation skills. This being said, I feel that I have a good base so that if I decide to continue my Arabic studies when I return home, it will be a successful endeavour.

The environment at the Excellence Centre was friendly and welcoming. All the staff would engage in conversations and answer any questions that I had, and the other internationals were supportive and friendly. The students in the classes were, on the whole, very receptive to being taught by a native English speaker, and many of them would speak to me out of lessons, either wanting to know more about me and my country, or to practice what they had learnt in their lesson. I found this work ethic and intrigue from them very satisfying.

The Centre organised group excursions within the local area, and although I didn’t manage to join all of them, I did visit Al Fawwar refugee camp. The trip was well organised and I found it fascinating to see the contrast between my life with a host family, and life in the refugee camp. Despite the many problems that faced the people living there, they did their best to overcome and children of the family we met had gone on to study at university.

I also travelled within Palestine and Israel on my own, with friends from the Excellence Centre and with my host family. I made two trips to Bethlehem, the first with two of my host sisters and the second with other internationals. Both times I visited the church of the nativity, the Banksy hotel and the wall. I went with another volunteer to visit the Koffiyeh factory in Hebron. Just a short walk from the Excellence Centre, is this non-descript building that houses the last remaining Koffiyeh factory. Inside are the original machines weaving away a spectacular variety of the traditionally Palestinian scarf, and a shop where you can buy your own, along with other locally produced products.

I have visited Jerusalem twice during my stay here, and I love the city. There is so much to see, and each time I leave I want to go back and spend more time there. The Old City is beautiful and seeing the proximity of the different quarters- Armenian, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, it a contrast to the separatist narrative that is seen within the West Bank and the rest of Israel. I also visited the Israel museum in West Jerusalem. This museum, among many art and historical exhibits, is home to the Dead Sea Scrolls- ancient Jewish manuscripts found by a Bedouin in a cave at Qumran. As well as the scripts themselves, the building that they are housed in, specially designed for the purpose, makes an impressive exhibition. Other places I have visited are Masada- an old settlement built by King Herod atop a mountain in the desert, Ein Gedi- a natural Oasis in the desert and the Dead Sea.

During my time here I lived with a host family, in the next town Halhul. My host family, rather than a typical family was a group of 7 siblings who lived together, without their mother and father. They were very welcoming and I enjoyed staying with them. One of the main differences I found was the fluidity of time, there were no set meal times- on my first day, having eaten lunch at around 5 o’clock, I was getting ready to go to bed at around 10:00 when they started to prepare dinner! I also found that as they didn’t have to get up for work or school in the mornings, they would stay up late at night, then sleep till midday. Though I couldn’t join them on this schedule when I was working, over Eid I did. The emphasis that Palestinian culture places on family is very different from that in England. As well as families being much larger, they spend much more time together, and live closer together. (Though saying that, growing up, all my grandparents, one of my mum’s cousins, and my uncle’s family all lived on the same road!) Even though often, I had no idea what anyone was saying, it was nice to spend time with the extended family and watch the interactions between them.

During my last week here, it was Eid Al-Addah. This, as I was told, is the more important of the two Eids, and warrants a 6 day national holiday. The first day people fast, and I was lucky enough to have to the opportunity to join my family as they broke the fast. The whole family- grandparents and many cousins- joined together in the garden, as plates and plates of food were brought out of one of the kitchens. We sat together on the floor like a big picnic and shared traditional Palestinian food together. On the second day of Eid, again, most of the celebrations took place in the evening. During the day, there was some visits from other family members, but not as much as I had been lead to believe. This was the day that the animals would be killed. Each family bought an animal- sheep, goat, cow- and had it slaughtered, then the meat was split into thirds. One third to keep for their family, one third to give to wider family and friends, and one third to give to the poor. It was amazing to see the amount of meat stacked on the kitchen table at the grandma’s house, and watch the family sort it. For the rest of Eid, mainly it was relaxing and socialising with the family.

During my time in Palestine I never felt unsafe. There were unfamiliar situations, like seeing soldiers with guns in the street in the Israeli areas, or when 2 soldiers boarded the bus at a checkpoint when I travelled to Jerusalem, however I still felt safe. The people in Palestine were so welcoming, walking through the Old City in Hebron, shopkeepers would talk to you and invite you for coffee, an odd concept when in England we are taught that nothing is free- there is always a catch! This was not the case, people are genuinely friendly and want to welcome you to their country. As you walk down the main street people will say “welcome” to you as you pass.

