Volunteer and Learn Arabic In Palestine

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About

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

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

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

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

Questions & Answers

No. Not at all. Even West Bank Palestinians need a very good reason to go, and getting approval from the Israeli government can take months. The only way I know of for a foreigner non-NGO member to get to Gaza is by crossing the Rafah crossing from Egypt. I believe this is technically illegal though.
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 than three months, you have to leave the country (e.g. visit Jordan) and come back to get another visa for three months. Please write to us if you have any questions. Greetings from Palestine

Reviews

91%
based on 92 reviews
  • Impact 8.7
  • Support 9.1
  • Fun 8.4
  • Value 8.9
  • Safety 9.1
Showing 31 - 45 of 92
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Marta
9/10

My Palestinian Adventure

My name is Marta and I‘m twenty-one years old, coming from medium-sized town in the south of Poland. For two years now, I have been living in Denmark, where I study European Studies – a mix of politics, cultural and business studies. I came to Hebron to volunteer as an English teacher, as well as to pick up some Arabic.
During my time in the Center, I was assigned to do many different kinds of activities. I taught English, my students were both kids and grown-ups on various levels, although most of them were beginners or starters. I found teaching, quite unexpectedly, to be extremely rewarding and fun. Certainly, it wasn’t always easy and preparation took quite some time and creativity, but seeing students finally learn or understand something was worth all of the effort. I was also a student myself, learning Arabic. I had lessons twice a week with one more person in class; I learnt very very basic Arabic, especially the alphabet and numbers, but also few forms of communicating. The teacher was great, always eager to answer my questions or repeat if something wasn’t clear – my adventure with Arabic definitely doesn’t end here!
Atmosphere in the Center is great: everybody is extremely helpful and positive, both staff and international people. It’s always full with volunteers and students – that makes the time pass extremely fast. Everyday breakfasts and from time to time, dinners, for all the internationals was a great opportunity to get to know each other better. Generally, volunteers are amazing people, and that was the case this time as well. In our free time we would go out together or go for trips, which was always a lot of fun; I’m really grateful for the opportunity to meet them. Some of the trips were organized by the Center (such as Camel Sandals factory, visit in Doura or walk in the Old Town – that last one was definitely my favorite). I have also seen Ramallah, Betlehem and Jerusalem, as well as the Dead Sea – some of the trips I took with other volunteers and the rest with my host family.
Speaking of my host family, I don’t think I could be luckier: they made me feel at home almost instantly and I felt just like another daughter. They cooked for me delicious Palestinian food, introduced me to whole family and took me on trips; I even attended a wedding – that was definitely my favorite experience here. Seeing all the women from the family looking so elegant and glamorous, dancing beautifully to celebrate one of them getting married was magical. There was also a lot of candy and cake and overall whole experience was amazing. Hebron is a buzzing city, with a lot of people, cars and shops, with a lot to offer – from parks to shopping places to cafes; I’m sure everybody will find something interesting. I felt safe during my whole stay, even though it was a time of incident with Al-Aqsa mosque and therefore there was more tension. Personally, I didn’t experience anything negative and the only scary thing were soldiers with big guns sometimes visible on the streets. It was more of a shock than actual fear – in Denmark, where I live, guns are not an ordinary view.
Palestine amazed me the very first day I came. Everybody I met, whether on the streets trying to find my way, among Center’s stuff and finally, my host family, was extremely welcoming and kind. I think the people are my absolutely favorite thing about Palestine. They create the atmosphere one cannot not fall in love with, instantly make you feel at home and do everything possible to make your stay memorable. Last but not least, their kindness is 100% selfless – and it can be felt. I know that impression will stay with me for a long time and I’m already planning to come back in the near future, I still have much more yet to experience and explore.
Overall, I can definitely recommend volunteering with Excellence Center. My experience was very positive, I learnt a lot and had many opportunities to get to know Palestinian culture first-handed. I cannot wait to come back!

How can this program be improved?
I would add couple of more Arabic classes a week if possible. Also, I would appreciate to get the details about my host family a little earlier, so I could get in touch with them, it's always nice to at least have an idea about people you're about to live with.
Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Marta,

Thank you so much for your great voluntary work at the Center. We are really very happy to hear that you had a good experience in Palestine. Thank you also for sharing it with others.

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

Greetings from Hebron, Palestine
The Excellence Center' team

Yes, I recommend
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Szymon
9/10

Experience as a volunteer in Palestine

Hello, my name is Szymon and I come from Poland from Warsaw where I attend high school.As a volunteer I participated in 'volunteer and study arabic in Palestine' programme. Here you can receive many various task that are about teaching english, from standard lessons in the excellence center to summer camp and many more. My task was to teach small children in kindergarden and also the older ones in training center in local village called taffouh. At the beginning in the kindergarden I was a little overwhelmed by the kids being excited from our presence and it was hard to gather them in one group, but after a very short period we managed to encourage all of the kids to listen and had a lot of fun together while teaching english. The kids were very welcoming, they waved at us when we first arrived and they have greet us with incredible warmth. The older students from training center were also friendly and open-minded if it comes to learning english. Not everything was easy for them but most importantly they wanted to learn and remembered the topic from last lesson and for most of the time they didn't talk with each other so it was much easier for us to proceed with the subject.Volunteering in this programme includes 3 hours of arabic lesson per week. Classes are usually organized individualy or in two. With my only very basic understanding of arabic at my arrival it was very hard for me to communicate with local population, however arabic lessons with my teacher gave me the idea of basic communication in local Palestinian street dialect. Foundations in arabic are not really hard to understand and if you learn it with a teacher you will catch it very fast for sure!
Also, staying with the family in the city of Hebron was an incredible experience. We lived in the outskirts of the town in the neighbourhood called Wadi-Al-Karm. It was amazing to eat with locals, sleep in their house and live their everyday lives.
We were often taken to the parties or just acquainted with their friends. As an international you will probably receive a lot of invitations for dinner or parties even from random strangers. The city itself has much to offer, from decent palestinian restaurants, to snooker, gaming and coffee places and many tourist atractions, which can be mostly found in the old city. It is very easy to travel to many other places in Palestine, there is a big bus station near the city center that can take you almost anywhere! Don't forget that historically Palestine is the center for three large religions. Places like Jericho, Betlehem or Ramallah have much to offer.If it comes to security than I doubt if there is anything to worry about, people here have huge respect for private property so the likelihood of theft is almost 0% here. The street violence also doesn't exist among Palestinians. Saying it shortly, It is an amazing experience to share your knowledge with local people and get a lot of gratitude for this, traveling around the country is very easy and it feels like a adventure of a lifetime. It is a place for people at any age that rejoice with working with kids and teens!

