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.

Join Our Family in Palestine and Germany

Welcome to the Excellence Center: People who are between 18 – 75 years old are eligible to participate in all of our programs in Palestine and Germany. All nationalities and majors are welcome! You do not have to have any degree to join us. The Excellence Center hosts internationals year-round. Participants decide when they would like to start and end their programs. We are very flexible when it comes to starting and ending dates.

Questions & Answers

I don't know for certain what the age limits are, but when I was there I met people from their early twenties to seventies. You don't need to have teaching experience as far as I know. They seem very willing to work with whatever level of experience you have. It is helpful to know some Arabic before you go. I didn't know any and it was difficult at times, especially with my host family, but not...

Hi, thanks for reaching out! We don't have the details on our site for classes. To learn more we recommend contacting the program provider directly to learn more! This helpful link will take you right to their contact info: http://excellencenter.org/contact-us/.

Hi, great question! The monthly fee to participate in the program is $695 (U.S.$). Anything extra you save can go to personal spending and exploring the area! For an estimate of how much you should bring for personal spending we recommend contacting the program provider more details, which you can do here: http://excellencenter.org/volunteer-in-palestine-2/.

Reviews

93%
based on 161 reviews
  • Impact 8.9
  • Support 9.3
  • Fun 8.8
  • Value 9
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 31 - 45 of 161
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Chelsea
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Experience with the Excellence Center

My name is Chelsea and I came to Palestine from the United States. I already hold a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and came to the Excellence Center to participate in an abbreviated volunteer program.

During the course of my two week stay in Hebron, I assisted with English clubs wherein a longer-standing volunteer led a group discussion on a designated topic. I was also given the opportunity to take Arabic lessons with one of the students from the Evening nglish club. Ordinarily people will do two Arabic lessons per week but my instructor was willing to meet nearly every day due to the short duration of my stay. She was an excellent teacher and toward the end of the lessons we would veer off into small talk about culture and languages.

In addition to the Arabic lessons at the Excellence Center, I stayed with a host family who also taught me a bit of Arabic. I stayed with a mother and her son, and her other son and grandchildren lived below us. I arrived to Hebron on a Wednesday and by the next night I was already traveling to Ramallah with my host family to visit more family members and enjoy Ramadan celebrations.

While immediately traveling to Ramallah and knowing very little Arabic was a bit of a culture shock, it was nice to balance that by spending time with the other volunteers. People hailed from all over the world and we all got along well, at least from what I could tell during my two weeks. It was a little difficult to feel included as the majority of them stayed in the same apartments while I was with my host family. But people made extra efforts to invite me out for dinner or coffee. And on that note, the coffee was one of my favorite parts of the trip and I plan to make it the Palestinian way when I get home.

As far as the staff at the Excellence Center goes, they are very quick and responsive. At times it seemed like there was no plan but then when I consider the fact that volunteers come and go and some only stay for a week, the staff did an excellent job of giving everyone the opportunity to see and experience all that Hebron has to offer. Additionally, my trip was during Ramadan so the atmosphere was much more laid back than normal. During my short visit, I got to visit the old city, the university, the glass factory, and the municipality. I would’ve gone to visit a refugee camp as well if I hadn’t fallen ill with a stomach bug that went around. This, however, gave my host family the opportunity to lavish me with kindness and hospitality as they made sure I got better.

For the most part I felt safe in Hebron. I would’ve felt better if I had known more Arabic. I still would not venture out on my own at night, particularly in a different city as a female foreigner, but during the day in Hebron I had no concerns.

The food in Palestine was delicious and I was fortunate to receive home cooked meals from my host family. People were very hospitable and the streets were fascinating; my personal favorite was the street art which was expressive of how people felt about the political situation. The weather was very hot during the day but the evenings were quite pleasant - though sometimes it was a bit too uncomfortably warm to sleep.