Overall, my lasting impression of Palestine, and Hebron in particular, is a positive one. The people, the food and the landscape are all beautiful.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Dominic
10/10

My experience with the Excellence Center in Hebron

My name is Dom and I am a student from the UK. I have just finished my History degree at the University of Bristol. I have been volunteering at the Excellence Center as an English teacher in Hebron for a month and I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Palestine.

During the volunteer program I participated in, I have primarily engaged in teaching beginner English classes to beginner and intermediate groups of Palestinian students. In this regard, I have acted both as a teaching assistant at the Excellence Center, which is located in the heart of Hebron, and in a more central role with another volunteer in a village 20 minutes outside of Hebron. Whilst I had no previous experience in teaching, let along teaching to non-native English speakers, the students’ willingness to engage in lessons and the available teaching resources made these classes extremely easy to get into the swing of.

In addition, I also had the opportunity to teach private Arabic lessons in a 1-on-1 situation. These private lessons were particularly fulfilling as I directly could pass on my skills and knowledge to a student in who actually planned to travel to the UK, therefore feeling like I could use this intimate environment to really make a difference to this student’s life.

Moreover, the positive atmosphere and structural network of support at the Excellence Center made my experience even smoother as the staff were always welcoming and on hand to answer any question or help me in any way they could (especially Ibrahiem!)

For learning Arabic, the private lessons were extremely helpful. Although I had no prior knowledge of the language, my teacher, Marwa, taught me a fair bit of Arabic in the small amount of time I spent in Hebron. Women certainly have an easier time learning the language as they live with host families and thus have full language / cultural immersion, whilst men live together at an apartment that is perfectly located in the centre of Hebron.

The volunteer program also gave me the opportunity to travel extensively to places such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Tel Aviv. With regards to safety in Hebron, I felt totally safe throughout my stay in Hebron and I cannot recommend coming to visit Hebron enough, either as a tourist or as a volunteer.

What I liked most in Palestine was the friendliness and hospitality of the people in Hebron. The locals make every effort to make you feel very welcome and comfortable in an alien and sometimes confusing culture / place. I certainly believe that this a place I will visit again and I cannot stress enough, that if you are slightly interested in visiting the Middle East or Palestine, you should definitely consider the Excellence Center.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Nicole
10/10

Taught Journalism Class through the Journalism Program

I didn't have any expectations coming into this experience. I had decided to come to Palestine largely because I was already going to be in this region, and wanted to the chance to personally understand the conflict here. So, I researched how to volunteer in Palestine on the internet and came across the Excellence Center. I then applied to teach an introduction journalism workshop out of the center, under the banner of their new journalism program.

Since Rafat, the online coordinator , isn't in Hebron (plot twist, he lives full time in Germany!), the specifics of my program and what I would be doing weren't coordinated until I arrived. That was fine because I had almost a month here, and the workshop lasted only two weeks.

So many students showed up the first day, that I ended up teaching two classes of journalism students out of the Center. Additionally, Osama, the coordinator here set me up to teach a three day workshop class at the University for journalism school graduates.
On the website it can seem like there's some sort of program you are joining when you volunteer to teach a subject other than English. That isn't the case, you will be on your own and have complete freedom and responsibility to design curriculum and teach whatever program you propose. The way the website is organized is more a way for them to encourage people to come teach those things, than an explanation of programs already happening. I was given a lot of freedom to organize my classes, which I appreciated.

Throughout both classes I had the assistance of a wonderful woman, Tasneem, who helped me translate my lessons. This was very important because the level of English in my students was all over the place, and without her help I wouldn't have been able to make sure everyone understood.

I feel happy about both experiences and appreciated the opportunity to interact with students. I was very happy about the opportunity to teach at the University. However, I learned that my students were paying quite a bit (100 shekels) for the class at the University, which was weird since my assistant and I were both volunteers. My journalism class was supposed to be free but I think they were charged 15 shekels, supposedly for the certificate they received. During the summer kids also pay for English classes at the center, just fyi.