How can this program be improved?
Extend volunteer options from learning english and studying arabic and writing about Palestine to something more
Response from The Excellence Center

Hi our Young Volunteer Szymon,

Thank you so much for your great work. We are really very happy to hear that you had a good experience in Palestine. Thank you also for sharing it with others.

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

Greetings from Hebron, Palestine
The Excellence Center' team

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Matthew
10/10

Great 2-month experience

My name is Matthew and I am from the USA, where I study music and theatre at Indiana University. I have spent the last two months doing the Teach English Speak Arabic, or TESA, program at the Excellence Center in Palestine.

As part of this program, I taught English, took Arabic lessons, and wrote articles. My main teaching duties were in Kharas, a nearby village, where two other interns and I taught two five-week courses to students aged eight to eighteen.

I came here knowing almost no Arabic. My Arabic lessons here were fast-paced and informative. I started out in lessons with one other student, then had one-on-one lessons later. Arabic is a difficult language that will probably take me years to learn, but this summer got me off to a running start.

The Excellence Center is a wonderful environment to work in. The staff are friendly and helpful. Working at the Excellence Center provides the opportunity to get to know not only Palestinians, but internationals from all over the world. After my time at the Excellence Center, I have friends in Sweden, the UK, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Greece, Italy, Canada, and South Africa.

The Excellence Center provides free tours for internationals a few times per week. During my time here, I have visited a leather factory, a glass and ceramics factory, a keffiyeh factory, Ibrahim’s Oak, a nearby refugee camp, Hebron’s Old City, the Ibrahimi Mosque, and al-Shuhada Street.

On Fridays and other days off, there is plenty of time to make trips around Palestine, which internationals sometimes organize in groups. I have visited Jerusalem several times, and all of the major cities in the West Bank at least once: Bethlehem, Jericho, Ramallah, and Nablus. I have also crossed the Green Line and visited Nazareth. Before coming to Hebron, I spent time in Haifa, Akko, and Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

I lived in an apartment with other male internationals, rather than with a host family. However, Hebron is a large and friendly city with endless opportunities to interact with locals. Palestinians are extraordinarily eager to make friends, especially with foreigners, so I experienced plenty of cultural immersion.

I did not feel scared or unsafe during my stay here. Hebron is not usually a violent place, and crime is not prevalent. Near the end of my stay here, there were some demonstrations by young men and boys over Israeli restrictions and alterations on the al-Aqsa Mosque. Demonstrations typically result in clashes with the Israeli army involving tear gas, stun grenades, and sometimes bullets (usually rubber or rubber-coated). While Palestinian demonstrators get injured and sometimes even die in these clashes, you as an international will definitely be safe as long as you don’t put yourself in the middle of these. They most often occur on Friday afternoons and evenings within half a kilometer of the Old City. They did not make me fear for my safety and you can usually tell ahead of time when they will occur if you follow the news.

My favorite aspect of my time in Palestine was the people I met here; both the internationals working at the Excellence Center and the Palestinians I got to know. It has also been extremely rewarding to work with my students in Kharas over the past five weeks, befriending them and watching them make progress.

One of the most interesting experiences I have had in Palestine was touring Ibrahimi Mosque, the Old City, and al-Shuhada Street, which is in H2, the part of Hebron controlled fully by the Isreali army rather than the Palestinian Authority. The Excellence Center hires tour guides who can give you information about Hebron and their firsthand experience. It was sad to see how part of Hebron has been turned into a ghost town where the Palestinian residents live under constant harassment from settlers and soldiers, as well as the threat of having their homes stolen. Nevertheless, it was an amazing experience to visit this area.

I loved my time in Palestine and I absolutely want to come back. Palestine is a fascinating country with an extremely kind people. The TESA program at the Excellence Center was the perfect way to spend my time here. I now have a foundation on which to build my Arabic skills, as well as the confidence that I am able to teach English. I would certainly recommend the Excellence Center to anyone interested in coming to Palestine, studying Arabic, teaching English, or even just having a unique cultural experience.

Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Matthew,

Thank you so much for your great work during the two months in Palestine. We wish you all the best and we hope to meet you in the future

