Volunteer and Learn Arabic In Palestine

By The Excellence Center in Palestine   Reviews (45)   90% Rating

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 150 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.

Locations
Asia › Palestine
Length
1-2 Weeks
2-4 Weeks
1-3 Months
3-6 Months
6-12 Months
Language
Arabic
Housing
Apartment
Host Family
Hostel
Cost
The program fees include: pre-departure support, accommodations with a host family, some of the Meals, full coordination while volunteering in Palestine, 3 hours per week of Arabic lessons, and some visits to different sites in the city of Hebron.
Starting Price
0.00

Questions & Answers

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 ge...
It depends on how you set up your schedule of you're volunteering, taking Arabic lessons, or both. You'll go on trips with the center, but you'll also be able to go places with your host family. I fou...
Your primary role as a volunteer is to teach and assist at the center, but I found myself with a lot of free despite the classes and Arabic lessons I was taking. The lessons are not onerous, and even...
Like the other answers said, it depends on your schedule, and how much teaching you want to do. While I was there I taught 2-4 1.5hr classes Sun-Thur, took 2 1.5hr Arabic courses each week, and had pl...
I have had a lot of free time. Sometimes less because you are planned in for courses as a teacher. But there is a lot of freedom in asking free time and enjoy yourself in an other city or with friends...
Hello Chrissy, No prior visa is needed for Americans, Canadians, and most Europeans to enter Israel and Palestine. You can can a visa for three months on arrival. If you would like to stay for more th...
Volunteer and Learn Arabic In Palestine

Rating Values

  • Impact
    86%
  • Support
    89%
  • Fun
    78%
  • Value
    87%
  • Safety
    92%

Program Reviews (45)

Lucie
Female
28 years old
Czech Republic
Other

My experience in Palestine

Overall 9

My name is Lucie and I am originally from the Czech Republic. I graduated 3 years ago and I have a Masters degree in Civil Engineering and Architecture. I decided to come to Palestine as a volunteer because I have always been interested in Arabic culture. Since I was already working in Tunis, I wanted to get some experiences in the Middle East. Joining the Excellence center seemed to me the best option for discovering the culture, and doing something useful for the local people. As a volunteer, I participated in different activities such as workshops at the universities, assisting with English classes, and teaching private English lessons. It was really great experience to see the motivation of the locals to learn English. Sometimes it was a challenge to keep them quiet, but as soon as we switched to some games or interesting topics, we always had a lot of fun together in our lessons. And all the students were really nice and enthusiastic about learning English. All the volunteers had Arabic lessons twice a week with a local teacher. I think those lessons were very efficient as they were “one to one,” so the teacher could adjust the lesson according to your requirements. I think my Arabic definitely improved during my 6 weeks in Palestine.
The Center environment is nice, they take care of the internationals and help you with everything that you need. As Friday is the day off in Hebron, the Excellence Center sometimes organizes the trips around the country to show the internationals other places outside of the city. Accommodation in Hebron depends on your gender. As a girl,I lived with a host family. I think it was very interesting to see how the local families live, and join their lifestyle on a daily basis. My family was very welcoming, and always took me with them to visit their relatives or neighbors. Whenever I needed any help they were here for me. I think it was a unique experience to see how the Palestinian people live, and you could not see this lifestyle as a tourist living in a hotel. I am really grateful for the adventurous life in Hebron. Generally, there is nothing dangerous about going to Palestine, although as a woman you need to be more careful. For example, I avoided speaking with random men on the street or with taxi drivers a lot, especially after the sunset. They are all very nice people but they are not used to the foreigners. So sometimes they may see your kindness as a flirtation and you might risk some harassment as a woman. But if you are careful and respectful of the local traditions, you will feel really safe in Palestine. The food in Palestine is very delicious. I fell in love with Falafels, the local bread, and with different kinds of the “dips” such as hummus, “baba ganoush” and the local olive oil. Also with the local tea with lots of sugar and local spices - it’s a real paradise! Every morning we took a breakfast together in the Center and it was the best way to start the day. After volunteering in Palestine I would recommend it to everybody who wants to help the locals to improve their English, and anyone who wants to discover the local culture. I think it is important to say that Palestine is not the same as we know it from the media. The most interesting part for me was visiting the locations around the Israeli settlements, and also the separation wall in Bethlehem. The political situation is really complex. On a daily basis you cannot see anything special and it may look like a peaceful environment, but around those particular places you can always feel how difficult the life for Palestinian people is and what things they have to face. It was an unforgettable experience for me and I am really happy I went there. Inshallah I will visit Palestine in future again !

How can this program be improved?

I think the management could be improved as all the volunteers could participate much more activities than they are actually participating. Currently there is maximum one workshop and one lesson per day but it could be more. For example if there is nothing planned, the internationals could give one to one lesson to the employees of the Excellence Center to improve their English skills.

Itzel
Female
34 years old
Mexico City
Academy of Art University

Short time, great memories

Overall 9

Nobody can deny that traveling to different countries is an invaluable experience that brings uncountable positive benefits to our lives. Even when negative moments might happen, those moments also bring a significant input in our lives. I am Mexican and, as many of us in this mosaicked world, I have always enjoy traveling, either around my country or to others.
As travelers, we experienced positive and negatives culture shocks. I experience several when I studied my Master degree in Finland. The Mexican and the Finnish cultures seem to be opposite. Nevertheless, after some months in the country I was able to find some similarities.
When I arrived in Palestine, I felt amazed by how similar the Palestinian culture was to mine. However, as days went by, I started to be aware that we are, at certain degree, different. In Mexico we proudly say “Mi casa es tu casa” - my place is your place-, we do not hesitate to show off that we are very hospitable. Palestinians take hospitality to such a different level, that I have to clearly state that I was shocked in a positive way.
I stayed in a home where my host brother lived with his parents and sister. Despite the language barrier (I do not speak Arabic and, except for my host brother, they do not speak English) their welcoming spirit and warmness was always around. As it is very well-known, Arab culture is very family oriented, and the house in my host family was not the exception. Every day, at least two of the 22 nieces and nephews of my host brother were around. It was a lovely experience to see them surrounding me, smiling with their lovely curious eyes, trying to make a conversation while, at the same time, teaching me some words in Arabic.
The words learnt with the relatives of my host family were not the only ones I learnt during my staying. Despite my short time in Hebron, I had the opportunity to take some hours of Arabic lessons. My Arabic teacher was a sweet young lady who was very enthusiastic. She really cared to teach me the essential daily phrases. Learning them was easier as all the staff in the center were greeting me in Arabic and were always patient and keen to correct my pronunciation and teach extra vocabulary.
The atmosphere in the center is always nice and friendly. This comes from the staff, the Arabic students, and the volunteers which make to have warm memories from them. Thanks to the eagerness of the staff to show us the Palestinian culture, I was able to travel to different cities around. For instance, we spent a lovely Friday hiking in a hill surrounded by an outstanding landscape, then, enjoying a nice falafel lunch in Bethlehem. Another interesting visit was when we went all together to the Dead Sea and enjoy a delicious BBQ prepared by all of us.
This is my first experience in an Arab country and I came with the high expectation to find the famous Arab hospitality. Undoubtedly, I lived it. I spent a short time in Hebron, but this is was not a problem for taking from this place and their warm and kind people great memories.

How can this program be improved?

Providing furhter details about local transportation and maps (or at least a diagram) before and during the arrival

Klaudia
Female
24 years old
sejny
Northeastern Illinois University

Experience in Hebron

Overall 10

My name is KlaudiaLewonczyk and I am from Poland. Currently, I study in Germany in the field of business administration. Around one year ago by accident I visited the website of the Excellence Center. I spent a good amount of time reading all the information about Hebron and watching interviews with volunteers. I found it very interesting and I set up a goal to one-day visit Palestine. One of my dreams was always to spend Christmas in Jerusalem. This year I had a longer Christmas break and I decided to make my two goals happen.

In the beginning of my Palestinian adventure I spent 5 nights in the old town of Jerusalem. I could enjoy the Christmas atmosphere and wonder around the city, exploring small neighborhoods, interesting streets and experiencing life on the one side of the wall.

Getting to Hebron was very easy. I took a bus from the Damascus Gate to Bethlehem and from there a shared taxi to Hebron. Any time I had a doubt if I am going in the right directions, people were helping me. I don’t know any Arabic but I didn’t have any problems with communication. The shared taxi driver dropped me in the front of the Excellence Center. I arrived fast and safe to Hebron.

From the first day I felt very welcomed both in the center and also in Hebron. With my host family I have a feeling that I found a second home in Palestine. Back in PolandI have only one, older brother and honestly I always wished for a bigger family. In Palestine most of the families are very big comparing to those in Europe. In my family in Hebron I have 3 sisters (one is already married) and 3 brothers. It is such a wonderful feeling when your 5 years old host brother is waiting for you, and with smile on his face proudly saying the English words that he learnt. My host mom is a great housewife who cooks the best Palestinian food. Indeed, when you are in Palestine forget about diet. The food here is amazing! My host sisters are the best sisters I could wish for. In the evenings we talk, laugh and tell stories about traditions in our countries. The possibility of staying with a Palestinian family is one of the biggest advantages that the Excellence Center offers. Living the daily life of Palestinian people opened my mind on many things I had no idea before.

When it comes to the activities in the center, believe me, you won’t be bored! In Hebron for the first time I had the opportunity to take Arabic classes. The two weeks spent here allowed me to learn basic grammar rules and useful expressions in the shop or taxi. I was so proud to finally be able to tell my taxi driver where I want to go without showing him address written on the piece of paper. As a volunteer, I helped with organizing workshops and lessons for students from Hebron. I met many great and kind people, who were very curios about my country. During my time in Palestine, together with other people from the center we visited Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jericho. And of course, we were exploring Hebron and its great shopping places in the old part of the city.

This short text about my experience in Hebron would not be completedwithout mentioning the amazing atmosphere in the center. All the staff members are friendly, warm and hospitable. After leaving Palestine I will miss so many things, including beautiful landscapes, delicious food but most importantly the people. Although, I spent only 2 weeks in Hebron, I think these friendships will last forever.

Maeva
Female
27 years old
geneva

A short yet sweet trip

Overall 10

My name is Maya and I am currently doing my masters in humanitarian action at the university of Geneva. I volunteered at the Excellence Center by sharing some teaching techniques to local teachers, encouraging university students to learn English and writing articles about my experience in Palestine.

Unfortunately, my time in Hebron was much too short. In hindsight, I would have chosen a time where I can stay for at least a month and preferably in summer.

At the center, there are volunteers and Arabic learners. Unlike the latter, Volunteers do not have consistent schedules. Some days I would start at 11 am and finish at 6pm and others, I would start and 9am and be off at 3pm. It all depends on the weekly schedule we are given.

Throughout the week, the center organizes small trips to the sights that must be visited. On Fridays, the Center organizes longer trips to other cities in Palestine. I strongly recommend going with the group as they take you to certain secluded and unique areas that are not mentioned in the mainstream sights to see.

I was fortunate enough to be in Palestine for Christmas and didn't miss the opportunity to be in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. Naturally, it was fairly crowded but the atmosphere was festive and very enjoyable. The Center was kind enough to give us Christmas day off so I ventured with another volunteer to Jerusalem and roved the old city for hours. I was surprised to see foreigners carrying large wooden crosses around Jerusalem. I suppose it is some kind of pilgrimage that simulates the Christ's path to his crucifixion (?)

In Hebron, I live with a host family that will go above and beyond to ensure my comfort and happiness. They have two highly active children (whom I share the bedroom with) and always have delicious meals ready for when I get home. They invited me to join them to a relative's wedding in Jericho. It was my first time attending a conservative, traditional wedding with the women separate from the men and I truly enjoyed the experience.

With regards to the security in Palestine, the only time I felt slightly ill at ease was during our trip to a street where the occupation is extremely visible – Alshohada street. A young settler was doing his daily jogging with a riffle around his chest which to some, can be quite shocking. I strongly recommend to all visitors to take a stroll on this street for many reasons but I will let you figure out why for yourself!

Whether you are planning on learning Arabic or volunteering in Hebron, I would truly recommend the Excellence Center. The staff is kind and professional, the activities are fun and the overall experience is very enriching.

Stephanie
Female
28 years old

Best first time ever.

Overall 10

I have always wanted to go to Palestine, but I was hesitating because of all things people are always talking about. Concerns about safety, culture, language… and about all that I just have to say: if you haven't experienced it, then don't dare to talk about it.

Getting to the Excellence Center was so easy! I felt safe at all times and people were friendly and welcoming. It was not the horrible experience everyone had told me about. From the moment I got into the van to Hebron I felt safe and welcomed. Once I walked through the door everything was even better. Marwa welcomed me and showed me the center, we had some tea and then started talking about how the center works.

We had lunch, she introduced me to the staff and my host family.
I didn't know a word of Arabic and still was feeling like home.
Everyone is nice and they do their best to make you feel comfortable.

They took us for a walk, we visited a glass factory and it was so amazing to see that kind of work directly in the place. I really had such a good time.

There are no enough words to express how grateful I am to them. I felt like home, people are awesome, food was amazing. I even had Arabic lesson with the most wonderful teacher ever. She was patient, kind and encouraging.

So if you are hearing all those who haven't been in Palestine, please stop it and pay attention to this: coming to Palestine was one of the best decisions. Please stop letting people feed fears, just come and be prepared to have one of the best experiences ever.

How can this program be improved?