I would recommend this program to anyone who is curious about Palestinian culture or who is looking to practice Arabic. It is also good for having a better understanding of the occupation. I think for me, someone who was more curious about the culture, coming during Ramadan was a good choice. Outside of Ramadan is a more rigorous teaching and learning schedule.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I wish I had come to the Excellence Center back when I was a student in undergrad and could incorporate my learning into my academic study. I would have come for the whole summer, hot as it may be, and experienced the laid back aspect of Ramadan as well as the more rigorous teachings work.
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Saarah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Visiting Palestine

My name is Saarah, I am from the UK and I am studying law in London
During my time at the Excellence Center I took part in many activities including talking to a legal trainee about her work in the Sharia Court and learning more about how the Islamic Law is applied to family disputes. I also visited Hebron University and spoke to the Dean of the Law College to learn more about the structure of the course and the areas the students choose to more specialize in, I also gained insight into the origins of Palestinian law and how it has been influenced by British, Jordanian and Ottoman rule. Whilst at the university I attended an arts festival and was impressed by the powerful recitation of famous Palestinian poems as well as the student's reenactments of Shakespeare and other plays and literature.
Alongside this I participated in site visits to the old city of Hebron, Fawwar refugee camp Battir Village, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. In particular I was struck by the resilience of the Palestinian people when visiting Shuahada street in Hebron and meeting a woman living in the midst of settlements who has resisted being removed from her home for almost 20 years and has had 25 stints in Israeli prison. In addition to this I spoke with volunteers from the Palestine Red Crescent Society about the work they do and their thoughts and feelings on women's rights and issues in Palestinian society.

Throughout my time in Palestine I have had regular Arabic lessons at the Excellence Center which has improved my confidence in speaking the language as well as making life living in Hebron at lot easier. I also learnt about the different dialects within Palestine as well as the different accents and colloquial ways of talking within Hebron itself. I stayed with a host family who lived close to the center and was also able to practice my Arabic with them, I particularly enjoyed eating a traditional Palestinian meal every with them every night and I will miss them a lot .

What I liked most about Palestine was the welcoming nature of all the local people including their excellent hospitality and their willingness to help out in any way they can even when it was difficult to communicate. I also liked tasting all the local food and visiting all the historical sites as well as enjoying the amazing weather during my time here and these are the reasons that I would love to visit again soon.

Default avatar
Saarah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Visiting Palestine

My name is Saarah, I am from the UK and I am studying law in London
During my time at the Excellence Center I took part in many activities including talking to a legal trainee about her work in the Sharia Court and learning more about how the Islamic Law is applied to family disputes. I also visited Hebron University and spoke to the Dean of the Law College to learn more about the structure of the course and the areas the students choose to more specialize in, I also gained insight into the origins of Palestinian law and how it has been influenced by British, Jordanian and Ottoman rule. Whilst at the university I attended an arts festival and was impressed by the powerful recitation of famous Palestinian poems as well as the student's reenactments of Shakespeare and other plays and literature.
Alongside this I participated in site visits to the old city of Hebron, Fawwar refugee camp Battir Village, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. In particular I was struck by the resilience of the Palestinian people when visiting Shuahada street in Hebron and meeting a woman living in the midst of settlements who has resisted being removed from her home for almost 20 years and has had 25 stints in Israeli prison. In addition to this I spoke with volunteers from the Palestine Red Crescent Society about the work they do and their thoughts and feelings on women's rights and issues in Palestinian society.

Throughout my time in Palestine I have had regular Arabic lessons at the Excellence Center which has improved my confidence in speaking the language as well as making life living in Hebron at lot easier. I also learnt about the different dialects within Palestine as well as the different accents and colloquial ways of talking within Hebron itself. I stayed with a host family who lived close to the center and was also able to practice my Arabic with them, I particularly enjoyed eating a traditional Palestinian meal every with them every night and I will miss them a lot .

What I liked most about Palestine was the welcoming nature of all the local people including their excellent hospitality and their willingness to help out in any way they can even when it was difficult to communicate. I also liked tasting all the local food and visiting all the historical sites as well as enjoying the amazing weather during my time here and these are the reasons that I would love to visit again soon.

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Sharon
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Teaching English