An important thing to know is that there are two Excellence center locations. The Old Center, where they run special programs and young children's English classes, and the New Center where they run English classes for older students. I operated exclusively out of the Old Center. The Old Center is smaller and very cozy, and I preferred to be here than the New Center. But, the majority of volunteers and students are in the New center. Because of that my experience was less organized than some other volunteers. I didn't have a set Arabic class time and so didn't get as many Arabic lessons as I should have, and often missed participating in the excursions and events that are advertised as part of the program by the Center, since they run out of the New Center.
But, when I did have Arabic lessons, they were with a private teacher which was great because I could get more out of them. Sometimes I just went over to the New Center and hopped on an Arabic lesson. Also even though it was more difficult to know when things were going on because I was in the Old Center, Osama and the staff in the Old Center were very helpful, and if I wanted to organize something, like a tour, all I had to do was ask. It is totally possible to take more advantage of these opportunities than I did. Just know that if you are in the Old Center you will have to make more of an effort to meet other volunteers and make sure you get included in outings. The centers are very close together and it's possible to walk over there during a break and check out what's going on.

On a social level, the experience is amazing. When I arrived, I was greeted very warmly by the staff at the center, and promptly picked up by an amazing host family. Palestinian hospitality truly has no bounds. I was immediately made to feel like part of their family. I was taken to family events almost every day, and really got the sense of the importance of family in Palestinian life. My host family's house was truly a shock. It was by all accounts a mansion, and I had my own room with an ensuite. Our house overlooked a huge valley, and we could hear the Adhan (call to prayer) echoing from the mosques scattered around the area throughout the day. It was deeply, deeply beautiful. While Adhan is a pleasant part of all Palestinian life, my house was of course a relatively unique experience, and far far above the standards of living of many Palestinian families. But there are certainly pockets of wealth in Hebron that I wasn't aware of before arriving. Hebron is a conservative city, so it's necessary to wear long pants and shirts if possible and to dress modestly as a woman. For me this was the case even in my home, because my family had men in it. But this was an easy thing to adjust to, since I knew beforehand which clothes to bring.

Also, getting here is not hard. Half of Hebron is occupied by Israel so you can take a bus from Jerusalem central station to Hebron, and it's actually cheaper (9 shekels). It doesn't say this on the website because Palestinians can't do this, but as a foreigner you can. Look up schedules on the Egged bus company website. You'll arrive on the Israeli side and ask the soldiers how to walk to the Palestinian side, (or google map it before). There is for some people an ethical dilemma of taking occupation buses, and that is valid. I would recommend doing it at least once to get a feel for the Israeli experience of Hebron, and that side of the conflict. You'll see the sides of the city are so so different. Also as a first time visitor it will likely be easier than figuring out the Arab bus situation at Damascus gate, I was walking around for a little while looking for it

Overall, I would definitely recommend this experience, and working at the Excellence Center to anyone who is considering it. Coming here and organizing your own workshop, like I did, is a very gratifying and exciting way to give back to the center. Palestine is a beautiful place, made more beautiful by the astounding kindness of it's people. Come!! Seriously they are awesome.

How can this program be improved?
Since I was running a unique program, I wish I had been told more clearly what it was that the students were expecting out of the classes. It would have been helpful, to see what the students had been sent or signed up for regarding the class, so I could make sure to meet their expectations.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Abid
10/10

Hebron and the Excellence Center

Two weeks wasn’t long enough. I really enjoyed my time in Hebron and at the Excellence Center. I was very apprehensive travelling to the West Bank due to the fact of being a Muslim with a Pakistani background and with my passport full of stamps from Islamic countries. After the shenanigans at the airport (over 4 hours of waiting) the journey to the West Bank was very straightforward.
Throughout the 2 weeks I travelled to Jerusalem for Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa and Bethlehem and I felt very safe. In Hebron itself, it felt like being at home. The people are so welcoming and friendly.
At the Center the staff and students are amazing. I supported within lessons and I also taught lessons. Introduced the Countdown game to the students and this went down really well. I also had the opportunity to teach at a school in a village. I could read and write Arabic and this helped me throughout my time here.
The fellow volunteers were amazing and I have definitely made some friends for life. We (male volunteers) stayed at the apartment of Shykh Abed whom is very gentle and friendly man. The laughs and banter at the apartment were priceless.