Letting more people know in social media about what is been doing here so they can come help and live the experience

Tamsin
Female
24 years old
UK
University of Oxford

Brilliant volunteering opportunity, I highly recommend the EC

Overall 9

After three winters of revision for English literature exams I felt the need to warm up, literally and figuratively, for what people call ‘the real world’. Whilst I had no ambitions at all as an activist, I was looking forward to helping out in a West Bank community and learning something about living in a less than ideal political situation. My university essays had been read by a single, presumably rather bored tutor, I thought, it would feel good to do something likely to make slightly larger ripples.

The seven days I gave myself between my first click on the Centre website, and arrival in Tel Aviv weren’t exactly stress free, but there were enough youtube videos of happy, normal looking volunteers to keep me satisfied. What’s more, the problems that I encountered at the beginning of my trip were not ones that more days of preparation could have avoided. My dark eyes and olive complexion, combined with a passport carrying a stamp for two months in Morocco fated me to a long wait and an even longer series of questions. Perhaps it’s a good thing that I don’t sleep on overnight flights, since when my bags were impounded for five days in Tel Aviv, my irritation was somewhat dulled.

Thankfully, with the exception of my laptop, once here I felt that I could quite well do without my things. The whole experience of being looked after by a host family and by the Centre felt roughly analogous to the fleecy pink jumpsuit I was lent by my host mother to use as pyjamas. Relaxed, comfortable, and often exuberant: Palestine fitted well enough.

An important factor in my newfound contentedness was the food. I did not consider traditional, Palestinian breakfast at the Centre a poor exchange at all for my eight a.m. start. Flat bread, eggs, humous, falafel, soft cheese, tabouleh, and cakes with tea and coffee, is an undeniably good way to start the day. Between mouthfuls, breakfast is also a good chance to catch up with everyone at the Centre. Chat is conducted in a melange of English, dialect and classical Arabic, covering topics as broad as may be expected from the range of people at the Centre, from the European refugee crisis and US politics, to the local gym and who may or may not be whose habibi.

Breakfast, and Friday holidays are about the only constants in the very varied time table of staff and volunteers at the Centre. I usually spend mornings in meetings and writing and editing articles, but I’ve also helped conduct interviews for new staff members, participated in teacher training programmes, and assisted with oral exams. In the afternoons, twice per week for hour and a half periods, I take Arabic classes in dialect and MSA, which are regular enough but equally varied in content, often involving different media, from music to news articles. Afternoons are mostly spent teaching however, either in the Centre, or at local universities and schools. Trips to teach in local educational establishments are a great chance to see a bit more of the infrastructure here, and invariably involve invites to coffee or lunch by staff members delighted to welcome internationals.

Unsurprisingly, though, my favourite afternoons are spent on trips with the Centre. Though I enjoyed trips with a friend who I (easily) persuaded to visited from home, there’s nothing better than being shown somewhere new by a local, especially in a place as complex and politically charged as Palestine. With the Centre we visited the Old City and the famous ‘sterile street’, Al-Shahada where staff explained how restrictions imposed after 1967 had resulted in a mass exodus of Palestinians. We hiked in the nearby agricultural village of Battir, and visited a local refugee camp, Fawwar. We ate with Bedouin living in the village of Sussia and discussed residents’ struggle to retain the land after their wells and the caves that were their homes were destroyed by the ISF.

I feel very grateful to the people I have met here who have been so generous with tea, maklouba, and most of all the wonderful and sometimes terrible stories about their lives. I am delighted to recommend the Excellence Centre to anyone willing to get stuck in, and I guarantee you will get a lot back.

Provider Response

Dear Tamsin,

Thank you so much for leaving a review. We are glad that you enjoyed your time in Hebron, Palestine. You did an amazing job at the Excellence Center.

We wish you all the best Tamsatun :) We hope to see you in the future at the Excellence center and in Palestine.

Hayaki Allah Ya Tamsin

With kind regards,

Ellen
Female
21 years old
Roskilde, Denmark

Amazing experience in Palestine!

Overall 8

Everything about coming to Palestine was a first for me: travelling on my own, being in the Middle East, living with a host family and teaching. Before I left Denmark, I was not sure whether coming here would be a good idea or not – but now I am so happy with my decision to just quit my job and to go on an adventure. I have been volunteering at the Excellence Center in Hebron for almost 3 months now and I have had so many amazing experiences and have met so many wonderful and kind people at the Center and in the city of Hebron.

When I arrived here three months ago, everything was new for me. I started off living with a young host family; my 'parents' only being a few years older than me. The family was very kind, but it was difficult to become a part of their daily routine without being more like the nanny of their two baby girls. They also lived far away from the Center, so I had to pay 10 shekels to go both back and forth everyday (this is 4 times the usual rate in Hebron). I enjoyed my family, but unfortunately my host mother at that time had to travel to Jordan, and I was not allowed to be in the house with the father alone. Luckily for me, the night before getting this disappointing news about having to move out, I met the fiancée of my host father's brother. She wanted me to meet her family. We bonded instantly and I moved in the very next day.

It was a rough start to my time in Hebron, what with all of the changes, but I am so happy that I moved. I love my current host family. They feel more like my real family than a host family by now. My host parents are exactly the same age as my parents in Denmark, so it is just like home. I have 3 brothers and 4 sisters in Hebron. They are all around my age. I spend most of my free time with my family. We talk, laugh, and watch television and they are always willing to answer all of my never-ending questions about their religion and customs. Sometimes the language can be a bit of a barrier, but we have made it work. One of my sisters is pretty good at English, so in the beginning she translated as much as she could. During the last three months my family have developed their English and I have gained a lot of knowledge of Arabic from them.

During my stay my host sister, the fiancée, has gotten married. It was a great experience for me to be a part of all of the planning that is necessary for hosting a Khalili wedding. The wedding was beautiful, she was so happy and I even cried. It was very overwhelming, and very different from the Danish weddings that I am used to.

I will miss my Khalili family so much.

One of my main reasons for coming here was the possibility to try teaching for the first time. In the future I want to study History and being a teacher is one of the career possibilities that a bachelor degree opens up for me. So I wanted to test out if teaching was even something I could picture myself doing. The Excellence Center is one of the only places I have found where you can teach without experience – so I came here to get that experience. I have realized that teaching feels very comfortable for me. One part of the role as a volunteer at the Excellence Center is to help the teachers with developing creative games and activities for the students. I have had so much fun discovering how the students learn the easiest way and also figuring out which games work and which don’t. The Center has provided plenty of material and books to be inspired by when planning lessons. The focus at the Center is to develop the students’ language, and I have been so proud when I could feel that that was exactly what was happening for my students.

I have taught my students a lot, but they have taught me even more. It has been very interesting for me to get an understanding of the young Palestinian peoples struggle under the occupation and the conflict with Israel. They have told me a lot about their daily life, both regular life and the one that is affected by the conflict. They have also taught me about their views on the role of the women in the Khalili society – and I have had to stop some very heated discussions between students with different views. Other than that I have learned about their opinions and points of view about religion, Zionism, culture and customs. The Center sometimes hosts Conversation Days at other schools and community centers. I have found them to be a really good opportunity to see the different layers of the society in Khalil. It is also a lot of fun to try to teach new students and be in new places. It is very heartwarming to give the students positive experiences with speaking English, which might be new for some of them.

I arrived here three months ago with absolutely no knowledge of Arabic at all. I struggled a bit in the beginning, but now I feel more comfortable using it. I have had a wonderful newly educated teacher called Marwa. She has done everything she could in order to make my lessons about the topics of my interests and to use different methods while teaching. I wanted to learn Palestinian Arabic so I could speak with the people that I am surrounded by. The staff at the center have done everything they could to teach me and to practice with me every single day as well. Before I came here I thought I would be better in Arabic than I am now, but according to the staff I am one of the starters that have learned the fastest, which is a great feeling.

The Center has been a wonderful place to be. The staff have done everything in their power to give me a positive experience. They have been my friends from the day I arrived. They have helped me understand the society that I am now a part of. They have explained about religion, culture, special occasions and customs. They have also done everything they could to be as flexible as possible about days off and planning of trips. The social life at the Center is a joy to be a part of. I love the laughs over breakfast and the political discussions over dinner. I am so happy that my colleagues and the staff at the Center have become my local friends. I will definitely go back to visit them in the future.

The Center has also organized many trips and ceremonies that I have been a part of. I especially enjoyed the graduation party for the students and the visits to the refugee camp Al Fawar, Suhada Street and the Bedouin village Susya. The party was a great opportunity to say goodbye to the wonderful students I have taught, and they were all so proud when they received their diplomas. The trips really gave me a special kind of goose bumps. It is very intense to see the results of the occupation and very touching to hear the stories of the people it has affected the most.

The customs of Hebron are very different than the customs in Denmark. It took some time and some inappropriate handshakes with men, before I figured out how to greet others properly. I have been here for so long that I now feel that I have most of the customs figured out. At all times I have had covered shoulders and knees. Sometimes it draws some unwanted attention to me when walking on the streets of the city, but it is never more than attention and looks. I have at all times during my stay felt safe and respected. I have always felt welcome. Wherever you walk people will shout out "Welcome!" to you. You will meet people everywhere that invite you for a cup of coffee or even a Friday lunch. I like this feeling that adds to the city. Every single person in Hebron is just a friend you haven’t met yet.

The culture in Hebron is exceptionally interesting. From the delicious local dishes such as stuffed eggplant, Makluba and Mansaf to the extraordinary way of celebrating weddings! The city never seizes to amaze me. The area is packed with interesting traditions such as the beautiful traditional dress and the slaughtering of sheep for Eid-Al-Adha. The architecture of the buildings is not that interesting, but the interior design is beautiful in most houses. From the creatively decorated roofs, to the almost caricatured design of the children's rooms to the beautiful, beautiful guest salons. All of that mixed with the excellent weather and the welcoming people makes Hebron a fantastic place to live.

When you have days off I recommend you to travel and see the country. Spend a night under the stars in the Bedouin village Susya, climb the roofs of the Old City in Jerusalem, swim in the Mediterranean sea at the beautiful beach in Haifa and explore the markets of Nablus. This country offers so many amazing experiences. You can travel with the friends you will most likely meet at the Center or you can travel on your own. It doesn’t matter if you are interested in history, religious sites, politics and the occupation, architecture, scenic nature or partying, the country offers something for everyone. If you are interested in historic sites I recommend Hisham's palace in Jericho, which shows architecture from the earliest Arabic period. If you are interested in Christian religious sites I recommend walking in the Jordan river close to Jericho, visiting the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem and walking on the Via Dolorosa all the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Of Muslim sites I recommend visiting Abraham mosque in Hebron and Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Of Jewish sites I recommend the oldest cemetery in the world on Mount Olives in Jerusalem. The best places to get a closer look on the occupation is taking a stroll along the separation wall in Bethlehem, walking around in the Old City of Hebron and visiting the Bedouin village Susya, which is just south of Hebron. If architecture is more your thing I recommend the Jewish quarter in the old city of Jerusalem and the extraordinary tomb of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. If you are interested in scenic views and nature I recommend taking a hike in Bateer or spending time on Mount of Temptation close to Jericho. But if all you want to do in your free time is relax, party and have a good time I recommend going out in the discotheques of Bethlehem, grabbing a cocktail on the beach in Haifa or going to the Shuk Market in Jerusalem on a Thursday evening (market by day, party by night).

My last travel recommendation is a thing you cannot miss out on – you have (!!!) to visit the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is an “otherworldly” experience and is an absolute MUST.

How can this program be improved?

I think the pre-departure communication was too slow.
Also the general communication between the staff and the volunteers needs to improve. Many times the center planned dinners or trips and forgot to tell the volunteers (which the things were planned for) about them. Also I would have liked if the level of the students participating in the Conversation Days were more clear - it's difficult planning for a beginner 2 level class and then show up at the school to realize the students are starters and not beginners.

Provider Response

Dear Ellen,

Thank you so much for your great work. We are really very happy that you had a nice experience in Palestine. We will take your suggestions for improvement in our consideration.

We wish you all the best and hope to see you in the future in Palestine

With kind regards,
EC Team

Alison
Female
26 years old
UK

My Experience in The Excellence Centre

Overall 9

I spent two weeks in The Excellence Centre in Hebron. Overall, I had a fairly good experience.
I enjoyed teaching English. I had many classes ranging in level from beginner to intermediate.

Most of the students were friendly, and enthusiastic. In addition to classes, I participated in English Club. English Club is an hour-long, weekly visit to a school to practice conversational English with students and help them become more confident in their everyday English usage.

The centre has whiteboards, a projector, printer and photocopier at the teacher’s disposal, which is handy for planning lessons. However, I feel that the amount of photographs taken during classes can be a little disruptive and off-putting.

I also received some Arabic lessons from staff at the centre. I am a beginner, my teacher was excellent (very patient!) and I found the classes beneficial.

For me, what I enjoyed most about my stay was being with my host family. I’ve found Palestinian people to be really warm and hospitable, like nowhere else. I’m from Ireland and within a couple of days it felt like my home. Although we have a language barrier, we were still able to communicate and most of the Arabic I learned, I picked up in their home. This was easily the most enjoyable and memorable part of my trip.

Even though I was able to get along ok in the town and communicating in general, I do feel that for their own comfort and peace of mind, volunteers should have basic Arabic before coming here. Also, to research the culture and societal normalcies and etiquette before arrival is very important.

Provider Response

Dear Alison,

Thank you very much for leaving a review. We are happy that you had a nice expereince in Palestine. Thank you again for everything you did during the two weeks.