My name is Sharon Cottrell, from North Carolina, USA and my experience in Palestine and at the Excellence Center has been one of an informational, educational and enjoyable experience.
In Palestine, the people have been helpful, loving, kind to all of us. Everywhere I have visited the people have helped me find what I have needed and where I needed to go. I traveled all around Hebron, and not once did anyone cause any problems for me or made me feel unsafe, this included visiting a refugee camp and the Old City of Hebron.
I visited the refugee camp and met a wonderful 90 something gentleman. He had a beautiful house and land near the sea, around 1947-48. Then Egypt and Sudan had a conflict with Israel. The Israeli soldiers surrounded this elderly man’s city and for six months, no food or supplies was able to get in or out. He stated that they were trying to force all the residence to leave their homes and land and go someplace else. They tried to stick it out, but in the end they were forced to leave to not starve. All the residence packed up what they could in cars and left toward Bethlehem. This would be a short stay as conflict would come there too and they move again to Hebron.
This elderly gentleman told us he live in tents for eight years, before they decided to built homes of stone. He stated that they had dreamed of going back to the homes and properties they once lived in, but gave those dreams up when Israel tore all the homes down. When asked what dreams he had for his children and descendants now, he replied, “just a home land that they can live in peace with everyone.” I am so happy the Excellence Center has given me the opportunity to see things first hand.
It is so easy to listen to the news and those around you, of how things they think are, but without the chance to really experiencing life here, you really cannot know. The Palestinians have had a hard life, but they do not allow themselves to be discouraged in education, life and one day having a place to truly call home. A place where they won’t have to worry about if the roads will be closed to their homes and have to drive miles to get around.
They put a lot of effect and love into making sure all their children have a chance at education. This is where Excellence Center comes into play. They allow volunteers to come and help teach English, both in the classroom and at the center. The schools allow me to come into a boy’s school and two girl schools to teach and play games of English. These children were so eager and willing to learn and show everyone just how good they could speak English. The school administration opened their doors and were eager for others to come and teach in their schools. Every school that I was invited into, made me feel like family. They brought coffee, tea and snacks in for my enjoyment, while I was visiting. It was a beautiful experience, just like the homes of my host family.
The host family that I stayed with made sure I had warm blankets on the bed, tea and coffee to drink and snacks in the refrigerator. My host had to leave for Germany, but she made sure her family came by at night to give me dinner and some company. They showed me how the Palestinians families are close knit and loving, not only to each other, but to strangers too.
Every morning I would leave the host home and catch a taxi to the Excellence Center. The taxi drivers were always helpful and kind, making sure I got to where I needed to be, without any worries. I had no fear while traveling or walking around Hebron. Upon arrival at the Excellence Center every morning, I would start off every morning with breakfast with other volunteers and staff, at the Center.
My schedule would include breakfast, then going to teach English, usually at different schools and then back to my host home. It was not all work all day though. The Excellence Center made sure I got to see some sights in Hebron, like the Glass Factory, where I found beautiful jars, bowls and trays, that had blown, fired and painted. They also took me a Loom Factory where I saw them make all kinds of materials for scarves, dresses and purses. I went to the University and was able to meet some of the professors and saw all the wonderful things, the students, were doing. The Excellence Center knows how to mix the volunteer work with going out and meeting the people and take away any of our misconceptions.
One of my misconception was that everyone would be upset with me, if I did not cover my head, since I was a woman. I was told by several women at different schools that no one would be offend. The staff made me feel relaxed and enjoy the experiences I was having. They not only work hard to make sure those want to learn English, had a chance to learn, but also made the opportunity for volunteers to learn Arabic. I truly leave with this experience deep rooted in my soul and would love to come back and reach out to those within Palestine. I will leave behind part of my heart when I leave this place. I challenge all who read this, to come see for yourself what truly is happening here and how you might help.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
How the Israelis close off roads going into and out of the Refugee camps, making them drive miles to get into their village/camp. I do not understand what the purpose of this was or why it needed to be done. This is their village, with no settlements around to dispute. The people were not violent or causing problem. This is something I would like to understand. The people are very loving there.
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David
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Teaching English and Computers

Our daily activities included a cross between teaching, sight-seeing, and socializing. I was brought here with the expectation to find out more about Palestinian culture and to teach. One tends to hear a lot of negative things in the news when it comes to Palestinians. And as a Pentecostal Christian I have had limited exposure to the Muslim and even less within a Muslim culture. I did not personally find religious differences offensive but more an opportunity to share, both culture and religion.

My specific teaching responsibilities were mainly focused on teaching english but also teaching technology and computer items. I was able to teach one technology class with help of my wife and a nice young lady from Sweden. We covered engligh terms for computers and technology. Many of the students were quite involved (and knowledgeable). I did not get to teach a lot of technology but we did visit Hebron PolyTech University where I made contact with staff, including the profession of technology (which I plan to follow up with soon). I also helped my wife teach english at two secondary schools for girls and one for boys. The students there were very excited to see us and asked many questions about culture and language.