During our free time we visited the local people, drank alot of Arabic coffee and enjoyed the food.

The visit to the Ibrahimi Mosque and to the Old City was an eye opener and very moving.
This definitely was a like changing experience and I am already planning to come again.

Yes, I recommend this program
Caroline
9/10

Great time in Hebron

Hello, my name is Caroline, I am a 22 years old French Canadian and am about to finish a ten weeks stay in Hebron after graduating from a bachelor’s degree in communication and political science.
During my stay here, I have participated in the TESA program (Teach English, Learn Arabic), meaning that would teach three English classes twice a week to Beginner to Intermediate groups of Palestinians students aged from 8 to 40 years old, as well as learn Arabic in a one one class setting three hours per week.
Although three hours of thought lesson is not enough to master a difficult language such as Arabic, I was fortunate enough to be placed with a wonderful Palestinian host family for which most members spoke enough English for me to communicate with them, but who were also eager to help me develop my spoken Arabic skills. Living with a host family was then amazing to practice the local dialect, but also to fully be immersed in the culture and the daily local life. In that sense, spending the last two weeks of Ramadan here in Hebron was probably one the best part of my trip, as I got to experience the practice of fasting, iftar, sehoor, and Eid with my host family and their extended relatives. Keeping from eating and drinking during the day to the sides of my Palestinian colleagues during the day and breaking fast with my family at night was a very fulfilling experience, I have learnt so much about myself as well as the Palestinian/Muslim way of life.
My lovely time spent with my host family being said, the people I have met at the Excellence Center have also contributed to the positive look I have on my stay in Palestine. The Center’s permanent staff was more than welcoming and helpful throughout the whole time I have spent here, my students were amazing and eager not only to learn English, but also to invite me into their thoughts and lives in Palestine, and last but not least, my fellow volunteers became my closest friends. Together, and many times with the permanent teachers of the Center, we have visited multiple places in Hebron, such as the municipality, the Chamber of Commerce, the plastic factory, the old city and the Alfawar refugee camp, as well as other cities around the West Bank, my favorite being Bethlehem.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Lucy
10/10

My experience with the Excellence Center in Hebron

My name is Lucy, and I’m a History of Art student from the UK, living in Hebron as a volunteer English teacher for a month. As my time at the Excellence Centre draws to a close, I can reflect back on the amazing experiences I have had, as well as the friendships and understanding I have gained along the way.
Primarily, I spent my days teaching beginner English classes, both as a teaching assistant in the Excellence Centre itself, and with another volunteer in a village on the outskirts of Hebron. These classes, whilst daunting at first – never having been faced with a classful of young student with limited English before, blossomed into hours spent with young people who not only had an appetite for learning that I’ve never experienced before, but were also eager to engage in conversation about their lives and culture outside the classroom; whether when walking me to the bus back to Hebron, or giving me directions when I bumped into them in the street.
The atmosphere at the centre really gelled the experience together – the kitchen at the centre of the building was rarely empty, and the mountain of bread and hummus provided for breakfast never failed to help the volunteers recover from the late Palestinian bedtimes (complete with regular coffee breaks at 1am if you’re brave enough…).
Not only are the staff at the Excellence Centre overwhelmingly welcoming, they provide an excellent insight into Palestinian daily life, and the politics of Hebron. I attended a tour of the Old City by a teacher at the centre, and was lucky enough to not only visit the Ibrahimi mosque, but also a house of a local living in the Old City, and hear his stories about the occupation, and a true taste of what Palestinian life in Hebron involves.
Every weekend I made it my mission to travel somewhere new in Palestine; and have amassed a series of barely believable adventures from Bethlehem to the Dead Sea, and will leave the Excellence Centre with not only photographs and souvenirs, but also lifelong friendships from all over the world.
I could not have wished for a better host family to spend the month with – from being welcomed into their home as family from the first day, and taken to graduation parties and picnics, and treated like a true ‘Khalili’ (Hebronite). They made sure that the Arabic lessons I had at the centre – which provided me with the grammar and language I needed to get by in day-to-day life, was enriched by daily vocab lessons from my various host siblings – meaning that I can now talk about football, food, and cats in great detail…but not a whole lot else.
The one thing I will miss most about Hebron, other than the friends that I have made, is the attention I received on the street. Not negative attention in any way, but the locals that go out of their way to welcome internationals, and find out more about where they are from through genuine interest – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been invited into shops or homes, or given coffee on the street, by people genuinely wanting to get to know me, and help me have the best experience possible.
I would recommend the Excellence Centre to anyone who wants to see Hebron, and Palestine as a whole, from a genuine local perspective, who is willing to immerse themselves completely in another culture – and definitely anyone who is up for an adventure.