We wish you all the best especially in learning Arabic and we hope to meet you soon in Palestine. Hayaki Allah Ya Alison

With kind regards,
EC Staff

Harry
Male
20 years old
London

My time in Hebron

Overall 9

My name is Harry Gainham, I am 19 years old and from London. I have just finished A-levels at school and my hobbies include playing football and swimming.
I participated in the Volunteer Palestine programme. I chose to volunteer in Palestine because firstly, I want to help people in Palestine learn english as it a universal language and an important skill to have when applying for a good job. Me being a native should help the students practice their conversational english, which is the most important element of learning a language. Secondly, coming out to Palestine on my own is a fantastic experience as I will meet new people, learn about a new culture and improve my independence skills. ( Not to mention I will be able to visit all of the historic sites!).
I felt very safe in Palestine because the Center provided me with lots of information about how to travel to and from / around the country. Furthermore all the locals were very welcoming and always helped me if I needed help, even if they spoke no english.
I do recommend students learn a bit of arabic before they come here. Although not a necessity, learning a few words or sentences will make you feel a lot more confident, particularly whilst on your journey to Hebron. Furthermore, locals love it when internationals speak arabic, even if its just a greeting, so learning a bit of arabic can help you integrate.
My best memories in Hebron are the people at the Center who made this trip possible and who were so kind and helpful. Additionally, I loved visiting the glass and kufiya factories as it gave me an insight into local trade. Finally the random people I met and spoke to in the street or taxis was definitely memorable .
I ate lots whilst I was here so I tasted many new foods and dishes such as maklooba and knaafe. I also got an incite into grape farming and local trades such as glass and ceramic production.
Overall I had a fantastic experience and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested. Although I was slightly nervous when I first go here, good food and friendly people made me feel very welcome. The teaching aspect of the trip was great as I got to prepare my own lessons and the students were very enthusiastic which made things a lot easier. The people at the center were fantastic! They were very kind, funny and helpful and they organised some very memorable trips. Getting around Hebron was very easy and cheap, once you knew what to do. My commute was around 15 minutes by taxi and only cost 5.5 shekels. There are tons of restaurants and small shops selling falafel and shawarma so you will never get hungry. Locals are very welcoming and you will 100% get offered food or tea from someone you have never met before, whilst you are in Hebron.

How can this program be improved?

To improve this programme all I would do is get some of the volunteers to write up some instructions for new volunteers on how to get around and what places to eat at. Volunteers should write about the area they are staying in (what to say to the taxi driver, where to get falafel etc.)

Provider Response

Dear Harry,

Thank you so much for your amazing work and motivation to help Palestinians. Your works and review is highly appreciated. We wish you all the best and we hope to have and meet you soon in Palestine

Greetings from the entire team
Excellence Center's staff

Eleanor
Female
28 years old
London, United Kingdom

Excellent

Overall 9

The Excellence Center provided an original insight into Palestinian life. Volunteering as a teaching assistant meant that I accessed classes that were taught over a range of ages and abilities with English. I met other teaching assistants and people who came to the centre to learn Arabic, people from all over the world. Would recommend to anyone wishing to improve their skills in education as well, encounter different ways of life and expand their mind.

How can this program be improved?

Organisation of classes, level of teaching assistant participation in lesson organisation.

Provider Response

Dear Eleanor,

Thank you very much for your great work! We appreciate your work and writing a review very much. We wish you all the best and we hope to see you in Palestine soon

With kind regards from all of us
Excellence Center's team

Elena
Female
26 years old
trento
Other

My experience in Hebron

Overall 10

I'm a 26-year-old Italian girl and I participated in the TESA program (teach English & learn Arabic) at the Excellence Centre in Hebron from August to September 2016.
I came here after graduating at the International House in Chang Mai in the CELTA. I wanted to put into practice the teaching techniques I learned in Thailand and work with students with different levels of English. Also, I wanted to learn more about the Palestinian culture and history and study Arabic. Thus, the TESA program was the perfect combination of everything I wanted to do here. Not only did I get the chance to teach many classes and private students, but I could also build a great relationship with the learners, get to know their daily lives and problems, and see how young people live in Palestine. I had three hours of Arabic lessons every week, and I could practice the language everyday, with the staff and the students at the centre and with my host family.
Furthermore, the centre organised tours and excursions in Hebron and nearby cities; these were invaluable opportunities as I could see these realities through the eyes of local people.
I always felt safe in Hebron and Palestine, people here are extremely welcoming and friendly! (It is not uncommon that you are offered food or coffee whilst walking on the street!).
What I liked the most here was the friendship with the International and Palestinian teachers at the Centre. Often after class, we would have dinner or coffee together and talk about life in the West Bank; not only about the problems and difficulties, but mainly about the daily lives and traditions, such as weddings and religious celebrations. Those were precious moments as I got to know more about the culture and the traditions of the people.
I will always be grateful for the hospitality and friendliness of the school's staff and of my host-family. I really felt at home here, and I will definitely be happy to come back one day.

Provider Response

Dear Elena,

We would like to thank you very much for your great work at the Center. We appreciate your efforts very much and Palestinians students benefited a lot from you.

We wish you all the best and hope to meet you again in Palestine

With kind regards,
Excellence Center' team

Fred
Male
21 years old
london
King's College London

Excellence Centre Experience

Overall 9

My name is Fredy Gumpert, I am from London and I am 20 years old. In a few days I will return to London to complete the final year of my bachelor degree in International Relations at King’s College London.

At the Excellence Center I participated in the ‘Volunteering in Palestine’ programme. There are multiple reasons why I participated in this programme. Most importantly I wanted to experience the joy of teaching. My mother is a teacher and I know she enjoys her job. The opportunity to experience what it would be like to teach a class was one I could not pass up. Furthermore, I wanted to gain at least a basic grasp of the Arabic language. With a degree like mine the ability to speak and understand Arabic would be a highly valued skill.

I felt extremely safe for my whole time in Palestine with the exception of my first night. The first night of my arrival was slightly scary because I was living on my own and the electricity was not working. However since then I have felt safe throughout my stay. The only other moments I felt slightly uneasy was when walking through H2 (the Israeli occupied part of Hebron) surrounded by soldiers with automatic weapons. In the Arab part of the city there is absolutely no reason to fear anything, the people are too kind to do anything bad to you. My only advice is to be careful crossing the road!

I had absolutely no knowledge of Arabic before my arrival in Hebron. My advice to participants would be at the very least to learn the alphabet before travelling to Hebron. In doing so they will save a lot of time in the Arabic lessons they have here, when they can focus instead on reading and writing, which is impossible unless you know the alphabet.

My best memories in Hebron would have to be the time spent with fellow volunteers or Arabic students. I was lucky to be here with some very friendly people who I got on with very well. Time spent playing cards and smoking shisha with these people I now consider my friends are moments I will treasure. If asked to choose my favourite memory here in Hebron, it would be when myself and two other volunteers went to a traditional Palestinian wedding party. Despite being uninvited the hosts were so kind to us, it was difficult to leave after several hours.

The Palestinian foods I learnt about were: mansaf (a lamb dish served with a milk sauce, traditionally served at weddings) makluba (a chicken dish served with rice) and the sweet knafeh (a sugary treat with goat cheese inside).

My experience at the center has been very enjoyable. As stated the people I have met have been very friendly and fun. Furthermore I have appreciated the chance to teach a class of my own. The intermediate 2 class that I have been teaching are all very interesting, hard-working students.

How can this program be improved?

Reduce price

Provider Response

Dear Fred,

Thank you so much for your amazing works with us at the Excellence Center. You did a lot of different things to help Palestinians enhance their future.

We wish you all the best and we hope to have you again at the Center in Palestine

Greetings from all of us

Amir
Male
23 years old
Lausanne
Other

This was the best experience of my life

Overall 10

My name is Amir Meskaldji, 22 years old. I'm currently studying environmental engineering and sciences in Lausanne, Switzerland. I have both Swiss and Algerian origins.

I was volunteering at the excellence center for one month. Helping teachers with english lessons and giving some courses as well.

I felt very safe in Palestine, the people were always warm and welcoming.

Before coming to Palestine, I think that people should learn the alphabet at least, which is not so hard. It is not necessary but It can be done almost entirely alone with the use of internet and youtube videos. It just takes some time. If you already know the alphabet, you will make much more of your time here and you will really have the opportunity to build a good arabic foundation during your stay in Hebron.

Something that made my experience better was the fact that I could already speak some arabic.

I had so many great experiences. Teaching classes with the awesome teachers, going and visitting around with the other internationals and enjoying the moment. Some of my best times where the various trips around Palestine outside of Hebron as well.

Visitting Jerusalem, the dead sea, Jericho, Bethlehem, Nablus..

All in all, it was an awesome experience, the best of my life actually!
And I'm really satisfied with everything. It was amazing. Thank you very much for everything!

10/10 I would do it again :D

How can this program be improved?

Concerning what could be improved:

The pre-departure support and e-mail exchange is too slow. Rafat need to answers the e-mails more quickly. So many volunteers had to book their flights without being sure if everything was alright.

Also a better explanation and preparation for the potential border police control could be nice. More advices and proper guidelines could be really useful.

I was told that I should say that I'm not volunteering, only learning arabic, but my invitation letters and e-mails I had to show to the border police security control caused me some troubles.

Provider Response

Hi Amir,

Thank you for leaving a review, we appreciate that. We are really happy to hear that you had a good experience at the Excellence Center in Palestine. We will take your suggestions for improvement in our consideration.

We wish you all the best.

With kind regards,

Daniel
Male
32 years old
A Corunha
University of Santiago de Compostela

Lifetime experience in palestine

Overall 10

I am Daniel, I am 32 years and I work for a wine company in Galicia(Spain), this is a small family business, although my passion and what I want to work in Psychology. I am in my last year of college and, hopefully, I will work as a social psychologist specialized in empowerment participated in Excellence Center TESA program, I was teaching English and studying Arabic.
I am a starter arabic student , it was a little bit difficult but the teacher was very good and I learned a lot. The experience of teaching was amazing. I had no experience as a teacher and I am not a native speaker but the staff and the other volunteers are always helping you . Children who study at the Excellence Center are most of the time paying attention, furthermore they are so thankful and kind with the volunteers.
The time I spent here I felt safe. To be honest, I can’t sleep with my door unlocked at home, and I slept here with the door unlocked. Some areas are more complicated but here in h1 and where the school is I felt completely safe.
About the arabic language, I took only a few classes before I came to Hebron, so it was difficult to communicate with some locals at the beginning. Nevertheless , although I think to know the language is not necessary to participate in this program because people are very welcoming and eager to help you. Of course if you know Arabic you would be able to communicate with locals at a more personal level. But with the lessons I took at the Excellence Center, in two weeks I was able to speak a little bit with my neighbors, a very nice and welcoming family by the way.
My best experiences here are, for example, share some makluba with the friends I made here, (chicken with rice and almonds), or some of the others exquisite food like falafel, the sweet kunafa... another good memory is any of the trips the Excellence Center planed for us, this is an amazing country with the most welcoming people I have ever met in my life.
Concluding I would definitely recommend this program to anyone interested in teaching and learning about this culture.

How can this program be improved?

According to the TESA program the only thing that should be improved is the information volunteers get about their students. It will be a good idea to give the teachers some information about level, motivation, individual difficulties the student might have...

Provider Response

Dear Daniel,

Thank you very much for the review. We are very glad to hear that you had a wonderful experience in Palestine. We wish you all the best and thank you for your great voluntary work at the Center

Definitely, we will take your suggestion in our consideration for the near future.

We hope to see you again in Palestine.

Greetings from the entire team

Joseph
Male
24 years old
Cambridge
University College London

Volunteering and Learning Arabic in Palestine

Overall 10

Wow, what a place Palestine is. My time there was a truly transformative and unforgettable experience. As soon as I arrived, the Excellence Center made me feel like a member of the family. I learned Arabic with a great teacher. From the first class the teaching was very personalised, and I improved swiftly. The classes were fun and light-hearted, more like two friends hanging out than a teacher-student relationship! I also greatly enjoyed teaching the local Palestinian students. They were very bright and eager to learn, and it was a hugely satisfying experience making a positive contribution to their lives. I was given help and guidelines with which to teach, but also a lot of creative freedom in how I taught. As for Hebron itself, it was an amazing city with a real pulse and energy. Everyone was welcoming and friendly. Despite the difficult situation, I felt completely safe the whole time. I can honestly say there was no moment when I felt threatened or in any danger. In Hebron life goes on as normal, and everyone tries to make the most of it. For anyone thinking of enrolling in this program, I'd say this-do it. You won't regret it!

Provider Response

Thank you so much Joseph for your amazing work at the Center. We wish you all the best and we wish you to meet you soon in Palestine

We will never ever forget your amazing work with us. You left your mark :)

We hope to see you soon in Palestine

With kind regards,
Excellence Center's team

Sascha
Male
29 years old
Stuttgart
Other

My time here in Hebron

Overall 9

My name is Sascha Kochendoerfer, 28 years old and I am studying Integrated Water Resources Management in Cologne, Germany. I came to Palestine at the first of August and stayed at the center until the end of August but in Hebron in general until the end of October. I took the 60 hour one-on-one spoken Arabic course at the center. I took this course to learn spoken Arabic for job opportunities and because I will definitely return for travelling. Talking to people in their native language always creates a completely different atmosphere and shows appreciation for country and culture. At no point during my stay in Hebron I even felt remotely unsafe. If you want you can spent your time in Hebron without even noticing that it is a rather controversial place. But I can only recommend to visit the settlements and see for yourself how life is there for both sides and how this environment shapes the people there. All the people that you meet on the street or just in the money exchange shop are very outgoing and generous. Everyone asks from where you are, how you like Hebron and if you would like to drink coffee before they ask for your name. Two years before I came here, I attended an introductory course to standard Arabic. I learned reading, writing and pronouncing. In my opinion this helped a lot because learning the alphabet and pronunciation takes time that you can better spend learning new words or sayings. I think our evenings in the coffee shops smoking shisha, playing cards and cooking together for the regular food days, are the most important memories that I will take home with me. But it is actually hard to decide, since I have many amazing memories. I met so many beautiful people with whom I could joke and laugh for hours. All the staff is so funny and nice and will help you whenever you any need help. My time here was really important for personal growth and seeing the conflict not only from a scientific or historical point of view but also from an emotional one.