We have been feeling safe all week long. We were concerned about the potential for violence with the Israeli elections this week. While we did hear a lot of noise in the distance the night before elections but there was nothing anywhere in our area and our host family was most accommodating. Earlier in the week (Sunday) we visited the cave of the patriarchs and the Ibrahimi Mosque and heard about an attack on Palestinians in 1994 and also more recent violence against Palestinians around the closed off street going into the Israeli settlement (guess violence is a two way street). Our tour went very quietly and the main concern there was probably getting out of there before the street vendors and children entrepreneurs had us spend all of our money on souvenirs!

We also got to see a glass/ceramic factory and a fabric manufacturing facility where we bought some nice souvenirs. We were able to walk around on the main streets and sight-see for ourselves and even visited a local KFC for some fried chicken, as well as do some window shopping.

Actually, the people were almost over-board on friendliness. We were invited to dinner multiple times. We shared tea and/or coffee multiple times a day. The other volunteers (who mostly spoke english) tended to bring us a bit of home life. The staff tried to teach us some arabic but we did not pick up much. When I accidentally dropped 50 shekels out of my pack later in the week at a cultural festival at PolyTech someone pointed out my drop to ensure I did not loose the money. We enjoyed the festival where I saw (mostly young) people enjoying food, culture, and technology innovations. I don’t think I saw any mad or angry faces the whole time I have been here.

Btw: Weather here in the springtime is gorgeous. Nights can be cool so dress appropriately.

What would you improve about this program?
I do not think there is really anything wrong with the program. I guess a bit more scheduling of daily activities would not hurt.
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Monica
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Human Rights Program

My name is Monica and I am from Barcelona. Last year I finished my bachelor in criminology and now I am studying another bachelor in International Relations. Initially, I came to the Excellence Center for two weeks in order to do the Human Rights, but in the end of my volunteering I decided to prolong my stay for two more weeks.
During my volunteering I did different activities related to the Human Rights in Palestine. Basically, I made a lot of interviews with organizations that work in Hebron, some of them, for example, of which are concerned with the protection of rights of women and children. Moreover, I had the pleasure to meet and interview lawyers whom explained the situation of Palestine to me and the problems that people encounter in the law institutions. Another activity that I did during my volunteering was a workshop for children, in which I introduced the topic of Human Rights as a general idea and the right violations in Palestine in specific.
I was studying Arabic at the same time that I was doing my program, first with a teacher called Nour and then with Osama. I studied modern standard Arabic for over one year before I came to Hebron, but in Palestine I started to learn the dialect. The Arabic lessons were very useful to understand how the language works and to learn some of the most important words and sentences that you have to use during your time in Palestine. But at the same time, one of the best ways to improve your Arabic is speaking with the local people and friends. At least for me, this was the best way for me to practice the language in Hebron.
When it comes to evaluating the Center’s environment, I only can write positive things. During my whole stay in Palestine I felt like in a very big family. The staff was very grateful and kind with all the volunteers and they always took care of us. Furthermore, I have to say that since I arrived in Hebron and met the other volunteers, I felt that I have made friends for the rest of my life. We spent a lot of time together and many different experiences really formed bonds between us.
During the weeks, the other volunteers and I visited different places in Palestine. Sometimes on our own, for example Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho and Nablus. But one of the things that all of use really enjoyed were the hikes we went on every Friday. It gave us the opportunity to visit not only the biggest and most famous cities in the country, but also to get to know the wonderful countryside and nature Palestine has to offer.
Apart from that, I enjoyed the time which I spent with my host family a lot. They were always so nice with me during all the time that I was living with them. I really recommend this experience to all the volunteers, because it gives you the opportunity to really be part of the Palestinian culture and to improve your Arabic every day.
To all the people that ask themselves if Hebron is a safe place I can say that I have never been scared or afraid at any point in time in Hebron. The people are very nice and welcoming and everybody is happy to help you or spend time with you. Actually, this is what I liked most about Palestine: its people and their hospitality that makes you feel at home from the first day.
I definitely will come back to Palestine because now I can say that I really love this country. And I think that coming to the Excellence Center was one of the best decisions in my live. I have learned a lot, not only about the situation in Palestine, but I have had the opportunity to meet people that I will never forget.