Yes, I recommend this program
Pato
10/10

Unforgetable expierence

My name is Maria Agustina Mansilla and I came from Argentina to do the Medicine and Healthcare program during two weeks in the Excellence Center. We organized a coursed with midwifery students of the Hebron University with a total of 4 workshops where we talked about medical vocabulary, pregnancy physiology, communication skills and bioethics. It was an honor for me to share with each other our knowledge and it was a very interesting and enriching experience. I shared with them my knowledge but at the same time we encouraged ourselves in our careers, we shared details of us, we got to know each other and we enjoyed together discussing clinical cases and medical ethical dilemmas.
Concerning my program I also had the chance to visit the Al Ahlil Hospital in Hebron where the staff kindly showed me their work place and they introduced me in the medical situation of Palestine. Also I had the chance to visit the Hebron University where I specially visited the laboratories, the library and the amazing Media college where the students have the opportunity of learning journalism with real radio and television studios.
Apart from my volunteering I had classes to improved my Arabic with the kind, patient, creative and interesting Ahlam. With her I didn’t only learned Arabic but also learned about Palestine, the life here, their culture, costumes, flowers, food, etc. She is an example of the strong, educated and kind women that live in Palestine.
Every day I came from my host family home to the Old Center to do my activities. Located near the city center of Hebron, every morning we start our day by having traditional breakfast together with “shai”, bread, hummus, cheese, olive oil and spices. But the Center is not only the volunteers and the staff, every day while being in the center we have lot of conversations with all the people that is around, students, mothers of students, local teachers, friends, etc. In the Center everyone is welcomed and being here we get to know a lot of citizens from the city and near villages.
In my two weeks here I visited Bethlehem with two volunteers and one day I took my day off to go the beach in Jaffa. The last Friday I went to Ramallah and the Dead Sea with my host family and staff from the Center. We shared a barbeque steering to the Dead Sea, we swam, we heard to music, we went to Arafat's Museum and to the Mahmud Darwish Museum. And we ended our day steering the magical city of Jericho from the high mountains near the Teleferic.
During my visit here I stayed in a village called Bait Ummar near Hebron with the family of Ibrahim and Fatina. Them and their sons and daughter Shuruq were my family for two weeks. I got to know their family, I ate Fatina’s amazing arabic food, I ate the figs from their garden, I talked in Arabic with Iusef and I played with the amazing little Mohamed. Also we shared long conversations with shisha, tea and music every night after our work.
Palestine is a beautiful country, the landscapes are stunning and the energy is unbelievable but what truly embellish the country is the people. I made friends in the Center and in Bait Ummar that made every minute an absolute amusement and joy. They opened their houses and their heart to make my days absolutely special. Here it's impossible to go to a place and not be received with the phrase: Ahlan u Sahlan fy Falestine.
Concerning to the safety, even if Palestine has a lot of problems I never felt fear. I think that as long as fear does not reign in Palestine, it is impossible to be scared. Also everyone took care of me as if I were from their family.
I arrived to Palestine without any expectations and I didn’t know what I was going to see here but I have to say I have been surprised by an amazing country with a lot of potential to grow with happy, generous, welcoming, educated and with a lot of love and dedication to their country people I expect to never forget how amazed, welcomed and happy I was here.

Yes, I recommend this program
Hannes
9/10

My experience after 1 month in Palestine

Experience in Palestine

Hello, my name is Hannes and I am about to finish a month of working at the Excellence Center in Hebron. I am 19 years old and I am studying Arabic and Islamic Studies in my home country, Belgium. I participated in the volunteering program of the Excellence Center where I taught English to children but I also had the opportunity to take some private Arabic lessons.