Greetings from Palestine

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Oliver
8/10

My Experience in Palestine

My name is Olly and I am from the United Kingdom. I am currently studying Economics at the University of Birmingham and I participated in the volunteer in Palestine program. During my month here, I have taught all levels from starter up to intermediate, which has been nice as each level has its own pros and cons, so a mix keeps you both enthusiastic and challenged. I have also been teaching in Dura, a suburb of Hebron as part of an outreach program there. My work in Dura has added a different dimension to my time here, and I think has made it more varied and enjoyable.
The Arabic lessons I have received from the centre have been very good, as I had no prior experience before coming here, and now have basic conversational skills and some varied vocabulary. My teacher was great and very kind, although I think a more intensive course would only have positively influenced the experience. It is easy to pick up and practice your Arabic whilst here, as most locals don’t speak English, so there are ample opportunities to improve.
The centre itself is great, the staff and volunteers are by far the best aspect, with them always been incredibly friendly and welcoming. The students were also all fairly keen to learn, and though you don’t stay with all the same classes throughout, the students were a joy to teach and develop friendships with. The breakfast offered was a great opportunity to chat with the other volunteers, and the only thing I can say the centre is lacking is a few more computers, as I often found myself fighting to get control of one to write articles or prepare lessons etc. This could also be remedied by expecting all volunteers to bring laptops and having a more accessible printing system for lesson materials.
Whilst in Palestine, I made an effort to go and see as many other cities as possible, and to make the most of my time here, as who knows when I’ll be back. Therefore, I visited Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, Ramallah, Nablus, Jericho and Jerusalem. Each of these had its own amazing sights to see, with my favourite probably being Ramallah, as i simply just liked the vibe of the place and architecture. There were a few places I would have liked to have visited that I didn’t get to see, such as Herodyon and Haifa, but given the time I had, I feel that I saw all I could. One thing I would say, is that before coming I was told that $50-$100 is sufficient weekly, and that is probably true for Hebron, but if you go on further trips to Nablus, Ramallah, Haifa the costs start to add up with hostels and such. Thus, if you want to make the most of your time here be prepared to spend a little more, although Palestine is still very cheap in comparison to most other places I’ve visited.
Living with a host family, i think, definitely improved my experience and helped for me to settle in and see a different side of the city. Equally, having other volunteers living with us also helped me to settle in, so I believe I had the best of both worlds. The Palestinian people are all very friendly and welcoming to us as foreigners, and really keen to get to know you and show you around.
People in England have a certain perception of Palestine, based on its portrayal in the media, and its been great to come and see what its really like. Now at the end of my time here I feel very safe here in Hebron, and returning from trips feels likes returning home. Often you will forget the bigger picture and just get swept up in the day to day, before something reminds you of the occupation. It is more noticeable when on trips, as you see the checkpoints, soldiers and walls. However, I’d say I feel as safe here as I do in England.
In summary, Palestine has provided me with experiences which I will never forget and has helped me to develop as a person while having fun doing it. The staff and the kids at the centre are great, the other volunteers are fun and the Palestinian people are warm and inviting. Any complaints I’ve made are but nitpicks suggesting room for improvement, and what matters most is that you have a good time and feel like you’ve made a difference. Which I can say that I have.

Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Olly,

Thank you for posting a review and for your great work at the Center. We wish you all the best and we hope to meet you soon in Palestine

Greetings from Palestine

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Nick
10/10

Excellence Center Review by Nick

My name is Nick Hainsworth from the United States. Currently, I am studying for my bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies/Arabic at Brigham Young University in Utah. For the past 5 weeks, I have been living in Hebron, Palestine, teaching English at the Excellence Center. This teaching has been challenging, diverse, and rewarding. In addition to the amazing opportunity to connect with Palestinians through teaching, I was also able to participate in the Center’s excursion programs and Arabic classes.
My primary activities at the Excellence Center consisted of teaching English in various capacities. For several weeks, another volunteer and I taught an English class at a summer camp a couple times a week. I was also asked to teach English privately at the Center to a local girl named Mira. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I had to connect with and teach Mira. Not only was it a chance to stretch myself in terms of teaching, but I learned so much about Palestinian life from these lessons. The Excellence Center also provided two Arabic classes for me a week. For me, these lessons were invaluable. So much of the time was focused on teaching English, it was refreshing to have time during the week to solely focus on learning Arabic. An addition to the lessons, it was always fun to practice my Arabic with locals in taxis or grocery stores. Even without an immense effort, being saturated in the language helped to improve my Arabic skills.
A special part of the experience here that made it so enjoyable was the outstanding people I got to spend it with. The other volunteers were fun and provided opportunity to meet and befriend people from other nationalities. The Excellence Center became close friends and near to my heart. It was apparent they cared about us and our wellbeing here in Palestine. They accompanied us on all our excursions to historic and cultural sites in Hebron, including places like the Abraham mosque, Old City, local factories, a nearby refugee camp, and an Orthodox church. In addition to these local sites, we were given two days off a week to explore other places in Palestine. I would highly suggest to any future volunteer to take full advantage of these days off. I was able to travel all over Palestine, seeing sites and meeting people in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho, and Jerusalem.
There is plenty of media in the western world that paints Palestine as this constant war zone and an incredibly dangerous place to live. To be fair, this place is different than the western world and there is a conflict. I got a real sense of that while living here. That being said, I never once felt threatened while getting around Hebron. There might be some taxi drivers who try to rip you off, but that’s about it. By the end of my time, I felt completely comfortable walking around. So many people on the street would say, “Welcome, where are you from? Welcome to Palestine, welcome to our city.” This is pretty telling of the hospitality of the people here. That will probably stay in my memory as the what I liked most about Palestine.
It’s still a little hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I could come to the West Bank, Hebron of all places, and live for a short amount of time. I can’t begin to express how grateful I am for the chance to live here, meet amazing people, and give back in some small way. I loved the Excellence Center and the chance to teach English. The staff and students I met will always hold a place in my heart. I’ve had too many fantastic experiences to pick one that encompasses all that I’ve learned and experienced. However, the sum of these experiences has left a lasting impression on me. Living here has been life changing. I will never forget this country, its people, its culture, and the change all these things had on me. Thank you, Excellence Center, and thank you, Palestine.

How can this program be improved?
The teaching experience could be slightly better organized with more time for preparation, but this wasn't the hardest thing in the world to work with.
Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Nick,

Greetings from Palestine. Thank you for your great work. We wish you all the best and we hope to meet you in the future at the Center

With kind regards,

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Emil
10/10

My experience in Palestine

My name is Emil and I’m a 25 years old guy from Sweden. I came to Hebron, eager to learn about the Arabic culture and language, without any former experience of it. The five weeks I’ve spent here have been amazing in many ways. The working environment at the center is great and we (staff and volunteers) have become a family and to teach English to the students is so rewarding. The three hours of Arabic lessons I had every week were really good and made me able to understand, at least some, conversations in Arabic. And that is useful, because a lot of Palestinians on the streets are interested in western people and want to talk for a while.