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Alexander
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The time of my life in Hebron, Palestine

I have only positive things to say about my experience with the Teach English, Study Arabic programme at the Excellence Center. This programme involved teaching about 15-20 hours a week of private English classes and general English classes for young learners. I had some fantastic students who were all eager and willing to learn and made teaching a lot of fun. We often also did outreach work, visiting local schools to teach for free, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education.

I also had three hours of studying Arabic per week, with Marwa Shantir as my teacher, which was fantastic for quickly improving my level of Arabic. The constant exposure to and immersion in the language from always being around Arabic speakers meant that I rapidly learnt new words and phrases and was able to apply them in conversational Arabic. By the end of my stay, I was able to hold basic conversations in Arabic which was a fantastic cultural experience for me.

Speaking of the culture, I found Palestine a fascinating place. The history and the current situation are present everywhere and hearing about it from the locals is very important to do. Beyond that it was nice to see some of the similarities and differences that exist in Arab and Western culture; I was lucky enough to experience a proper Palestinian wedding, which was a real highlight. The food as well was really good! We prepared meals together at The Excellence Center and had some great dinners, particularly the farewell barbeque.
The people though are what really stood out. I have made lifelong friends here both among the foreign volunteers and the Palestinian staff. The locals were always super friendly and welcoming, and we were often invited out for dinner or for an evening in another town which was a great way to see more of the country.

In terms of safety, 90% of the city is probably more safe than London where I live. However, there are clashes in certain areas, but these are very easy to avoid. You will never be placed in danger’s way by the Excellence Center. They will ensure you are not based near any of the troublesome areas and that you live with a responsible host family or in a well-situated apartment.

Thank you Excellence Center – I had a fantastic time here!!!

What would you improve about this program?
The coordination can sometimes be a little bit haphazard. Admittedly I came at time when we only had two volunteer English teachers, so resources were pretty stretched, but there could have been more planning in place for this.
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Floris
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Experience of Floris

My name is Floris, from the Netherlands. I am currently studying at Kyoto University, in Japan. My major is international relations and politics. At my university, we are free to choose courses every semester, so last semester I studied about post-colonialism, orientalism and Islam. These courses all made me interested in the Middle-East and especially in the situation here in Palestine.
Firstly I would like to thank the Excellence Center for the wonderful experience I had here in Palestine. I participated for three and a half weeks in the Volunteer & Arabic Program, which means that I both taught English and learned Arabic at the centre.
Teaching English here was very interesting and motivating. I have participated in other programs in other countries, but I found my experience at the Center more diverse than at the other places. I taught young children, high school students, PhD students and even officials of the Hebron municipality. As the students and their level of English were very different, teaching was very challenging. The English level in Palestine is generally very high, so through my English classes I learned a lot about the situation, from the viewpoint young and older people.
I also learned Arabic at the Center. I had one or more hours of Arabic almost every weekday. Because I already had studied some ‘Fusha’ (Modern Standard Arabic) by myself in Japan, I decided to study the ‘Amiya’ (dialect) of the Levantine region, focusing on the Palestinian dialect. The tempo of the classes was very high, but this helped me to learn a lot of new grammar and words every class. After every class I would review what I did and do my homework for the next day. I really think my Arabic improved. Now, after three weeks, I can communicate with my host family almost without using any English. Before coming to Palestine, I had only learned Arabic seriously for around two months, so I think this is a very big improvement.
Besides of teaching and studying, I also travelled to a lot of places with my colleagues and teachers of the Center. I went to the old city centre of Hebron, where Palestinian students explained about the situation there. I also visited Susya, a small Bedouin village which is famous for its conflict with the Israeli government. I also went to the Dead Sea with my friends of the Center.
Before I came to Palestine, I had applied for a host family, and the Center found one for me. It was a fantastic experience to live with a Palestinian family. Now I have my own home here in Palestine to which I can return to any time I want. The parents took me to Ramallah one weekend, and the brother, who has around the same age as me, took me to Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine. I will miss them a lot when I go back to Japan.
Safety is an important issue for all people thinking of visiting Palestine. Palestine felt much safer than I had expected. The people are super (!!!) friendly, and want to help you and even invite you to their house, a cafe or a party any time. By just walking through Hebron, you will have someone greeting you every few minutes.
Of course, there were some places that did not feel so safe. Especially the presence of the Israeli army in the old city of Hebron made me feel uncomfortable. Also, when I travelled to Bethlehem to see the famous wall-paintings there, I was screamed at with bad words by Israeli soldiers from one of the watchtowers. I want to stress that every time I felt scared or unsafe, this was not because of the Palestinian people. They were always very friendly and welcoming.
I hope to come back to the Excellence Center very soon again, and I recommend anyone who is open minded, to come and visit Palestine. I am sure it will be a fantastic experience for you too.