How can this program be improved?

The program could be improved by offering apartments that stand in some relation to the fees that are being paid. Knowing or at least imagining the prices for rent for some of the places shows that more could be done to improve the level of accommodation during the stay.

Provider Response

Dear Sascha,

Thank you for your great work and leaving a review. We will take your suggestions in our consideration and we appreciate it very much.

We wish you all the best and hope to see you soon in Palestine.

with kind regards,
Excellence Center's team

Sean
Male
22 years old
Singaproe
Other

And I thought I knew Palestine

Overall 10

I am an international student from Singapore studying in Jerusalem. During the Passover vacation I decided to volunteer at Excellence Center in Hebron. I had harbored many ideas about Hebron and about Palestine but my 3 week-long experience at the center made me discard some notions and rethink many others. If I could sum it all up in one word, it was "immersive". I arrived on the first day to a bustling city (the largest in Palestine) with its 800,000 occupants and religious underpinnings. I was given adequate guidance from Jerusalem where I was studying abroad to the center.

Upon arrival, I was greeted warmly by the management of the center and the pleasant staff that worked there. Behind the concrete façade of the building located on Ein Sara street (the main street in Hebron), on the 3rd floor, was a nice center with 3 classrooms and a pantry. I was little lost from the whirling intake of everything from the start but the helpful staff as well as my fellow volunteers (who were already experienced) got me on my feet in no time. After a little orientation, I was up and ready to start teaching.

The apartment arranged for me was pleasant – being a male volunteer, I didn’t stay in the same apartment as my host family due to inconveniences but rather I resided in an apartment on the ground floor while they lived above. The apartment came furnished with a washing machine, stove, a shower, beds, utensils and despite being spartan, it covered all the basic necessities. My host family was great and though hardly fluent in English, it contributed enormously to my experience as I learned a great deal of the Arabic language. Also, it was a very real experience which did not seek to mask the existent barrier of language between cultures. Where language was a barrier, though, race and ethnicity were not. The hospitality of my host family bridged the holes left in communication and almost every night I would be invited into their home to chat and have a cup (or many cups) of coffee or tea, along with snacks. Occasionally I would be welcome for a hearty home-cooked Arab meal. It was an experience indeed.
At the start, I was consigned to writing articles for the center's website and to being an assistant teacher in other classes. The classes with a lower in English would have an Arab teacher and the internationals would be expected to help out to improve pronunciation or conversational skills while the more advanced classes were taught entirely by the international volunteers. The schedule was usually rolled out and classes were assigned a few days before. Asides from the regular classes assigned to us which were pretty much constant, a few beginner lessons were thrown into the mix where we would help the Arab teachers with the lesson. Additionally, there is a program infamously named "60 minutes" among the staff at the center where we would travel to a school in (or outside) the neighborhood to teach students at a school for an hour. It was eye-opening to see how the schools are run and the varying types of classes (girls-only/boys-only and government/private).

A highlight for backpacking tourists and eager culture-fanatics alike will definitely be the Arabic lessons we receive from the center. Every week, we have 2-3 lessons of Arabic while being constantly immersed in an Arabic-speaking environment all the time. The breaking of cultural barriers and the experience of that assimilation is unparalleled. The lessons themselves are professional, and though I opted to learn only the colloquial aspect due to my limited time, volunteers who teach for an extended period of time can be trained in reading and writing by native speakers of the language. A point to note is that the Excellence Center is well known for its Arabic language instruction and TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) sends its emissaries and observers to study the language here. Within a week and a half, I was able to hold very basic conversations with the locals and introduce myself proficiently, which attests to the outstanding teachers they have here.

Another highlight was undoubtedly the trips we took around Palestine and the territories around it. I got to see Jericho, the Dead Sea, Bethlehem, and the Al Fuwar refugee camp which lay on the outskirts of Hebron, not to mention the highly contested border between Israel and Palestine within the Old City of Hebron itself, which is marked by the famous historical and religious site of the Cave of Patriarchs.

The experience of teaching in Hebron never sought to hide the underlying tension of the Occupation, and although I shall not divulge my perspective of it here and rather maintain a neutral viewpoint, I got to see the cause of the inter-state tension from both sides as well as some of the resultant cultural repercussions. It is indeed difficult to view the issue with untainted lenses when touring with the local guides, yet as an international volunteer I find that it is my duty to view the issue neutrally and having international volunteers with me provided some perspective as well. The experience of teaching together with other internationals didn’t mask the culture – rather, it brought out all its flavors: how it strived, how it thrived, and how it left an impression on all our hearts.

The people were the most amazing point of the entire duration – the students, the staff, the fellow volunteers. All in all, if you are looking for an experience that provides a well-organized stay in Palestine and more meaningful consistency than merely city-hopping, but doesn’t dull the flavors of the beautiful Palestinian experience, this is the right place to be.

Nazeer
Male
23 years old
Johannesburg, South Africa
University of Cape Town

An Incredible Experience in Palestine!

Overall 9

When I first arrived in Palestine, I felt quite uncertain due to being in this new and foreign environment as well as knowing the situation surrounding me, politically speaking. Within a very short space of time though, I discovered that these feelings were quite unfounded. Palestine is an incredibly rich and beautiful land with people so warm and welcoming, I couldn’t believe I felt so worried beforehand.

Safety is always a concern whenever you travel, but this is the case for any destination around the world. Just as you would avoid going to certain areas past certain times at night in Europe or Asia, you do the same here – if you keep your wits about you, you will be absolutely fine. This is because no matter where you are, or who you are for that matter, there is always someone willing to help you find your way. “Welcome to Palestine!” they’ll shout out to you when you walk down the street; “You must come visit my family” others will say; and you will simply be left astounded at the caring nature of these people towards a complete stranger. In Palestine, I honestly feel at home.

I was based at the Excellence Center in the city of Hebron where I was assisting a number of teachers with their English classes. The Center offers a wide variety of English preparation courses for people of all ages who seek to improve their language skills; in my time, I was assisting one of the Center’s regular teachers Ibrahim Abueisheh with his Beginner and Intermediate classes as well as several of his private classes. I had also taken on a private student of my own, who wanted to build up his conversational English to use in his business. There were also times when I found myself free and a teacher required assistance and so I would jump in and help where I could. I myself was not teacher back home, however I found teaching to be a great learning experience – especially when there is a language barrier, as it forces you to become creative and innovative in getting your points and ideas across.

Teaching is your primary role at the Center, but this role provides an invaluable opportunity to socialize with and to learn more about Palestinians. No matter the size of the class, every students wants to learn more about you and in turn share more about themselves. Even the teachers themselves are so willing and open to share their stories and experiences over breakfast or tea. It’s a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere that makes teaching and working such a delight. The students themselves love talking with you, and often invite you to their homes for dinner or to meet their families.

Being based in Hebron, I initially spent my time exploring this city and its surrounding regions. As I grew more comfortable, I started visiting several of the other major Palestinian cities including Bethlehem, Ramallah and East Jerusalem. I will be travelling extensively over my last week to Ramallah once again, Nablus, Qalqilya and Jericho.

I implore anyone visiting the West Bank to explore as much of the region and to soak up as much of the history as you can. Each city holds an incredible amount of historical significance that can only be discovered through venturing out and exploring. Bethlehem, Jericho and even Hebron itself hold some of the most astounding historical sites in the world. Each city though has its own unique charm, and chatting to people and walking through the streets of each one is its own delight.

As part of my time in the Center, I took beginner Arabic classes with one of the Center’s teachers, Ala Doudin. I used to speak Arabic when I was a child, but slowly forgot most of it, so it felt very good getting back into this language. Ala’s classes proved very useful in daily life, but most especially when travelling to other cities. In my experience, I found that conversing with Palestinians in even broken Arabic goes a long way and so learning Arabic was also a great way to indirectly connect with the people around me.

My living arrangement was very well-organized. I was living in an apartment belonging to the host family, who lived on the floor above me. This allowed for regular interaction with the family, and their wonderful kids but also meant I could have my privacy whenever I wanted it. It was always such great fun to come home from work and play around with the family kids whenever they were outside – not many spoke English which made things even more fun! I was always welcomed into their home, and was never allowed to leave until I had at least 3 cups of tea. They were really caring towards me, and were always ready to help out with anything I might have needed. Its one thing working in Palestine, but it is another thing entirely to live with a Palestinian family, and I cannot recommend it enough.

I absolutely loved my time in Palestine; so much so that I don’t want to go home! The warmth of the people, the beauty of the surrounding areas and the richness of the culture and history have all allowed me to develop a special love for Palestine. There is just so much that isn’t said about this area, and so much of what is said just isn’t true. Every day brings with it a new adventure: either a new story, a new area visited, or new food to taste. Every city brings its own charm and character. There is just so much more to Palestine than I had ever imagined, and I absolutely loved that.

Iram
Female
44 years old
Brisbane Australia
University of Southern Queensland

Iram Khan and Arshad Nomani (Australia) Volunteer and Learn Arabic Program

Overall 10

Palestine – A Precious Experience

By Iram and Arshad

Palestine has always been the centre of history and politics for centuries. Arshad and Me, live in Australia and like most couples dreamed of travelling to see historical sites around the world. We decided to start our journey with Palestine and after spending nearly four week here, it’s hard for us to say goodbye to the wonderful people and the lovely places of Palestine. The smell of freshly baked bread, zaatar and olives each morning, the busy streets filled with cheerful faces ready to take on the day, the smell of coffee of the cool wintery mornings, all of these sounds and smells will be treasured in our memories.
The people of Palestine need no introduction. They are one of the most resilient and hard working people who are humble, loving and affectionate. Every elderly lady we met blessed us, every young person we came across cherished our company and every child we taught, thanked us. We believe that Palestinians are gracious people who honour their guests more than anything.

During our stay in Palestine, we conducted a range of workshops. From young school students of grade 6 to high school students we taught children in classroom settings and taught them creative writing. Various strategies like Think, Pair and Share, Cooperative Learning, Joint Construction of Text, Modelled and Guided Writing etc were used throughout the series of workshops. A variety of games were introduced to enhance the listening and conversational skills amongst the students. Another series of workshops was conducted that targeted the written communication skills of students from various Universities. They attended workshops that helped them in preparing for their Resume’ and job interviews. These were essential skills for students who were preparing for potential job opportunities.

During our weekends we travelled to Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho and some other small towns and villages. We spent most of our time in Hebron. The scenery around Palestine is breathtakingly beautiful. The magnificence of the green orchards of Grapes, Dates, Olives and Mangoes, the hilly terrains and the vast plains are almost indescribable. Besides visiting the many historical and religious sites, we loved travelling through the country because of the rich culture, simplicity and hospitality of the people.
There are two sides to all Palestinians. On one hand we found them as very generous and kind and on the other hand, they are resilient and determined. The love for gaining knowledge is admirable.

During the various conversations we had with students at Excellence Centre, I found that each student strives to excel academically and grabs any opportunity that is offered, to work hard and achieve their goals. Excellence Centre helps to make students’ dreams come true through their Learn English Program. Different levels of English courses offered at the Centre, provide different paces of learning.

The volunteers at the Excellence Centre are given the opportunity to learn Arabic to completely immerse in the culture. We had Arabic lessons at least 3 times a week with an excellent teacher who helped us to learn conversational Arabic. We completed a starter level course and were able to make simple conversation in Arabic language. The staff and administrators of the centre are very friendly and accommodating. They always display professionalism and hospitality towards their teachers and volunteers. The centre was a home away from home for us and we built lifelong friendships with all staff and most of the students we came in contact with. The positive environment around the centre is its key to success.

The local delicacies were too good to be missed. The food here is prepared fresh and tastes amazing. Maklube, Mansaf, Kebabs, Felafel, Baklava and Khunaifa are the best delicacies and desserts cooked here. The city is full of affordable restaurants and food kiosks, that left us spoilt for choice.

It is important to mention that our host family was the friendliest and full of generosity for us. They looked after us like their own family and treated us to the most delicious home cooked meals. Their love and warmth kept us upbeat and excited each day. They shared their home and their extended family with us and each night we looked forward to the discussions over tea and coffee. We feel indebted to them.

Our experience in Palestine has been one that is hard to put on paper. The true experience will be in our dreams and memories. Our heart is heavy as we say goodbye to this beautiful land and even more beautiful people. Palestine is not what is portrayed in the media. Its streets are full of life and colour. The hustle and bustle of the old city is an experience that you can only have when you walk through the small cobbled streets, children playing on the streets, taxis passing through unimaginably tiny spaces and women chattering away on their way to the market, you often wonder if this is the Palestine you were afraid to visit.

A sigh of relief goes through my heart when I think of the day that we decided to visit Palestine. Indeed, it was a decision that I will gladly make again.

Provider Response

Dear Iram and Arshad,

Thank you so much for leaving a review. We will never forget you guys. You did an amazing work with Center. Thank you for being super nice with everyone at the Excellence Center.

We wish you all the best and we hope to see you soon in Palestine.