In the English classes I assisted a local teacher with teaching to 7 – 12 year old kids. I didn’t have any teaching experience but you get in the flow quite naturally. I also gave some individual classes to older students on several occasions. The focal point of these lessons was mostly placed on the speaking of the language, so I tried to teach the kids a native pronunciation of English, even though I’m not a native speaker.

The private Arabic lessons are particularly helpful because they are private, and for that reason adjusted to your own knowledge and skills. I just finished my first year of university so I had a basis of standard Arabic (Fusha) to start with and learn the Palestinian dialect. My teacher knew what I could and could not handle and taught me a fair bit of Arabic in the small amount of time I spent here. I also tried to pick up some Arabic of the streets, which worked to a certain extent. Girls/women definitely had an easier time learning Arabic because they have the change to stay with a Palestinian host family. The guys stay together at an apartment, which is conveniently located in the city.

During my stay here I could take some days off to visit the country. I went with some other volunteers and Arabic students on a trip to various cities like Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Akko. I even had the chance to hop over to the Jordanian side of the border and visit Petra and Wadi Rum. In the city of Hebron itself it is really interesting to visit the ancient religious sites like the Ibrahimi Mosque and the neighboring synagogue. Hebron is particularly interesting because the city is divided in an Arab and a Jewish part.

I felt quite safe here in Palestine, more than I expected at least. People on the street are very friendly as they are not very used to interacting with foreigners, and will try and talk to you or ask you to have coffee with them. Especially for guys, you don’t have to worry about walking around late at night on the streets or taking taxi’s. Women should take a little more care, but I feel like that goes for every country or city.

The thing I liked most in Palestine is probably the hospitality I just mentioned. As a foreigner you feel very welcome which makes blending in a lot easier. I also just like being emerged in a culture that is quite different from the one I’m used to.
My favorite experience I had in Palestine was probably when me and some other volunteers got invited on the roof of a tall apartment building, which had an amazing view of the city. Also just hanging around with the volunteers made for some very interesting moments and conversations.

The Excellence Center is doing a very good job at teaching English to kids, teenagers and adults who don’t really get the chance to interact with foreigners. A lot of Palestinian people are therefore eager to get educated in any way. I would recommend the Excellence Center to people all over the world, as they provide you with everything you need to have a nice and interesting stay in Palestine.

Finally, I feel like coming here has had great influence on me and on the way I will view Palestine and its people. The images we make in our heads of places like this, with western media as our only source, are so different from how daily life here exists as it does. I will remember the Palestinians for their hospitality and openness to foreigners, while they still manage to cherish their own culture and traditions. I feel like this is a place where I will come back later in my life.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Archie
10/10

Human Rights program at Excellence Centre, Hebron

My name is Archie and I have just finished the Human Rights program at the Excellence Centre. I am currently at the University of Leeds, UK, reading Middle Eastern Studies. I have been in Hebron for two weeks.
At the Excellence Centre, I have had Arabic lessons and given classes on Human Rights and in English. I have also been on various trips with members of the centre to places such as Bethlehem.
I have had four beginners Arabic lessons which have been really useful I am now able to introduce myself and get by. The quality of teaching is of a very high standard.
The Excellence Centre’s environment is amazing. The staff and teachers are incredibly helpful and welcoming, they are also really nice people. The Palestinian students are all keen to learn, polite and fun. There is a broad mix of international volunteers coming from all over the world. I have made good friends during my time here.
We visited the Hebron glass and cloth factories. A trip to Ramallah, Jericho and the Dead Sea was organized which was very fun! I have been to Bethlehem twice, seeing the Church of the Nativity and also the Banksy wall – a must see. The Old City in Hebron is very interesting as one can directly see the impact of the settler occupation.
I have been living with the other male volunteers in an apartment at the house of Sheikh Abid. It is a good place to stay and a good place to relax. Hebron itself is the most iconic Palestinian city and if you are looking to fully immerse yourself in Palestinian life, then Hebron is the place to go.
Safety and security is an important topic. Throughout my stay in Palestine, as a male, I have felt completely safe. I have never felt that I have been in danger. It is safer to walk through Hebron at night than it is to walk through Leeds in the UK.
I cannot decide what I like most about Palestine because all aspects are so good. The food is really good, and very affordable, especially in Hebron. The weather is hot but good! A nice change from British weather – sun cream is important. The people and their hospitality are amazing. They are so much more welcoming than the people of Europe.
My lasting impression of Palestine is the character of the Palestinian people. They are so friendly and hospitable despite what has been imposed upon them by Israel. My overall experience has been amazing and I will never forget it. I am studying a politics related degree and so this trip has been very informative. I would definitely recommend to absolutely everyone. Go to Palestine!