There’s also a lot of time to visit different cultural and religious sites. Besides the tours the Excellence Center offer in Hebron, including local factories, the old city and meetings with Palestinian families, volunteers have two days off every week, making it possible to travel around the West Bank. I have visited Bethlehem, Jericho, Jerusalem, Ramallah, the Dead Sea and the mountains outside Hebron during my time here. These places have so much history and are important to all three Abrahamic religions, which makes it possible to experience so many different things when living on the West Bank.

I had the opportunity to stay with a Palestinian guy, together with four other volunteers. It was very fun and gave me a good understanding about the daily life of Palestinians. We spent a lot of time with him and his family and they taught us a lot about the issues many Palestinians face on a daily basis. Staying with a host also gave us the opportunity to taste some of Palestine´s cuisine. Which is delicious!

When I first came here I was worried about the safety in the West Bank. But I haven’t felt unsafe even once. I also thought five weeks were a lot of time, but the time has flown by so fast and it’s with mixed feelings I leave Hebron, Palestine. I’m glad for all the new Palestinian and international friends I’ve made, the teaching at the center, the places I’ve seen and everything I’ve learnt about the culture here, but it feels a bit sad to leave what has become my second home.

Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Emil,

Greetings to you from Palestine

Thank you so much, Emil, for everything. We wish you all the best and we hope to have you again at the Excellence Center in Hebron

With kind regards,

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Jamie
10/10

Wonderful Time in Hebron

As my time in Hebron comes to an end, I am happy to say that I have had nothing but wonderful experiences throughout the past month. I arrived in the middle of Ramadan, and therefore had many opportunities to experience local culture during the Holy month. This included many iftars and many family visits. I felt very welcomed by my host family and accompanied them on visits to extended family members’ houses and even a wedding!
There were many opportunities to speak with locals from all different backgrounds. I had many interesting conversations that you couldn’t have in a classroom, including about the history of the area, the ongoing conflict, and how Hebron has progressed as a city in recent times. Hearing the opinions and point of views of different people in this setting was extremely interesting, and it will continue to fascinate me.
After the parties of Eid were over, there was more to see and do. I spent the long weekend travelling into the north of Israel with a few other teachers from the Center. We rented a car and drove to Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Tiberias. One day, we went hiking and river rafting in the Golan Heights. It was a very easy drive – only a few hours by highway – and therefore we had a lot of time to explore the surrounding countryside.
After arriving back in Hebron, there were a few more classes and the last few nights with my host family. I have spent most of my time at the Center teaching Workshops instead of the regular classes, which I very much enjoy. The workshops are for more advanced students and cover topics such as CV preparation, creative writing, and interview practice. The students are very open and eager to learn, and their motivation makes teaching these classes so rewarding. A lot of the students are eager to speak with you after class, to ask where you are from and what you study. I have even been invited to the homes of some of my students to meet their families.
I will be very sad to leave my host family when that day finally arrives. They have made me feel so at home and I feel like after nearly a month I have truly become part of the family. My host mom has taught me how to cook some Palestinian dishes, and we spend every night sitting and talking (and practicing Arabic). I have enjoyed my time in Hebron so much. I will always remember my time at the Center and I hope to come back the next chance I get.

Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Jamie,

Thank you so much for your great work the center during the month in this summer

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

Greetings from Hebron

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Tanya
10/10

The over-all best way to learn Arabic!

I joined the Excellence Center three months ago as a volunteer and I could not be happier with my experience here in Hebron, Palestine. I had searched online for a program that would afford me total immersion in the Arabic-speaking community. As soon as I came across the website of the Excellence Center, I knew I had found the right place for me. Once I arrived in Hebron, I was placed in a host family. Living with a Palestinian family was truly special and an experience I will never forget. I was welcomed with open arms and treated like a member of the family from day one. I was always included in every family occasion, including seven wedding-related events, which truly gave me a unique look into everyday Palestinian life and culture. We always enjoyed meals together (my host mother is an exquisite and passionate cook!) and I feel I have tasted almost every Palestinian dish. Most importantly, I was able to have Arabic around me at all times which helped me tremendously in my quest to learn the language. It has all been a truly heart-warming experience and I know my host family and I will be friends for life.

Teaching Palestinians English was incredible as well. Prior to the Center, I did not have any teaching experience but I realized straight away that the wonderfully supportive staff at the Center led by the director Marwa was always there to answer questions and help guide me when help was needed. My students were very eager to learn and speak English. I taught different levels and always tried to stay loyal the main goal of the Center, which is to have the students speak as much as possible and for us to create classes that are fun and motivating for the students. Volunteers are asked to be as creative as possible and this freedom in teaching makes the work here in Hebron especially fun and rewarding for us.

I have dreamed about learning the Arabic language for many years. Having completed a Masters in Middle Eastern Studies ten years ago, I had already attempted to learn Arabic once before but sadly did not continue. I always regretted this. So I finally decided to go to the Middle East this year and signed up for the volunteer program at the Excellence Center, which includes 3 hours of private Arabic lessons each week. I could not have made a better decision. On my first day I met my teacher Shayma and we started the most amazing language journey! She is the most talented, charming and motivating teacher and every day with her has been pure joy. I was so excited about my progress after eight weeks that I decided to pursue the intensive course for another month. I could not speak any Arabic at all prior to my stay here in Hebron and can now hold a basic conversation in Arabic as well as read and write. This development feels incredible and it is all thanks to Shayma's positive energy and teaching methods, which make class fun and filled with laughter. If you do your share and study daily on your own, you can really benefit from everything the Center offers. The staff is just amazing. Especially the director of the Center, Marwa, is always concerned in making your stay as perfect as possible. Her support made me feel so welcome at all times and well-taken care of. The Excellence Center has a beautiful soul and I will never forget how well I was treated in Palestine.

Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Tanya,

Thank you so much for your great efforts at the Center. You were a very good teacher and Arabic student. We wish you all the best in learning Arabic and we hope to meet you soon at the Excellence Center

With kind regards,

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Eleanor
9/10

My time at The Excellence Center: A summary

Marhaba! My name is Eleanor. I’m 28 years old, was born in Australia and grew up in Oxford, United Kingdom. I have been living in London for the past five years. My undergraduate degree was in Social Anthropology and History of Art/Archaeology from SOAS, University of London; I’m currently completing a masters degree in Visual Anthropology from Goldsmiths, University of London. For the month of June 2017, I volunteered at The Excellence Centre in Hebron, Palestine.
I also participated at The Excellence Centre last year in 2016, with the ‘Teach English, Learn Arabic’ program. This experience improved my teaching skills, providing a variety of teaching experiences, such as the opportunity to teach children, teenagers and adults. Though I had taken some beginners Arabic classes before, both experiences of living in Hebron and volunteering at the centre improved my Arabic a great deal. This year, I was signed up as a volunteer, allowing me the freedom to create my own lessons.
From the 11th to the 14th of July 2017, creative writing workshops in English were coordinated for intermediate level students at The Excellence Centre. These were organised and filmed as part of my dissertation project for an MA in Visual Anthropology. The focus was linguistic exchange, and the project was designed to watch and encourage students to express themselves in English, in a manner with which they were perhaps not used to being taught. The workshops were split into four lessons, subsequently with four primary focuses: Introduction to creative writing, Form and Rhythm, Similes, Metaphors and Descriptions and finally: Performance. The final workshop was designed to mimic an open mic or spoken word night such as that are common in the United Kingdom and United States. Overall, the project was successful with good feedback.
My Arabic lessons on both occasions both helped to me to improve my proficiency in Arabic, but perhaps the most rewarding experience in improving my knowledge of the language has been staying with a host family. I stayed with the same host family on each visit to Palestine: they are kind and welcoming, have helped me with my homework and have taught me new words. Palestinian people are very welcoming, and if you have the opportunity to stay with a host family here then it will certainly be a rewarding experience. It enlightens the visitor to the culture, and provides a comforting safety network whilst in Palestine. I have remained in touch with my own host family, and they are very dear to me. Due to their welcoming nature, I have felt very safe in Palestine.
The centre’s environment is also welcoming, in which there’s the potential to meet new people every week from around the world. Teachers and volunteers cooperate together to plan their lessons, and help each other with their Arabic study. There’s a communal kitchen in which people have their morning tea. There are site visits, and during my time at The Excellence Centre in 2017 I have visited a local glass and ceramic factory.

Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Eleanor,

Thank you so much for your great work at the Center. We enjoyed your 2nd visit very much

We wish you all the best and we hope to meet you for the 3rd time at the Center

Greetings from Hebron, Palestine

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Emma
8/10

Excellence Center Review

There is nothing quite like volunteering in the West Bank during Ramadan - I would definitely recommend the Excellence Center as a way to do this. The staff are friendly and helpful, the center is really well located and the students are generally engaged and eager to learn. Hebron is an interesting city to explore, and it is easy to travel around the rest of the country and explore. If you want to teach English and also learn Palestinian Arabic from a fantastic teacher, this is the place to do it. One thing I would recommend for potential volunteers is to adapt to the Palestinian pace of life - things don't always get organised as promptly as they might do at home. But as soon as you get used to this, you are bound to have a great time.

How can this program be improved?
It would maybe be helpful to have slightly more organisation regarding class times - sometimes things would be delayed or cancelled at short notice, or hindered by a lack of resources. However, this can at least partly be attributed to Ramadan, which definitely affected student attendance, as well as the process of moving to the new center.
Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Emma,

Thank you so much for your great work at the Center this summer. We appreciate your efforts very much

We wish you all the best in learning Arabic and we hope t have you again at the Center

Greetings from Palestine

Yes, I recommend
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Stephen
10/10

My Time in Hebron

I did not know what to expect coming to Hebron. I have over the years traveled enough to know that there is a difference between what we hear about a place as it is filtered through certain narratives or news services and reality as it is daily experienced, but I was still nevertheless unsure, probably because Hebron is one of the most unique places in the Holy Land.
I spent my time at the Excellence Centre writing articles and assisting the other volunteers in their classes. My daily duties involved speaking to the staff and students and doing research for the articles while attending the occasional lesson with one of the teachers. Daily, the Center was a hive of activity, students of all ages and all abilities attend the Excellence Center and after time I had become good friends with many of them. My favorite day was always the food day. The Excellence Center are very big proponents of informal conversational English training – a component missing from the Palestinian curriculum. For the teachers this means a relaxed teaching environment, and for everyone else this means food days. On these days, a volunteer would cook a dish from their country and the students would bring food from home. With each day starting with a Palestinian breakfast, the days would go quick – there was always something to do or someone to speak to.
As well as these activities, I also took Arabic lessons. The Center provides these to volunteers and the lessons are done one on one. As the teachers are experienced and trained in teaching methods, these classes improved my non-existent Arabic to a level I thought was not possible. I enjoyed these lessons so much (and my teacher, Do’a of whom I would recommend to anyone) that once my volunteering time was finished, I undertook an extra week of Arabic lessons with Do’a, and am hoping to continue with her when I return home.
Of course, being in Palestine, I wanted to travel and see the region and the Center were able to assist with this as well. I visited a nearby refugee camp where we had lunch with a family, visited a nearby village and meet the mayor after being driven through the beautiful surrounding hills. Mid-way through my stay, I was also taken on a tour of Hebron where I saw Abraham’s Oak. As at the time of writing this, I have also planned a trip to a Bedouin community in my last week in Hebron. Each tour is perfectly planned, all a volunteer has to do is express an interest and then show up at the Center, the rest is taken care of.
In all, the Excellence Center has been the perfect place from which to not only see Hebron, but to experience it. The staff members treat everyone like an extended family while Marwa is the perfect boss. Hebron itself can be hard to describe, it is not like Ramallah, nor does it match Jerusalem in its religious splendor. The city though has a distinctive flow, a rhythm that originates from the Palestinians who live there. It is this, this unique flow that Hebron moves to, that is the city’s true gift. It certainly has its troubles, and some days are reminders that this place is a hotly contested city between two groups of determined people, but despite this, or maybe even because of this, Hebron still takes a hold of you and in return provides an insight into Palestine that you will unlikely get anywhere else.
Stephen Hindes

Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Stephen,

Greetings from Palestine. Thank you very much for your great work. We wish you all the best and we hope to meet you again in Hebron in the near future

"Isbur Ya Stephen"

Greeting from Palestine

Yes, I recommend
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Syazana
8/10

My First Overseas Volunteer Experience

My name is Syazana and I am from Singapore. I am 20 years old and just recently graduated with a Diploma in Hospitality and Tourism. I participated in the program, Volunteer in Palestine for about a week.

I participated volunteering works such as assisting a teacher teaching for one of the classes conducted at the center, conducted my own English lesson with two other volunteers at a local school, and also learn basic Arabic Language. This was a first for me as I’ve never done any teaching before, what more to students of many ages which ranged from as young as 10 years old to as old as working adults. It was also an experience trying to teach them with our language barrier.

Learning the Arabic language here was also a great opportunity for me to be able to expand on my Arabic language knowledge. I learnt very minimal basic Arabic back in Singapore and thus being able to learn the dialect here was fun. I can even apply them practically in or out of the center with the locals here. However, it is quite sad that I only get to learn very basic Arabic here due to my short stay with the center.

The staff at the center are very friendly and nice. They’re always welcoming me by making tea and breakfast at the start of the day. Breakfast at the center is a great time to socialize with the staff and other international volunteers here. During my short stay here, I was able to make friends with 4 other volunteers from countries such as Mexico, America, and London. The students at the center are very enthusiastic as they are very keen to learn English. It is really fun to be able to teach the students here.

The center brings volunteers to places in Hebron such as the Old City, the Ibrahimi Mosque, and also a glass and ceramic factory. The Old City and the Ibrahimi Mosque is one of the few tourist attraction in Hebron. It holds a rich history and thus the trip there was very engaging as I was able to learn about some history of Hebron. The glass and ceramic factory visit was an experience too as I was able to witness how the ceramics are being made before it is ready for sale. Other than the site visits that the center brought us to, I went to outside of Hebron on my off day. As I went for the volunteering program together with my sister, we went to visit Jerusalem for a day visit. We visited the famous Old City in Jerusalem as well as the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

During our stay here, I was attached to a host family together with my sister. Our host family was very friendly and welcomed us with open arms. They always provided us with whatever they could to ensure that we could adjust to living in Hebron. We learnt a lot while staying with them - their culture, their family, their traditions, the Hebron lifestyle, and the conflict with Israel and how it affects the lives of Palestinians, including our host family. Over dinner, we get to enjoy the host family’s home-cooked Palestinian food, and listen to the family converse in Arabic; a great way for us to pick up and learn the Arabic language here.

We love everything about Palestine - the food, the people, and the scenery. The food here is really delicious, a great opportunity to try out different types of local food that our home country doesn’t serve. The people here are very friendly. They will try to converse with you even though they can’t speak English fluently, and will be more than happy to help you out. Palestinians also get very excited when they see foreigners. They will ask where you’re from and welcome you to Palestine, wishing you a great stay here. The scenery here is very different from Singapore. The architecture is different as there are many high-rise buildings in Singapore compared to Palestine. The weather here is different too. Palestine experiences the 4 seasons while Singapore is very humid and either sunny or rainy. We were able to experience the end of their spring season and the beginning of their summer season. It is chilly in the morning and night, but very hot and sunny in the afternoon.

Safety and security of living in Palestine is one of the many concerns of tourists who’d like to visit Palestine. However, fret not. Although there are many checkpoints along Palestine and many armed soldiers stationed everywhere, I do feel safe. My sister and I did experience some difficulty at Tel Aviv when we first reached Israel but we were able to make it to Hebron safely.

My stay here in Hebron has been really great and I would recommend to others who are keen on doing volunteering works in Palestine, to those who are keen on learning the Arabic language, or even to those who want to visit Palestine as a tourist. I’ve learnt a lot of valuable things here and would not mind coming back again in the future.

Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Syazana,

Greetings to you from Palestine. It was a great pleasure to meet you and your sister in Hebron. Thank you for your great work.

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

With kind regards,

Yes, I recommend
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Khairunisa
8/10

My First Time Staying in Hebron

I am Khairunisa from Singapore. I just graduated from university last year and after completing a contract job, I am now on a break. I wanted to do something meaningful during this break and so after searching on the net for volunteering opportunities, I decided to sign up for the ‘Volunteer in Palestine’ program at the Excellence Center together with my younger sister. We stayed in Hebron for a week but even with the short visit, it was a very meaningful and enjoyable experience.

We were warmly greeted by the staff here at the Excellence Center on our first day. After a long and tiring journey, we were really delighted when they prepared for us lunch. The staff here are very friendly and are always making sure that we are alright, especially if we have any difficulties or problems. We start our days with breakfast at the Excellence Center every morning so it was very easy for us to converse with one another. It was a good time to ask about the Palestinian culture and lifestyle, and also for the volunteers to share with one another their experiences here.