Salam our sister Iram and our brother Arshad
EC team

Sara
Female
23 years old
London, United Kingdom

Volunteer Teacher Experience

Overall 10

Sara Amin
London, United Kingdom
Currently pursuing BA History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies

My time in Palestine has been the most life-changing period I've been fortunate enough to experience. I had no expectations for my time in Palestine, I've been exposed to the culture and the conflict in a way I didn't expect to in that it's been entirely safe for me to live here but also available as a source to explore the kind of situation local Palestinians experience on a daily basis.
My host family have been a valuable asset to my experience here. Living in the tumultuous area of Tel Rumeida, where Palestinians live on the periphery of H2, could have been a much tougher experience had it not been for the comfort and security of my host family, who allowed me to experience what they do on a daily basis within the extent of safety. They were extremely kind, and made me feel at home instantly, which was an important part of my temporary integration into Palestinian life.
A typical day in Hebron for me would consist of walking down Tel Rumeida to the infamous Shuhada checkpoint and Bab-Azoui, where I would either walk or catch a taxi through the city Center to the Excellence Center on Ein Sara Street. Depending on what was planned that day, a typical day could range from teaching for a couple of hours and attending a wedding in the evening with your host family, or taking trips with the Center to some important local sites such as Al Fwarr refugee camp.
One of my favourite aspects of the stay here in Palestine have been all the warm and welcoming people I've been so fortunate enough to spend my time with and make each day a thorough experience. I felt rooted from the moment I arrived and I truly feel that this helped me in the way that I communicated with the students here at the Center. Feeling at home is such an important aspect of how you go on to interact with others and I feel this was the biggest factor in my success here.
I'm not a native Arabic speaker either and so I was worried that this would hinder my ability to feel at home here in Palestine. Fortunately I experienced the complete opposite, the sheer effort the students put into learning English is beyond encouraging in my efforts to learn Arabic, and everyone I met was more than willing to help me along.
I was able to see other cities in Palestine, but Hebron will always mean much more to me than anywhere else I may stay in the future. It has a distinctive atmosphere, a distinctive set of people and I can't imagine anywhere else I would have wanted to spend this month. It has truly been the best experience I've had, and I'll keep an encapsulated memory of this city forever.

Sara Amin

How can this program be improved?

Better communication with the host families.
Decrease of fees for volunteers.

Maud
Female
23 years old
France

My unforgettable experience at the Excellence Center

Overall 10

Coming to volunteer in Palestine this summer turned out to be an obvious choice for me. I was wishing to truly rediscover this country through its culture and everyday life by staying in a Palestinian host family. But more than anything, I wanted to give my time and energy to the Palestinian community which had been so welcoming and generous with me during my previous journeys in the country. And obviously, when you are aware of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and its consequences on the Palestinian daily life, you can’t remain inactive. To me, education, and more precisely English teaching, was the best thing I could offer to the Palestinian youth because it is giving them the tools to succeed in the future. It is why I chose to volunteer, as an English teacher, at the Excellence Center in Hebron for one month and a half during my summer holidays. I will never regret this choice, it was a unique and unforgettable experience in which I learned much more than I could ever have expected. My stay here was extraordinary in all its aspects.

First of all, working in Excellence Center was professionally excessively interesting. I learned about interactive teaching methods through short trainings but mainly by observing Palestinian teachers and practicing right after my arrival at the Center. My teaching experiences were very varied. I taught students of different levels (starters, beginners and intermediates), I was either a teacher assistant or, most of the time, the main teacher with one or two other volunteers. I had recurrent classes with allowed me to get to know the students well but I also took part in CV and job interview day-trainings with university students. During the regular classes we followed lessons of the class materials but the meetings were mainly based on experience and interactive activities such as games, conversations, food days, presentations, debates or tours in the Old City of Hebron. All the activities were thought in order to improve the students ‘confidence and create a family atmosphere in which both children and young adults would feel confident to exercise their English orally. The more they felt self-assured, the more they spoke and the more they improved their conversational English, accent and vocabulary. It was a pleasure for me to teach using these methods as I totally agree with the Center ‘values and conception of education. In addition, it was a privilege to work in these conditions: the classes were small (not more than 15 students) and the students very motivated by the fact that the Center is an independent structure from their school, in which they all get importance and recognition.

Secondly, my stay in Palestine was humanly extremely rich. The Excellence Center is very professional and at the same time a big family. It is a small structure in which everybody knows each other. The staff knew how to build this cohesion between all the members and foreign volunteers by organizing unforgettable trips, as a night in the village of Susya, where we experienced the Bedouin life-style. This good atmosphere in the Center allowed us to get along well with each other in teaching the students. The communication and goodwill between us was a necessary basis for teaching together and improving our skills. And obviously, sharing good and fun moments with all the staff was part of the amazing experiences of my stay in Hebron. Furthermore, I had the feeling that Excellence Center trusted me. Rafat gave me the necessary tools to teach and then let me act with my ideas and creativity as long as I would follow the Center‘s way of teaching. I felt very useful and free in the teaching. My experiences with the students were unforgettable. They all showed me intense motivation to learn English and nothing was more grateful to me than seeing them interested, implicated and improving their language. Teaching conversational English gave me the opportunity to converse a lot with them, to learn about their daily lives, relation to religion, feelings towards occupation and hopes for an independent Palestinian state. They were also very curious about international volunteers and wanted to know more about us, it was an incredible cultural and human exchange. The Excellence Center, through many trips, was willing to show us the hard living conditions Palestinians face every day due to occupation. I was profoundly touched to see these difficulties from the inside, for instance, in Al-Fawar Refugee Camp, the village of Susya or the Old City of Hebron. But faced with these situations, I was very contented to be with the Excellence Center. Indeed, as volunteers, we were not in the position of passive tourists passively observing these conditions but actually taking part in the efforts to help the community of Hebron.

Finally, staying in a Palestinian host family was one of the richest experiences of my life. I could not be more immersed in the Palestinian culture and everyday life. The parents and children really considered me as a member of their family and were very protective which made me feel always safe. I was cooking ‘khobez’ and Palestinian sweets with my host mother, playing football with the boys and other kids of the village, I celebrated Eid Al-Iftar in a big family gathering and visited the Old City of Bethlehem with them. I learned to communicate despite the language barrier, even though the Arabic classes I was attending at the Center helped a lot. All my life I will remember these long hours spent on the rooftop with the family at night time when the weather was cooler, sharing tea, great discussions and guitar songs.

Volunteering in Palestine and more precisely working at the Excellence Center was an extraordinary give and take experience. I learned about formal and conversational English teaching and that improving the student’s confidence in English was the best way to make them get better. Obviously I improved my own English level. But the confidence of the Excellence Center ‘staff and the recognition & thanks of the students were the best immaterial gifts I could receive as a teacher. All the generous and welcoming people I met, especially in the Center and my host family, considered me as a part of their group and at the end of my stay in Hebron, I did not feel like a stranger anymore. I truly hope that the teaching and motivation that I brought to the Center were up to all the things I received here. I had the profound willingness to help the Palestinian youth community which represents the future hopes of Palestine. I will surely come back to visit all the new friends I made here and to discover even more about this fascinating country and its people.

How can this program be improved?

This program was perfect in every way, it was so rich and intense.
I thought maybe international volunteers could pay less money to Excellence Center because of the fact that they work for free and families don't receive more than 60 dollars per month from Excellence Center. But I was happy to contribute finacially to the center because it's an amazing organization with amazing projects and values !

Jim
Male
65 years old
Bryant Pond, Maine, USA

An Excellent Environment for Learning Arabic and Teaching English

Overall 10

My experience with the Excellence Center has been very gratifying and enjoyable. The program is well designed to provide the maximum learning and growing experience for the students, volunteers and staff. The Center provides a warm, comfortable and caring environment to allow for very productive learning and sharing.
The key to the program is their approach to be supportive and caring about each individual and meet them at whatever level they are on. This is true whether the student is a basic beginner or is very fluent in English or Arabic. All of the supportive and constructive comments encourage the students and volunteers to grow. All the warmth and laughter adds to the positive energy found at the Center. Shokrn and Hayak Allah to Rafat and the staff for creating the momtaz learning environment.
The Arabic lesson and assisting with English classes have helped me to grow in a gradual step-by-step manner from observing in a class, to participating and leading discussions on a wide range of topics. This has allowed me to grow in my ability to teach English Language Learners and has also given me a chance to learn about the culture and lives of Palestinians. The Excellence Center has also been most helpful in arranging the program, Getting Involved With Science”, that I presented to students and teachers of Hebron.
Not only has the Excellence Center provided me the opportunity to grow as an English teacher, but hey have also helped me develop my learning of Arabic. The long lesson I had provided me with excellent instructions and materials at my level of knowledge. Beyond the class the staff encouraged me to speak and respond to Arabic throughout the everyday activities at the Center. This has been a very good learning experience and my knowledge and understanding of Arabic has grown even though I have only been here for a very short time.
The Center has also provided trips and activities that have broadened my experience of Arabic and world cultures. Bringing in volunteers from all over the world has provided a rich sharing environment. Discussions in lessons, and even coffee and tea breaks become a valuable forum for intercultural sharing and understanding. The Center has also taken me on trips to the local area from the refugee settlement to the homes of many Palestinians that has opened my eyes to their rich and proud culture.
Lastly the Excellence Center has provided comfortable accommodations with caring assistance for anything I needed to live and thrive. They have been most helpful and given me personal attention whenever I needed assistance in areas as varied as transportation, personal needs, and the material I needed for my workshop. Thanks so much (Shokrn Jazeelan) for a wonderful learning environment and complete lessons on culture, teaching, and Arabic. I look forward to keeping in touch and supporting your program in the future.

Carmen
Female
24 years old
Madrid, Spain

Palestine, of course!

Overall 7

Ok, let's be honest, at first I was a little nervous. While I was on the plane I couldn't stop thinking about what would I be doing, with who would I live, will I enjoy the experience or will I regret it.
Stepping out of the airport only increased my nervousness: will I make it to Hebron in one piece?
But once I did, my nerves went away. In the middle of the blistering heat of the Palestinian summer, I arrived at the Excellence Center at midday and I immediately got caught in the hustle and bustle of its activities.
From the classes to the different visits and excursions, there was not a minute to rest. I particularly enjoyed the classes that were more focused on conversation because they provided the students with an opportunity to speak up their minds and ask questions about foreign countries while allowing us foreigners to learn more about Palestine and its culture. However, it was also especially rewarding for me to see the improvements of starters and beginners, to be able to witness their first steps in the English language and how quick they learned. But above all, my favourite activities were the food days: I love cooking so I took great pleasure in talking to the students about traditional Spanish dishes and explaining them how to prepared them and it was also very enriching to learn from them about typical Palestinian food.
Additionally, I enjoyed the visits to the kufiyyah and the glass & ceramic factories, because we got to see first hand how these traditional Palestinian goods are made at the local community. However, probably one of the most interesting excursions we did in my opinion was the trip to Susya. At the end of the trip I got asked if I liked it. My answer was no. So why was it that interesting? Susya for me was the materialization of the struggles of the Palestinians, the incarnation of the occupation and it was shocking for me to see the differences between the nicely built house of Israeli settlement and the unsteady tents of the Palestinian village. And I am glad that I got to see it.
Moreover, during my time here I got the chance to learn a little bit of Arabic, of course not enough to actually communicate but surely sufficient to greet people and have very basic and polite conversations. This small introduction to Arabic language has for sure kindled the flame and now I am eager and exited to continue learning the language once I am back home.
But probably the most remarkable thing about the Center is not the center itself or the activities we get to do, but the people we meet. The students and the teachers, the staff and the volunteers, all together around the kitchen table create a great environment that surely makes everybody feel at home. I am very grateful to all the people I met, because on one way or another they have contributed to my experience unique and I got a chance to learn from all kinds of different things. Above all, I cannot imagine the Center without Mohammad Saleh Tamimi, general manager of the organization and one of the most interesting people I got the chance to meet.
And finally, what to say about my host family? With them I have discovered the ins and outs of the Palestinian culture, learned about its traditions and its tastes, seen and experienced them. From the first moment to the last, the have treated me nicely and have always worried and cared about me, about my comfort and well-being. In just one month, they have become like a second family to me and I will most definitely miss them dearly.
So, all in all, despite all the initial nervousness, now that it is time for me to leave my only regret is not staying longer. Did I enjoy the experience? The only possible answer is OF COURSE! Would I recommend it to somebody else? Of course!
Will I be coming back? Of course again, insha’Allah.

Daan
Male
22 years old
Groningen, Groningen

Contributing to Palestinian society while learning

Overall 9

When I got to Palestine with my girlfriend, we did not know what to expect. The picture of Palestine in the mainstream media is pretty clear, and we did not know anyone there to verify the contrary. However, when we entered into Palestine, we immideately felt the warm and welcoming culture that was awaiting us behind the huge seperation wall.

If you're looking to be able to add something to the Palestinian society while visiting, teaching is in my opinion the way to go. In various institutions, including the Excellence Center, you get the opportunity to spread your knowledge about the global language to people who need to be able to voice their objections to the current situation.

While doing this, you get to know people living there, and you will be submerged in the Palestinian way of life. There is no issue of you living in a so called 'bubble', because you experience everything first-hand and with or through Palestinians. Of course, there are other volunteers with whom you will end up spending time, but this is easily combined with socializing with locals.

All in all, I am very,very happy I have had this experience and wish I could come again next year. Come to think of it: maybe I will!

Patrick
Male
23 years old
Amsterdam

My Experience Center at the Excellence Center

Overall 10

I arrived in Palestine at 9 in the morning on the 28th June after a sleepless night full of travelling. I didn't really have the energy to appreciate my first sight of the country during the trip from the airport to Hebron or reflect upon my expectations of my time in here for the next two months. However, after a good sleep at my accommodation in the city of Hebron I was ready for it.