Yes, I recommend this program
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David
9/10

My experience with the Excellence Center in Hebron

I have always enjoyed visiting 'difficult' areas so that I can see for myself what's going on. Volunteering in these areas is even better, where not only can you speak to people directly but you can give some useful help.

The opportunity at the Excellence Center provided all of this. Colleagues, now friends, and I were able to help young Palestinian people (and American/Canadian volunteer friends!) with English, which not only helps them access a much wider range of education and entertainment opportunities, but enables a sort of peaceful resistance through education. I learnt a lot about their culture too, which after understanding a few etiquette barriers, is not that much different to the UK. I picked up a little Arabic too but I only had a week here so not as much as I wanted.

I have met some lovely people and seen their difficulties and humour first-hand. I have also visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and eaten a lot of chicken and rice...

It's been a great experience and I very much want to return. I thoroughly recommend this.

How can this program be improved?
Some better organisation, I thought some free time could have been used better. Though the general rule is that "everything happens, but not when you are told it will!"
Yes, I recommend this program
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Patrick
9/10

A stint at the Excellence Centre

Volunteering at the Excellence Centre provides one with invaluable experiences, from meeting local people to making use of one's skills to impact the local community. My stay here was brief and so it is difficult to comment on the overall impact. My only quibble would be that it would help volunteers if a schedule were given to them soon after they arrive (perhaps they could be given some indication of what their work will entail). That said, I have conducted a teacher-training session, sung action songs with children from a village nearby, had Arabic language lessons, team-taught a class of intermediate students, etc., so only as small quibble in the great scheme of things. Volunteering here will allow one to have many learning experiences and opportunities for personal growth. The highlight of my stay here was meeting and chatting to local people - every day brings a surprise :)

How can this program be improved?
Please see above
Yes, I recommend this program
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Steve
10/10

Volunteer at the Excellence Center

I have been with The Excellence Center here in Hebron, Palestine for the month of June 2018 and I am so happy I chose this organisation to come with. It offers a great balance of learning, contributing and enjoying yourself. I have been helping to run classes mainly in basic English but also games and activities with the children and even things like helping university students with their CV's. But you also get time off and you're going on trips and doing all sorts of other things as well.

Something important that I would mention is that I have been to over 20 countries and Palestine is probably the safest (for tourists). The people here are so friendly, kind, welcoming and hospitable, it had been a fantastic experience.

I would encourage anybody and everybody who is thinking about coming to book with the Excellence Center now.

:-)

How can this program be improved?
Flexibility is good but more organised schedules and timetables provided ahead of time would be ideal.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Luke
9/10

Luke Oades’ Review

I spent 2 weeks volunteering in Hebron in March at very short notice (I was already in Palestine at the time), with Rafat and all the staff being extremely accommodating and welcoming of me in every possible way. The volunteering schedules allowed for very worthwhile work whilst also ensuring enough free time to explore Hebron. The other volunteers were always both amazingly friendly and very interesting, and the house I shared with the other male volunteers was lovely and very well-located.

It was a truly eye-opening experience in so many ways, and all of the trips that Excellence Center organised (such as to the keffiyeh factory, al-Ibrahimi mosque and the ceramics factory) enabled me to explore parts of Palestinian society that I otherwise may never have considered. The locals were often just as welcoming as those involved with the Center, and I spent many fun evenings outside of the Center with some of the students that I had been working with.

There were periods when there were tensions in the Old City of Hebron due to escalations between Israel and Gaza, but nonetheless any violence is generally very localised and possible to avoid if you so wish. All in all, I had the most fantastic time imaginable and I’m extremely thankful to Osama, Rafat, Ahlam and all the wonderful staff, volunteers and others that made this such a fascinating trip. Thanks a lot!

How can this program be improved?
I think that forming greater links between volunteers and other charitable organisations working in Hebron could allow for those with free time to help out even more on the side if they would like to.
Yes, I recommend this program

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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...