We were also greeted by our host brother on our first day. Our host family are not fluent in english except for one of the sisters. However, we were still able to converse about many things such as our traditions, cultures, and lifestyle. I really enjoyed having a home stay as it really allowed us to experience the daily lifestyle here and be part of their family. Our host family had a ten-year-old girl and it was a pleasure to meet her as it reminds me of my youngest sister back in Singapore. We joined their family every night after a day at the Excellence Center. Some nights, we would be sitting outside their home, enjoying the night, and at some nights we would be watching television together. We also got to try their homemade food for dinner. It was really good and I really enjoyed trying Palestinian food here. They even made us for dessert too! We were really touched by it. As we spent a week together, I’ve made good friends with the family and I am really sad to leave them.

As our stay here was very short, the staff at the Excellence Center tried their very best to ensure that we could make the most out of our time here. We started our first few days with Arabic lessons with one of the teachers here. As we learnt standard Arabic back in Singapore, we did not know any Palestinian Arabic. Our Arabic teacher helped to equip us with basic Palestinian Arabic so we could converse with the locals here. The lessons here are conducted on a one-to-one basis so for our case, we got to take the lessons together. It was very useful as the lessons could be catered to our pace and our prior knowledge of Arabic.

Other than learning Arabic, the staff at the Excellence Center brings the volunteers around Hebron. We got to visit the Old City and the Ibrahimi Mosque. We were especially interested to visit the Ibrahimi Mosque as it is one of the religious places here in Palestine. As we are Muslims, we were very happy to visit the place where the Prophet Ibrahim and his wife, were buried. With a staff bringing us around, we got to learn the historical and cultural context of the places. We also went to a ceramic and glass factory where we got to see for ourselves how they make their glass and ceramic products. As we visited the factory, it was convenient to buy some souvenirs for ourselves and families at a good discount!

Also not forgetting our main intention to visit Palestine, we got to help out with the English lessons conducted here. We were given the opportunity to assist a teacher in her English lesson and visit a school to conduct a conversational English lesson for beginners. The students at the Excellence Center are of various ages, ranging from as young as ten years old to working adults. it was a good opportunity for us to try teaching different groups of students with different levels of the English language. Even though there were some language barrier, the students here are very determined to learn English and will try their best to take part in lessons. On days where we did not teach English, we were assigned to write articles for the Excellence Center.

Just like others, we were a bit worried about safety, especially our parents, as the journey from Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv to Hebron was long. Even though we experienced some tight security at the airport, the journey to Hebron was a smooth one. It is very safe here, even for female travellers. Even without any basic Arabic, the Palestinians are very helpful, so we could always count on them whenever we faced any difficulties such as when searching for directions. Unlike what is portrayed in media, it is safe to travel around Palestine.

We really enjoyed our stay here in Palestine. We would definitely recommend anybody who wants to try experience the lifestyle here. There are various programmes such as learning Arabic and teaching English. You not only get to learn the culture here but also have a meaningful trip by helping the people here. Even though our trip was extremely short, we really enjoyed it and learnt a lot. We are definitely looking forward to our next trip here.

How can this program be improved?
We only got to know our schedule sometimes on the day itself or a day before so it would be good if we could know our schedule in advance so that we could plan our day better and inform our host family what time we would be coming home. It was also difficult to communicate with the Excellence Center before our departure to Palestine as we were worried about arriving at the Tel Aviv Airport since we are Muslims. But it turned out alright, and we managed to follow the steps found on their website.
Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Khairunisa,

Thank you so much for your great work at the Excellence Center. We are very happy that you and your sister enjoyed the stay in Hebron.

We wish you all the best and we hope to meet you in the near future

With kind regards,

Yes, I recommend
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Javier
10/10

Experience of a lifetime

My name is Javier Trescoli, 24 year old political science student from Valencia, Spain. I participated in the Teach English, Learn Arabic (TESA) for two months, March and April. My main interest was being somehow useful, start learning Arabic and to see first hand the reality of the Palestinian -Israeli conflict. I will leave in a few days with recious memories, new friends and the promise of coming back.

The experience has been brilliant, far better than expected. I didn't have many expectations to be honest, as I simply did not know what to expect! But taking in account where I was going and what I was doing it was unavoidable to have some kind of idea of what it could or should be.

My arrival did go a bit off. Oblivous me decided to use the Israeli bus line to Hebron becuase it was cheaper instead of following the clear instructions that Rafat sent me and that were there for a areason. I'll just say I was stuck in Israeli Hebron for a few hours. But thanks to Marwa and Rafat I got out of there (the IDF wouldn't let me pass the controls). I was happily received by Sheikh and thus, the real adventure in Hebron began.

From day one, the Center helps you adapt to the rythm and activities, which is constant and dynamic. It's simple to feel good vibes from the very beginning and this helps you be energetic and creative! The sense of community and belonging starts with the daily breakfast and the Center and it reinforced once I got a regular schedule. The fact the staff were so welcoming and predisposed to make you feel comfortable and the students get so excited when a you walk in class, makes it really easy to adapt quickly and enjoy fully the experience! As a volunteer, I understood I belonged to the organisation and adapted as soon as possible to its pace. Nevertheless, Marwa, (the boss who likes joking!), was ready to listen to my issues or complaints and was flexible about picking free days, which improves the experience itself.

As a volunteer, my activities were many and varied at the beginning, from assisting one of the teachers in their classes, leading a class myself, organising a workshop for a business and a English Club. Each one had their own challenges and I remember everything being kinda chaotic in my head. Everyday was a different adventure and you were constanty in new situations, which personally, was pretty exciting for me. But after a week and a half later, I got a more stable schedule. I began teaching with a fellow volunteer three different levels on a weekly basis and participated in their lessons with fellow teachers. It is rewarding to spend six or seven weeks teaching the same class because it deepens the relationship with the students, making the classes far more enjoyable. Of course, there were a few kids who made teaching difficult but this proved useful to develop class managemnt skills, a quite relevant aspect of teaching and one I had not needed as I had always been a private tutor back in Spain.