I decided to volunteer in Palestine for a number of reasons. Firstly, I come from Northern Ireland a place that has shared similar experiences with Palestine. In my city of Belfast Palestinian flags can be seen flying in certain areas in solidarity with the Palestinian people. This was something that was present in my life for years and built it built a connection to Palestine for me before I had even visited. Secondly, I am a student of Politics and History. Therefore, Palestine is a region of the world that clearly holds a lot of interest for me as a place that is steeped in history and rages with a number of major political issues. I have studied the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in detail both in formal education and of my own accord. I realized that I can read and research as much as I want about Palestine but would I really know the country unless I actually went there? In my opinion experience often trumps knowledge and therefore I made the decision to gain that experience. I didn't want to go to Palestine to rage against the Occupation, to march and protest. Rather, my main goal was to simply live in Palestine, let Palestinian daily life become my daily life and through this be I would be able to experience to a certain degree life under the Occupation and to meet regular Palestinians, see what their life is like and what their opinions are.

My volunteering would consist of teaching English at the Excellence Center in the city of Hebron. I would work here every day of the week except Friday and one other day of my choosing for 4-8 hours usually. My responsibilities would include assisting Palestinian teachers teach their classes as well as leading classes myself usually with the help of another international volunteer. I enjoyed this aspect of my stay in Palestine as through this I was able to meet a great deal of Palestinians and a lot of the time the English classes I taught would lead to discussions about a great range of issues which were very interesting to me as I was able to hear a variety of opinions on many matters.

As an international volunteer teaching English the Excellence Center also provided me with 3 hours of Arabic lessons a week. These I enjoyed immensely as I was very enthusiastic to learn some Arabic. I only wish there were more hours in the day so that I could teach English and learn even more Arabic. The great thing was that living in Palestine I was able to practice any Arabic I learned by the very fact that I was in Palestine surrounded by Palestinians speaking Arabic. This is, I think, the best way to learn a foreign language. Before coming to Palestine I knew absolutely no Arabic and now by the end of my stay here I am satisfied by the Arabic that I have learnt and am very pleased that I have learned to read and write in the language. I hope to continue practicing the skills I have learnt here.
Living in Hebron for two months was a great experience. From the very first I felt warmly welcomed. When I arrived it was Ramadan and so everyone was fasting during the hours of sunlight. Though not Muslim myself I decided to fast alongside them and though difficult at times I am glad I did it as when the sun went down I was invited to many iftars (breaking of fast)and was able to enjoy them as much as much as my fellow fasters. The Excellence Center itself also provided me with a warm and welcoming atmosphere. All the staff, teachers and volunteers at the Center were what really made my stay in Palestine a great experience. The atmosphere was fun and congenial and this is something extremely valuable and important when doing something such as this volunteer programme. The Excellence Center also organizes excursions for its volunteers so that they can get to know Hebron and its surroundings better. I enjoyed these because they were usually very interesting and informative to me. I especially liked seeing the refugee camp near Hebron as well as touring the old city of Hebron itself but most of all I enjoyed the trip we took for a day and night to the village of Susiya in the desert south of Hebron.

As this was my first time in Palestine one of the things I of course wanted to do was travel and to see as much of Palestine as I could. I am pleased at the success of this objective. During the two months I was here I was able to make use of the Friday and other day off I had from volunteering at the Center to explore the beautiful country that is Palestine. From lying by the Mediterranean Sea at Jaffa, to climbing the hills of Nablus, to exploring the Old City of Jerusalem there was always something I was doing in Palestine. Travelling was a great joy during my stay here as Palestine is a place full of history and beautiful things to see and do. Even sitting in the transport as I moved across the country was a pleasure, just to be able sit and look out at the gorgeous scenery .

After two months now volunteering at the Excellence Center my stay has come to an end and I must leave Hebron and Palestine. My experience has been invaluable and I will look back with fondness at my time here as well as sadness that I had to leave. Palestine has proven to be an extremely beautiful and welcoming place to the volunteer and traveler. Though the sites of Palestine are wonderful and I am very glad I have had the opportunity to see them, it is the people here that I have met that I will miss the most, those who made me feel right at home in this country. My stay here is over and I must leave but I hope that it is only a temporary departure and that I can return in the very near future. Inshallah.

Eve
Female
32 years old
Hungary

Experience letter

Overall 7

I was looking at the Excellence Center site for a long time, but it turned out to be a sudden decision to come to volunteer here after a completing a course in Jordan. I’ve been studying Arabic for several years, and I also studied Religious studies, and Peace and Conflict studies. Therefore, my choice of volunteering here had multiple purposes. I really wanted to help Palestinian people in some kind of way, and of course, to learn about the life over here, and the diverse views of the people. Not to mention, I plan to work with NGOs in the future, and even in case it doesn’t happen to be in the Middle East this experience will help me to gain insight into the life of an organization and develop my personal skills too.
Even though I have been here for such a short time—only two weeks—I believe I gained a unique insight into the life of Palestinians and their views. I have learned a lot through volunteering and practicing conversation with the students, both from about their point of view, and about my own weaknesses and strengths, all of which has helped me to advance.
Students and people in general greatly appreciated that I spoke some Arabic, which helped me to gain self-confidence and develop my language skills. Not to mention the experience of staying with a Palestinian host family, experiencing the life they live, and having interesting conversations while practicing the Arabic language was all very beneficial to me. As with my knowledge of the language, previous knowledge about the culture and religion were highly appreciated, and helped with the conversations.
Small classes, and often working together in the classes with other more experienced volunteers facilitate your work even if it’s your first time. When students found me to be too shy, or to be speaking too low during my first real conversation class, instead of criticizing me, they gave me a kind feedback immediately and encouraged me. Therefore, we were helping and teaching each other on the same level, which will be very useful for my future work.
Throughout the Excellence Center we had the opportunity to visit various places;places that, as a tourist, are highly unlikely to be visited. Even if some of the visits did not have the same information as they would with a tour guide, it was still very informative. For instance, in al-Fawwar refugee camp we had the chance to learn about the stories of people living there, and the work of the UN and Israelis as well. People working in the center have been very helpful and generous, often helping me even when it wasn't part of their duties, like giving me a tour in the old city of Hebron and the Ibrahimi mosque.
Working here is more like being part of a big family and getting friendly guidance; it’s not too formal. I have made many friends, and got to know many interesting people from all around the world.
If someone is interested in the Middle East or Arabic from an academic point of view, I think Palestine is the best choice. I have been to other Middle Eastern countries, and according to what I have experienced, Palestinians are very interested in education, and it’s easy to find academic bookstores for both English and Arabic books.
Palestine is very different from what one would expect from the news. It is modern, yet extremely rich in history and traditions, safe, and despite all the conflicts and difficulties people are very friendly and calm. At the same time, experiencing the old town of Hebron personally and learning about its past and current history is something that no news or stories of other people can transmit completely.
I would highly recommend for everyone to come here and volunteer, may this be their first step to learn about the Middle East and Palestine, or an additional experience to their previous ones, or their studies.

Stine
Female
Bergen, Norway
Other

Volunteering in Palestine

Overall 9

I stayed with the Excellence Center for five weeks this summer, the first three weeks I studied Arabic and for the last two i volunteered as an English teacher. In my experience, it was good to start of with an Arabic course because then it was easier to communicate with the students while volunteering. But you really dont need to have any previous knowledge of the Arabic language to teach English at the Excellence Center. Most of the time, i had an Arabic speaking teacher with me in class, who could translate and explain if there were any communication problems between me and the students. Most of the students were between the age of 10 and 25, and it has been a pleasure teaching them. There are also many different levels of english courses, from beginners to advanced classes.

Staying in Palestine and studying and volunteering at the Excellence Center has been an incredible experience. I've lived with the most wonderful host family, and they have taught me how to cook Palestinian food, they've showed me the city of Hebron and other cities in Palestine. Staying with a host family has also given me the opportunity to practice my Arabic and to get a glimpse into the daily life of a Palestinian family.

During my stay in Hebron, I've gotten to know many of the locals and also other internationals at the center. The staff at the center have arranged many trips and excursions fo the internationals, for example to the old city of Hebron, Susya, and other sites.

I want to add that I've experienced my stay in Hebron as very safe. This was the first time I've travelled alone, and before I left home i was a bit worried about wheter or not i would have any problems during my trip. However, when i got to Hebron there was never a moment where i was worried for my own safety. The staff at the center are always willing to help if there should be any problems, and I've also felt very safe while staying whith my host family.

I would absolutely recomend volunteering with the Excellence Center. Wheter or not you are an experienced or unexperienced traveler, a native or non-native speaker of English, and no matter if you have any knowledge of Arabic, I'm sure you will enjoy your stay and you will be able to contribute. At least I did. I can't wait to go back!

Ines
Female
23 years old
Haarlem, Holland

A way to experience the real West Bank

Overall 8

If I would have to advice anyone that wants to go overseas and experience the Arab culture (and politics & religion if interested) without interference of the media, I would definitely recommend to join this program.

I came here with my boyfriend, which was difficult to explain to the people in Hebron. However, if you explain it in a way that sounds as an engagement it is easier. My idea of Palestine before I arrived was more or less the one that is shown in the media; lots of unrest and aggression. I thought, especially as a woman, I had to be very careful and would be restricted from walking alone. Little did I know my only fear in the city would be the traffic (which you get used to after some days).
People will stare at you and say welcome or something alike, simply because they are not used to foreigners. In no way did I feel offended being a woman not wearing a headscarf. Of course you should not walk in hotpants and a crop top, wear proper clothes as it is a sign of respect to their culture too. I was able to take taxis on my own even in the evening and to walk by myself.

My boyfriend and I were proposed to be separated to both have a different experience of the program. We agreed to this because we were curious and the distance between us was not that far, maybe 15 minutes by taxi. I was placed in a host family in Dura, a small city next to Hebron. The center were I would teach was also located here. I had a wonderful host brother of the same age who was very fluent in English. He showed us around and introduced us to Palestinians of our age, very interesting as we experienced how different and at the same time similar our lives were. Furthermore I was introduced to the delicious food, I am still missing this.

At the center I got to teach a class that had level 3 in English, this means that they spoke already quite some English. As my Arabic was not sufficient, this was the best option to be able to communicate well enough. My main aim was to practice conversational English. Meaning I focused more on speaking than on writing. My class was so motivated and ambitious, they were very eager to speak. They loved to have debates, so that is what we often did. In the end we did presentations about a topic they liked. Not only did they learn from these classes, I also learned a lot from them and their life here. I felt like my students were really open minded and accepted me the way I lived. I was invited multiple times to peoples home for dinner or tea. My last class is a day I will never forget, they prepared an entire food table and gave me gifts and cards with nice words. Also the staff at the center was so friendly and helpful. This center was smaller than in Hebron, I believe that that is part of the reason I had such a good connection with the students and the staff. Although the classrooms could have some improvement like more chairs, new blackboards and airconditioning (imagine studying with 38 degrees), the students and staff were optimistic and did their best to make te best of what was available to them.

In my free time we had many options to travel. My boyfriend and I travelled to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, the Dead Sea, Tiberius and Ramallah during our time at the centers. Sometimes we travelled with other volunteers or my host brother. The program is very flexible and the staff is happy to help you plan trips. The center also organizes trips to for example refugee camps, small villages and other cities, do not miss those as they are very interesting and they get you to places you wouldn't be able to visit without locals.
At both centers you are always invited for coffee or tea, and often some food. Everyone is open and welcoming, in my opinion the atmosphere was great all the time.

I am very grateful for this experience and hope it helps you to make your choice. I had the best time with the Palestinians, the other volunteers and in the country itself. I really hope to come back to this place.

How can this program be improved?

Be prepared that people are not punctual, and that an organized schedule is not a priority. Part of the reason for this is the uncertainty due traffic and sometimes the checkpoints or other restrictions by the occupation. Don't try to plan too much, as going with the flow is a better attitude in this culture. However all this can always be a point of improvement for the program of course.

Iris سوسن
Female
35 years old
Australia
University of Melbourne

I lost my heart to Hebron

Overall 9

This was my very first time visiting Palestine. I wasn’t completely sure of what to expect of my visit. However, I did know not to trust the Israeli / Western narrative that depicts the Palestinian people in, let’s say, a not very flattering manner. My encounter with Palestinians overseas has always been positive so I sort of expected “more of that”.

I wanted to visit Palestine for several reasons. First of all, having studied Modern Standard Arabic for two and a half years prior to my visit, I had a very strong desire to improve my spoken Arabic - in particular the Levantine dialect. Secondly, being a person with a strong sense of justice I felt drawn to the country that embodies the possibly strongest symbol of injustice in our world today. Thirdly, as a language teacher I wanted to offer my English skills to the many brilliant and eager Palestinian students at the Excellence Center. Last but not least, I wanted to experience the real Palestinian culture through my host family, colleagues, and new friends.

I had decided to travel through Jordan, as I also wanted to meet some friends living in Amman on my way to Palestine. The driver who picked me up from the airport turned out to be Palestinian from Hebron, and he thus made sure to tell me about all the wonderful foods I needed to try when I got to his hometown - especially the grapes! He also told me that I was very lucky to visit Palestine as he was denied entry and had not seen his country nor city in years.

At the hotel I furthermore befriended two young Palestinian guys. One from Jerusalem and one from Hebron. Even before they knew that I was traveling to Palestine they were already offering me nuts and sweets while we were sitting on the rooftop of the hotel. When they learned about my destination we obviously quickly bonded and they offered to show me around their cities and meet their families. They straight away expressed concern that I was going to travel through the checkpoint on my own, and made me promise to let them know when I had arrived at my destination safely.