As for my Arabic, it wasn't only an enrichening experience from a knowledge perspective but also from a cultural and personal point of view. I was specially lucky with my teacher, Du'a, who was very encouraging and quickly saw my particular style of learning and adapted herself to it. Thanks to her, I can say that I will leave Palestine with the my initial objective accomplished with Arabic. Sadly, I feel because of my university work and a lack of disicipline I wasn't able to make the most of learning the language. If you systematically practice and work at home, it can be very easy to progress. Nothing like living in a country to learn the language.

As for life in Hebron it can be quite conservative, even for Palestinian standards, as you will notice when you visit other towns in the West Bank, such as Ramallah and Bethlehem. The change can be very drastic if one lives in a never sleeping city from the West. There is no such thing as nightlife and anything associated to it, but don't worry, you won't need it! I lived in a house with other male volunteers which is rented to the Excellence Center and it has developed into a great bro community and I leave Hebron hoping to see them again. Any issue that was house related was diligently taken care by Abbot Sheikh. He also makes whatever is possible to make your life as enjoyable and comfortable as possible, inviting you to his house for shisha and tea, specially during important football games. His smile never fails to cheer me up.

One of the main concerns, if not the most worrying, for any volunteer might be the Israeli Occupation of Hebron specifically and Palestine in general. This is a reasonable concern as Western media and general public perception portray the situation as highly unstable and risky. Nevertheless, this is not the case.

Don't get this statement wrong. The Occupation is a real issue and affects the daily lives and routine of every Palestinian in an unjust and unfair manner but it never gets to affect the daily lives and routine of the volunteer themselves (unless you did something wrong). The Occupations does not affect directly the Western volunteers. We have no problems crossing checkpoints, the laws that rule Palestinians don't affect us and we are even considered as individuals that must be protected by Israeli authorities. Hebron itself, (aside from H2, the Israeli occupied part) is safe for any volunteer as I soon noticed arriving there.

The best of Palestine are clearly, without doubt, the people. All of this would have been a completely different experience if the Palestinians would have had a different attitude towards me. From the butcher who invites you to tea and the baker who asks where you are from and gets excited when you respond in Arabic; to the driver of the minibus who makes sure you arrive safely to your destination and the random strangers who will do their honest best to help you in any way possible; to lastly, the students, especially those who put real effort to learn english and invite you to their homes to meet their families aswell as the teachers and staff, who are always helpful and genuinely concerned about you, which with time made me develop a feeling of connection and belonging to the Hebron community at large and to the Excellence Center in particular.

I did not travel around Palestine, which will be one of my objectives for the next time I come back. Because I enjoyed so much the small community of the Excellence Center I preferred to stay there the last week and enjoy furthermore the experience. I personally reccommend the experience to anybody ready to live what it is to be an English teacher in Palestine. I t may seem redundant what I have just said but what I'm really talking about is the mindset. Your mindset can make a total difference between a great experience and a forgettable one. I look forward to coming back to the Excellence Center in Hebron. Inshallah!

Yes, I recommend
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Shahouda
10/10

Life changing experience

We are 2 sisters (Sahar and Shahoudah) from Mauritius Island and we have been Teaching English and Learning Arabic as volunteers at the Excellence Center for 2 weeks. Before coming to Palestine, we sometimes felt anxious about how to reach and live in Palestine and Hebron safely. Mr Rafat Shantir has always been assisting us in the procedures and necessary information through Skype, emails and WhatsApp until we reach. On reaching Palestine on the first day itself, we felt overwhelmed by the sceneries of the country and the hospitality of the people and realized that we had unnecessary worries before coming and that our stay would be too short.
The staff of the EC were both professional and friendly at the same time and thus creating a pleasant working environment. We were introduced to our host family on the first day at the EC and met the other international volunteers. Teaching and learning takes place through activities at the EC, outside the EC and in partnership with other schools in the region for different levels of students. During the two weeks, we have been to Kharas and some other schools to teach English. We have also been to the Hebron Polytechnic University for a workshop on the Spelling Bee Competition. The experience was always a win-win situation for both the students and us. Students could learn from us and we also learn so much from them about their culture and about things we would not get to know on Palestine through the media.
At the EC, the lesson usually starts within the classroom and ends with practical exercises about real life situations outside the classroom. There is also an English Club at the EC in which we could help students practice conversational English. One of the activities conducted was to teach students how to order food/ drink in a coffee shop or restaurant. The lesson started in class and continued in a coffee shop or visiting a hotel (Plaza hotel). The students in Hebron are always keen about learning the English language and other cultures. The motivation of the pupils also motivated us to give the best of ourselves not only to teach but to teach with our hearts.
We also had Arabic classes with Mariam, an Arabic teacher, at the EC. The level of our Arabic was very basic and Mariam could make learning Arabic more fun. At the end of the 2 weeks we could easily negotiate prices while shopping or with the taxi driver in Arabic. We could also converse with some words with students in Arabic.

Fridays are holidays in Palestine and we are given one day off per week at the EC. We thought that we would not have enough time to visit in the nearby region or socialize with other more people. But the EC caters for the internationals volunteers and organize regular outings from the Centre with other internationals e.g we have been at the Al Maskobiya Church, Camel Shop. Our host family also caters for our stay in Hebron. We were accompanied to the Old city of Hebron and Ibrahimi Mosque on our day off. On Fridays, we have been to Jerusalem and we could also visit Jericho during our short stay. All the places were physically and spiritually beautiful. We neither felt lonely nor unsafe at any time because Palestinians are always enthusiastic to help and give details about the history of the country. Palestine is a country which cannot be understood neither in books nor internet but only by experiencing it.

Yes, I recommend

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About The Excellence Center

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