Based on several firsthand accounts from friends and colleagues I expected the worst from the checkpoint (King Hussein Bridge). The Israelis were not as ruthless as I had expected however, I was questioned over and over again for about 5 hours between long waits. I was literally asked the same 3 questions again and again: “why are you here”, “where will you be staying”, and “for how long”. Not the type of questions you’d find out of the ordinary to be met with at a border except that the Israelis either didn’t believe what you said or didn’t like your response. In my case they did not particularly like my response. Especially the combination of me studying Arabic combined with the fact that I was staying in Hebron - and only for a week. After providing my story to about ten different IDF soldiers – some more accommodating than others – they finally let me into Palestine but limiting my visa to only give me access to Palestinian territories and only for exactly a week. So long visiting Jerusalem and al-Aqsa!! (not happy…)

After a short bus ride from the checkpoint to Jericho (and nearly forgetting my camera on the bus..), I was met my a swarm of taxi drivers who all wanted to take me to my destination. They were all very friendly however, it was a bit overwhelming having about 8-10 people all trying to communicate with you at once in Arabic. Now, although my formal Arabic was quite all right, my colloquial Arabic was weaker than 5 year-old native speaker so I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. Suddenly, a young man who was sitting next to me on the bus (and who kindly reminded me to grab my camera when we disembarked) was standing next to me. He had overheard that I was going to Hebron. Apparently, he lived in Hebron and he insisted on taking me there. The discussion amongst the taxi drivers was getting a little bit too heated for my liking so I decided to accept his offer and drive with him and his family to Hebron (I should add here that I usually would never get into a car with strangers however in this case he turned out to know the manager of the center and also his family was there so I felt very safe). This gesture would be my first taste of the amazing hospitality of the Palestinian people and especially the good people of Hebron.

The drive from the checkpoint to Hebron did not take too long – perhaps just a couple of hours. During this ride it was interesting to see how the atmosphere in the car would change according to where we were driving. For example, the first stretch was patrolled by Israelis and thus we were all quiet, wearing seat belts and trying not to draw too much attention to ourselves. As soon as we entered a pure Palestinian area the seat belts came flying off, windows were rolled down, cigarettes were lit, music was played, and people started chatting and laughing.

When we arrived to Hebron I was invited to the young man’s family’s house. Here I was met and greeted by the entire family and provided with juice, tea, coffee, cake, fruits, and wonderful company. Mind you, this was not even my host family and they were still so excited about me being there.

After a while, the manager of the center, Rafat, came to fetch me and took me to the center, where I met a handful of the other internationals for a delicious dinner on the rooftop. After that I met my host family, a lovely young couple who recently had a little baby boy, and I got settled in to my room which, I shared with a young German girl.

Throughout the week I would usually be at the center between 9 and 10am. Rafat would bring us all breakfast which consisted of delicious local dishes such as hummus, foul, mutabbal, etc. After breakfast, I would spend most of the day assisting the local teachers in their classes, carrying out examinations of students, and helping out with different ad hoc tasks. I also received some one-on-one classes in the local dialect, which I found extremely nice – halwa ktir ktir! The staff were great, I bonded with everyone instantly and everyone was like a big family. I will be missing them all greatly until we meet again. My favorite part of the day was without a doubt teaching English to the kids (10-14 year olds). These kids were amazing! They were switched on, cheeky, and eager to learn. At the same time they were well mannered and disciplined. They possessed an amazing sense of humor and had big dreams for themselves, their people, and their country.

I would spend every evening in the company of either my host family or some of my many new friends – locals and internationals. It was strange that my friends and family overseas expressed a fair bit of concern, prior to my departure, about me traveling to Palestine. However, I had not at any time felt unsafe during my stay in Palestine in the hands of Palestinians. On the contrary, Palestine - or more specifically - Hebron is probably the one place in the world I have visited (and I’ve done a fair bit of traveling) where I’ve felt the safest! As a visitor you are constantly welcomed, looked after, and exposed to the overwhelming hospitality of the Palestinians.

I loved hanging out in the old city, exploring the old souq, and just getting lost in the sights and sounds of the city. Not so much for the shopping (although shopping was pretty good here I must say) but more to just absorb the buzzing atmosphere and to observe people as they carried out their daily activities. Perhaps I enjoyed watching Palestinians go about their day in spite of the tightened restrictions of the movement of Palestinians since the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994 that forced them to close their vegetable and meat markets, and banned Palestinian cars on Al-Shuhada Street. Moreover, perhaps I enjoyed seeing that injustice will never prevail and that life itself is a beautiful form of resistance to those who try to silence you as to diminish your existence. This resistance is among others manifested in the new generation’s desire to learn English. The desire to let their voices be heard, understood, and respected by the world. During the oral examination of a young university student I asked her to give me an example of a Palestinian success story. She replied: “To me, every Palestinian is a success story!”. I told her I couldn’t have put it better myself… Then I high-fived her!!

على هذه الأرض ما يستحقّ الحياة: على هذه الأرض سيدةُ”
الأرض، أمّ البدايات أمّ النهايات. كانت تسمى فلسطين. صارت
“تسمى فلسطين. سيدتي: أستحقّ، لأنك سيدتي، أستحقّ الحياة

“On this earth what makes life worth living: on this earth is the Lady of Earth, the mother of beginnings, the mother of endings. She was called Palestine. She came to be called Palestine. My lady: I am worthy, because you are my lady, I am worthy of life.”

–Mahmoud Darwish

Emmy
Female
22 years old
Hebron, Palestine
Other

See ya habibi

Overall 9

My name is Emmy and I am a 20 year-old Science of Religion student. I am orginately from Amsterdam, Holland and this is my experience as a volunteer in Palestine.
The moment I decided to participate in The Excellence Center project of volunteering I didn’t realise where I was going. The only news we heard in Europe about Palestine was dramatic; a war zone that was difficult to access and habited by terrorists.
The reason for me to take part in this project was that I already had a certain opinion about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian population. My studies leadme to analyse the situation. Also I havealways been repulsed by what the Jewish people had to face during the Second World War. Not necessarily because I chose a side, but because it was a reality of disrespecting the human condition. The situation of the Palestinians is easily comparable to the past of the Jews in the way that they are treated in daily life.
The truth is far from what I was expecting it to be. I was expecting a country in continuous pain, where the habitants were locked up in their houses and where life has essentially stopped. Actually what I saw in Palestine was an incomparable sense of hospitality which I have never experienced before. The family who was hosting me, their family, friends and staff member welcomed me warmly.
I tasted the most flavorful dishes, fruits and vegetables. I was also mesmerised by the parties for graduations and birthdays where good food and laughter were shared. The Arabic music and dancequickly became one of my favourite parts of the culture.
But the reason of my stay in Palestine was mostly to teach English at the Excellence Center. I can assure that I learned much more from my students than the other way around. The struggle to succeed and to use their studies in real life inspired me. I realised how lucky I was with my freedom and to have the constant opportunity to choose. Not only as a young adult but also as a woman. Thanks to my students, this life experience hastaught me how to appreciate what I have and to enjoy the moment.
Before coming to the Excellence Center I had no experience whatsoever in teaching nor pedagogical activities. I honestly was nervous on my first day beacause I thought, “Wait a minute. This is not for me. I cannot do this”. But I also learned that making mistakes doesn’t mean to fail, but to put a step forward because you give yourself the opputunity to improve. Teaching at the Excellence Center was a great experience. What I liked the most was the interaction and contact with the students. Also, being a member of a mixed team composed of Palestinians and international English teachers and Arabic students created a comfortable environment.
It would be a lie to say that my whole stay was only filled with fun, happiness and laughter. The harsh reality of Palestinian discrimination and the Israeli occupation hit me multiple times in the face. The injustice procured me several times, if not all the time, with the feeling of frustration.
This was, and still is, the truth of Palestinian people for me. The occupation, the violence, the humiliation, and the suffering, which are all compensated with so much happiness to be alive, and with enjoying their families and everything that life has to offer.
Palestine was my first trip to the Middle East, and in fact also my first trip out of Europe. I feel that I have matured greatly and gained so much life experience. This journey defintely gave me the Middle Eastern fever and most of all the Palestinian fever. I hope to come back soon to Palestine where I’ve met incredible people and maybe “Insh’Allah” as they say here, the bordering countries.

Danielle
Female
23 years old
Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton University

In Sha Allah...I'll be Back

Overall 8

I was a little hesitant what I would be doing, and if I would like it or not before coming at the Excellence Center. To be honest, I was a little hesitant the first few days I arrived. I think the first time I truly felt at home was the first time (or I guess the second) I met with one of my classes. Most of them struggled with pronouncing, "Danielle" but that didn't stop them from the warm greetings I received. I think the same thing can be said for my host family. I only stayed with them for two weeks, but only a few days in we all realized two weeks would be far too short for all of us.

I studied Arabic for 3 years in college, but I think the few weeks that I stayed in Hebron drastically improved my language skills. I had never had the opportunity to speak with so many native Arabic speakers, especially in the Levantine dialect.

I think the best part of my experience was learning so much about Hebron, Palestine and the Occupation. It's very different to hear over the news about the events in the West Bank versus actually being here. You not only see but feel the Occupation and how it manifests itself in everyday life.

The Center took us to Fwaar Refugee Camp and we had the opportunity to see how the camp is run by the UN and all of the atrocities that have happened there. Again, it takes a while to truly comprehend what is happening here, but it's enough to want to tell every person who know.

There was so much learning for me the entire time, and it's been an experience that I wanted to be longer.

How can this program be improved?

Better/More concrete scheduling for class times.
More details on how to travel via taxi/bus/etc

David
Male
31 years old
Houston, Texas
University of Houston

Teaching English at the Excellence Center in Hebron

Overall 9

I just completed a short term as an English-teaching volunteer in Hebron, Palestine, and I am already making plans to return. The experience was eye-opening and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was able to encounter the political situation in a very personal way both through interactions with the Israeli army alongside my Palestinian hosts, and by living with the locals. I was also able to practice my Arabic speaking skills, learn a bit of the local dialect, and learn just how challenging it is to teach someone a new language (something I hadn’t sufficiently appreciated before).

A bit about me: I am a native of Houston, Texas; I graduated two years ago from the University of Houston with a Bachelor’s in Mathematics; and I currently work as a consultant in the Dubai International Financial Centre. To be completely honest, I stumbled across the Excellence Center through a Google search while trying to find something to do for my two week vacation. I had studied Modern Standard Arabic in my university for two years, and I wanted an opportunity to practice a local Arabic dialect.

Upon arriving at the Excellence Center, Marwa, Osama, and the rest of their excellent staff ensured that I was well-accommodated with my host family. They checked that all the essential living amenities were available at the house, and ensured that I was comfortable with how to get to the center in the mornings – even taking me through a trial run from my house to the Center so I knew exactly how to navigate the taxi system (it’s a bit different) and exactly how much I should pay the drivers.

Because my term was only two weeks, I worked mostly as a teaching assistant to the formally employed English instructors, and as a substitute teacher when needed. People always say that the best way to learn about something is to teach it, and I learned this truly is the case. There is an accommodation one must make when teaching one’s native language to a non-native speaker, and I found it surprisingly challenging to explain why, for example, we say, “The four year old boy eats food,” while we also say, “The boy is four years old.” In short, I hadn’t expected to learn so much about English in Palestine.

The Center was also generous in supplying formal Palestinian Colloquial Arabic lessons. This will be essential for anyone who’s only studied Arabic in a Western university, since he or she will find that day-to-day Arabic is quite different from that taught in Al-Kitaab. Each day I would come in saying, “The cab driver today said X, but I learned that he should say Y.” This would kick off a 30 minute impromptu lesson on the local dialect with the other teachers, which would be continued in my formal Arabic class.

Life at home was also enjoyable. I lived with two other Excellence Center volunteers in an apartment just adjacent to our host family, with my own private room and bathroom. This allowed for privacy when needed, while also making it easy for us to go next door for late-night meals with the family. With an abundance of local delicacies always on order, 11 family members to talk with, and a genuine curiosity about one another’s lives, we spent many late nights discussing everything from local foods, traditions, language, and even politics with the family.

One fact should above all be acknowledged by anyone considering this program: West Bank Palestinians' freedom of movement is severely restricted by the Israeli authorities. For example, in order to travel outside Palestine or Israel, Palestinians must petition the Israeli government weeks ahead of time requesting permission to use the international airport in Tel Aviv. This burden, combined with the much lower wages Palestinians earn relative to their Arab and Israeli neighbors, means that a typical Palestinians' ability to travel internationally is severely constrained, meaning their opportunities to interact with different cultures are limited. For this reason you will be asked many questions about your home, your culture, and your religion. You will also be asked your opinions of Palestinian culture, as well as very candid questions about what you and people in your country think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

These genuine exchanges of ideas, combined with a first-hand exposure to life in Palestine and an opportunity to practice Colloquial Arabic, are exactly the things I was looking for when I applied for this program. I got all this and more, and I highly recommend anyone wanting the same to apply with the Excellence Center in Hebron, Palestine.

Jonathan
Male
41 years old
United Kingdom
Open University

A visit I will never forget

Overall 10

-- 2015 --

This was my second visit to the Centre and was for only 10 days this time - I wish it was longer. As before, the staff were so friendly and helpful and the students were lovely. I particularly enjoyed running the employability skills workshops as they gave me the opportunity to feel that I was making a really valuable contribution. I also enjoyed helping out with the English classes and interacting with the younger students who were so keen and interested. The city of Hebron is a great place to spend time; colourful, noisy and full of life, and the food is great! The family who were my hosts last time are so kind and generous and this time are far more than just a 'host family', they are my dear friends. I look forward to my next visit!

-- 2014 --

The time I spent at the Excellence Center in Hebron was a fantastic opportunity to learn some Arabic and to find out more about Palestine. I was so warmly welcomed and supported by all the staff and by my host family. I made some wonderful friends and would love to go back some time soon

Conor
Male
23 years old
Rhode Island
University of Rhode Island

Excellence Center

Overall 10

My experience at the Excellence Center was good, I encountered no problems regarding my safety and the staff was helpful in any situation where I required help. I had very few difficulties and any difficulties I faced were independant of the program. I would recommend volunteering at the Excellence Center to anybody who is interested in learning about the culture, education, and daily life in Palestine.

How can this program be improved?

If I had to change one thing, I would reccomend adding a few resources to the center. On a few occasions it was necessary to use a video projector for lessons and there is one that is shared between up to three classes at a time.

Sila
Female
23 years old
Montreal
McGill University

Excellent Program

Overall 10

My name is Sila, I am a Canadian Turkish student living in Montreal. I am 21 years old and finished my university baccalaureate in international development and Middle East studies at McGill University. I came to Hebron to teach English to young Palestinians and learn Arabic language and culture. I was a volunteer assistant teacher for a whole month. I taught teenagers boys and girls and young adults too. Their level ranged from beginner 1 to intermediate 2. During this time I stayed with two host families. Both of them were amazing and very welcoming. With these families and the friendly staff of the Excellenxe Center, I have never felt unsafe. Every person I met went out of their way to make me and the other volunteers at ease and safe in Hebron.
During my stay, I visited many places in Hebron. For example, I went to the Ibrahimi mosque many times, to Hebron's Old City and to its famous glass and kufiyah factories. I also went to Dura, which is a town in Hebron. Outside of Hebron, I went to Jericho, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Yaffa.
All in all, it was an amazing experience. A month felt like a week. The people at the center and the host families are so generous, so friendly and so warm that you will want to extend your trip!

Josef
Male
31 years old
NY
Roger Williams University

My volunteering Experience in Hebron, Palestine

Overall 10

It was amazing experience in Hebron. Everyday we had an amazing time with local Palestinian people. I taught school students, university students and some community members conversational English. The students were amazing.

I also learnt some Arabic, I can say some sentences in Arabic which made my stay much nicer in Hebron.

Its really safe, I never had any problems in Palestine. I was always surrounded with Palestinian people. I also travelled around Palestine. I visited many places from Jenin to Bethlehem to Rammallah.

How can this program be improved?

I would say if they can organise weekly meeting with all interns and volunteers to discuss the plans for the next weeks or days. Thanks a lot

Fiona
Female
18 years old
Ireland

Summer 2014

Overall 9

I really enjoyed this programme. Even though I arrived just as the Gaza conflict was developing, I always felt safe in the Hebron due to the my host family and the support from the Excellence center. All the students in the classes were very eager to learn, which made teaching a pleasure. I learned so much about Palestinian culture, history, and daily life, and it was really harrowing to experience the reality of life under Israeli occupation first-hand.

Lydia
Female
23 years old
UK

Palestine 2014

Overall 7

I learnt a huge amount from my two months in Hebron. My trip coincided exactly with the recent conflict in Gaza but that served only to enhance the experience and the attachment that I now feel to the area. Living with a family was an incredible way to improve my Arabic.

How can this program be improved?

I would have liked more than the allocated number of Arabic sessions.

Lola
Female
41 years old
Charleston, South Carolina
Michigan State University

An extremely rewarding experience

Overall 9

Being part of the Excellence Center team during the Summer of 2014 has already become one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, both professionally and personally. All four groups I taught (all different ages, from age 7 to 25) were so enthusiastic about learning they renewed my belief in the importance of education. The staff at Excellence Center were extremely welcoming and supportive and I hope I get to collaborate again with them. overall, one of the best teaching (I have taught at the college level for 18 years now) and personal experiences of my life and I highly recommend it to anyone.

Kristina
Female
31 years old
US
Other

A life time experience!

Overall 10

I visited Hebron last year and felt very welcomed and taken care of by the Excellence Center staff. The center is very frequented, which also shows its success among the Hebron community. As mentioned before, the center is a business, yet it manages to support the local population by offering courses for a lesser fee than other local centers. It also provides free courses and programs for groups in need such as refugees. Though Hebron is a conservative city people here are very friendly, open and welcoming - eager to practice their English. Like in every country or culture you travel to, things are different and take time to adapt to, so my advice is to travel with the intention to learn and experience something different, of course this at times includes leaving your comfort zone. The center organizes amazing trips to places like Susia, the old city of Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah offering insights into local organizations and local communities. You will definitely meet people you would have otherwise never encountered. The Excellence Center is a great point for cultural exchange. Make sure to discuss your needs ahead of time to give the staff time to arrange things for you and to clarify whatever remains unclear.

Students are eager to learn and the teaching experience is really rewarding. Volunteers are granted considerate space to engage in teaching methods and activities of their choice. Moreover, we were also encouraged to provide feedback on the program and to explain concretely which improvements could be made.

I really spent an amazing time here!

How can this program be improved?

I also discussed all possible improvements with the manager Rafat and hope they benefited the center!

Grace
Female
23 years old
The Hague (Netherlands) but I'm British
Other

Cultural Immersion- Definitely an Experience!

Overall 9

I volunteered at the Excellence centre for 2 months in the summer of 2013. My main task was to coordinate a series of workshops for fresh graduates in CV writing, interview skills, job applications, formal letters/ emails etc alongside teaching both beginner and intermediate english. The graduate workshops were great, a lot of people came and it really felt like the students learnt some valuable skills which they could use to apply for jobs. I did the whole workshop in English though and I think some students had problems understanding.

I think something which should be made clear is the excellence centre is a business which also does charitable work. So most of the lessons students pay for to maintain the running of the place, then workshops, lessons at refugee camps etc are given for free.

The stay with a host family was a great cultural experience, my family was amazing, but not everyone gets their own room (although I didn't mind sharing, some people might) so make sure you are really clear about where you are staying from the beginning and how far from the centre it is etc.... make sure your contract is clear with how much money you pay, how much money the family receive, how many meals you get included from the centre, and from the family so you don't have any technical issues when you arrive. Unlike the other reviews I received all the Arabic lessons without a problem, which were really useful (you won't learn arabic overnight though!) and some trips around Hebron which were very interesting.

Hebron is a crazy place.... the old town is amazing and the people are super friendly and welcoming. The social scene will probably be hanging around with your host family, other interns and the people from the excellence centre, but if you have as cool a crowd as I did, that will be enough. You won't though be able to find alcohol or anything more than a sheesha and coffee, so if you want to party, Hebron is not the place! I would recommend making the effort to travel Palestine and Israel whilst you are there - definitely an interesting experience. I never felt unsafe in Hebron (obviously following safety rules you would follow anywhere, i.e. don't walk around alone at night), but sometimes people staring and making comments can be exhausting, but welcome to the Middle East.

If you want to experience Palestinian culture and learn about the occupation whilst eating great food, meeting amazing people and learning some arabic or teaching english, I would recommend the excellence centre.

Ah and on arrival, ask the centre to organise you a taxi from Jerusalem else it can get very confusing!

How can this program be improved?

I talked to Rafat about everything that I thought could be improved, and I'm sure he's already implemented it - I will grill him about it when I see him!

Ray
Male
56 years old
Bradford on Avon UK

Never too old to learn..... but to teach ??

Overall 8

In my review, written some seven months after my return to the UK, I would largely echo the comments made by Megan on 23/8 (to use the British way of recording dates).

I too found the people of Hebron, with very few exceptions, to be friendly and indeed the phrase "Welcome to Hebron" was probably the English phrase I heard most often.

Although I am not a very good teacher, I found the students, in most cases, keen to learn and very largely respectful. However, the teaching would have been easier for all concerned had the CDs, to which the text books frequently referred, been available.

After an initial 'hic-cup' I settled in well with what was my second host family, who treated me exceedingly well, despite the language difficulties. This was particularly so during the unprecedented snowfall in mid-December when, for several days, Hebron effectively came to a standstill. On my departure I presented the grand-daughter of the family with my ukulele, in which she had expressed an interest and I am still in touch with one of the sons and, indeed, with another former student. They, in turn, are seeing from my face-book page, how the Palestinian cause is being supported and pursued in the UK.

I have almost recovered from twice playing five-a-side football at the age of 69 and my family and friends are still much amused by the photograph of me in my borrowed breeches.

In the event I had to suddenly cut short what should have been a three month stay, by a couple of weeks for urgent medical reasons. Despite the problems this undoubtedly caused the centre, I found the management to be sympathetic, understanding and helpful.

Sadly I am beginning to forget what Arabic I learned. Like Megan, I don't think that I got all the lessons I was entitled to. although like her, I imagine that if I had complained, things would have improved.

Notwithstanding my age, which severely cuts down on the available opportunities, I certainly intend to return to Palestine (Israel permitting) in the near future, although I have yet to decide in what capacity.

I had an interesting, informative and inspiring time whilst working at the centre and met some very nice people. Whilst there are shortcomings, listed above and elsewhere, I have no hesitation in recommending it and its staff to other would-be volunteers.

How can this program be improved?

I would ensure that the CD's that came with the original text books were copied for the use of both the teachers and their students.

Maxime
Male
23 years old
France

My Experience At the Excellence Center in Hebron

Overall 7

I spent three weeks working with the Excellence Center in Hebron, Palestine in July 2014. It was an amazing experience. I learnt a lot about Palestine and the conflict there. I had an amazing time visiting different places in Hebron. The Palestinian people are very nice and very hospitable.

How can this program be improved?

organise weekly meeting with volunteers

Megan
Female
23 years old
The Netherlands

Volunteering at the Excellence Center in 2014

Overall 8

I volunteered at the Excellence Center in Hebron, Palestine during the summer of 2014.

The people in Hebron are very friendly and so are the people at the Excellence Center. The host family I stayed with were very welcoming and made me feel as if I was a part of the family.

The experience of teaching English to Palestinians is also very nice. Most students are respectful and very eager to learn English. I enjoyed teaching them very much.

Besides teaching English I also travelled around Palestine. Sometimes I travelled on my own, but the Excellence Center will also take you on tours. These tours will take you to places in Palestine you would not visit otherwise and are a very enriching experience. One tour they took us on was to a small Bedouin village. We got to see how the people live and learned about the difficult situation they are in.

One thing I liked less is the amount of pictures the staff takes. During the lessons one of the staff members comes in with a camera and takes random pictures of you and the students. I got used to it after a while but I can imagine some people may be uncomfortable with this. The pictures are used to promote the organisation which is good, but sometimes I feel that the foreign volunteers are used as an accessory.

The Arabic lessons are good, but I did not get enough lessons. I could have if I had chased after them, but should not have to do that.

All in all I had an amazing experience in Palestine. If you are interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict I strongly recommend you to visit Palestine and witness the situation with your own eyes. The Excellence Center is an excellent place for volunteering and your schedule is flexible enough to travel around Palestine as well.

How can this program be improved?

More focus on Arabic lessons, an explanation about the pictures beforehand, more money for the host family.

Provider Response

Thank you very much Megan! We really were lucky to have someone like you at the Excellence Center here in Hebron Palestine. We learnt many things from you and spent an amazing time at the center and in the tours that we organised in Hebron. Excellence Center staff appreciate very much what you did with the Palestinian students.

You are very welcome to come again to Palestine. We will Publish the short film about the volunteer in Palestine program on youtube very soon.

We wish you all the best in your future. Many thanks again for being nice

Regards,
Excellence Center's team

Sarah
Female
23 years old
Hartford CT
University of Hartford

Big Scam

Overall 3

Please do not let this review reflect on Palestine or the people. The people in Palestine are great. It is this business that is not.

The manager is only after money. He charges everyone who does the program a different fee then tells you the money will go to your host family - which it doesn't. He will make you sign a contract saying that you cannot discuss any of the terms of your contract or how much you paid with anyone else, not even other volunteers. Unfortunately for him- we all talk. He wants you to do everything for free. He gives you a huge workload and continually tries to pile upon it. Him and his sister are very rude, they talk to volunteers like servants.

I talked to other internationals doing other teaching programs in Hebron and they did not have the same problems - the problem is only with the excellence center it seems.

I only stayed for the students. My students were great.

As for living in Hebron-- I loved it. The people are really nice and it is easy to get around.

Provider Response

Dear All,

I believe this is a fake review! We never hosted a Sarah M. from Hartford University and hence, I do not deem it appropriate to respond to the comment. For all those who are interested in volunteering with the Excellence Center please visit our website or social media networks.

We have had over 80 people from all over the world, who talked about their experiences at the Excellence Center, please find some information and opinions here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsKf7gPkTUg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhAbCnaxhPg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4z70km6ksY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEkE6lxaJNQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdszW5I7UFc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q61CWwpJ6xE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb3SNHpnKp8

Finally, the Excellence Center’s activities and programs which were organized in the last three years have been dedicated to our community and cultural exchange enriching both the lives of members of the Hebron community and the international volunteers. We would like to thank all those who have worked with us for their great work!

About The Provider

The Excellence Center was established in June 2011 as a youth initiative to offer educational and community services to its diverse group of internationals and Palestinians. It is located in the main heart of Hebron on Ein Sarah street which is under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority.

The Excellence Center invites internationals year round to come to Palestine to volunteer, intern, visit or study Arabic. The Center organizes educational, cultural and community activities to introduce international interns, volunteers and students to Palestinian culture and daily life. Participants in the international programs have the opportunity to meet the local Palestinians who will share their lives and culture. Since the beginning, the Excellence Center has hosted over 150 international volunteers, interns and students from every corner of the world.

The Excellence Center is fully licensed as a cultural and educational center by the Palestinian Ministry of Education.

Community Photos:

Alumni Interviews

Staff Interviews