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Luca
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An Experience You Should Not Miss

I am Luca, 24 years old and I am from Germany. I graduated as BA of psychology in summer 2018 and completed a pre-master program in international relations this January. I decided to take half a year off in order to explore the Middle East, which is my primary field of interest. Finally, different websites and experience reports convinced me to spend some time at the Excellence Center in Palestine.
I choose to work as a volunteer in the ‘teach English study Arabic’ program from February until April. Parts of my work included to visit schools, teaching classes at the Excellence Center and giving one-to-one classes to students. All of these activities provided their very own experiences. Visiting schools in Hebron is always fun. The students are very happy and enthusiastic about having foreigners at their school and I was usually engaging them by playing games and doing fun activities in order to provide an alternative to their grammar focused curriculum. At the Excellence Center itself I had my own class, called ‘the English Club’. I felt very lucky because we did not have any fixed lesson schedule or exam in the end, so I could tailor the lessons to the individual interests of the students. We ended up having lessons about human rights, social media, and even mental health. I will never forget the way my students were engaged in this class and we had a great time. Private classes offer different teaching opportunities and experiences again. One-to-one lessons can be very intense, whether one does a grammar focused lesson, open discussions or listening exercises. In the end, I might have learned as much as my students. I talked about Islam, evolution and philosophy with a very religious student, about politics with a former lawyer, and learned a lot about economics and businesses from a successful Palestinian businessman.
Learning the Arabic language was also a very unique experience for me. While I was learning the basics like letters and important phrases in my Arabic lessons at the center, I could apply my acquired knowledge outside of the center. In the evenings, I was usually sitting together with Arabic people other volunteers and I learned some more phrases that I could use in the daily life. I came to Hebron as a complete beginner, only knowing how to say thank you, and could acquire a good basis that will help me to improve my Arabic skills in the future.
My Arabic teacher was very experienced and, just as everybody else at the center, extremely helpful and friendly. The working climate at the center was great and I felt as part of one big family. I was lucky to spend the time with other great volunteers and I probably made some friends for a lifetime, including both, Palestinians and international volunteers. After my time in Palestine, I even went on holidays in Jordan with a friend I met at the center.
During my two-moth stay in Palestine, I visited many different places in the country. Together with other volunteers I went to Bethlehem, Ramallah, or Jerusalem. Luckily, travelling is easy due to taxis that one can hop on everywhere in the cities. Moreover, on our holidays, the Excellence Center and Shekh Abed, a friend of the center and best man on this planet, organized different activities. Hence, we went hiking almost every Friday, which helped us to also see more of the beautiful countryside. As a nice side effect, it contributed to a great group cohesion.
In Hebron, I was living in the men’s apartment. Together with the others, I enjoyed the time and Osama, Shekh and Marwa were always responsive in case we had questions or needed help. In the evenings, we were usually sitting with Shekh Abed in his duwania next door; a living room-like place in which his friends and family come together to talk, play games or smoke argile. We had great evenings at this place and I can only recommend every volunteer in the future to go there. Moreover, all kinds of shops are in close proximity to the apartment and you can get snacks and water or soft drinks until late in the evening at a shop next door.
Before I came to Palestine, I had some doubts regarding the security in Palestine. Never been to a Middle Eastern country before, I was not sure how the situation might be. However, any concerns I might have had before I came to Hebron were unjustified in retrospection. During my whole stay, I felt very safe and never encountered a threatening situation. Crossing a checkpoint and being asked for your passport by Israeli soldiers can be a bit frightening, however, as a foreigner there is nothing one has to be afraid of. I used to walk in the streets of Hebron even late at night and felt more comfortable and safe than I do back in Germany.
What I liked the most about Palestine were its people. Palestinians are extremely welcoming and friendly. When I arrived at Hebron on my first day, I struggled to find the Excellence Center at first. A young boy saw me wandering around in the street and offered me his help to get to the center. After all, my stay in Palestine left too many impressions as I could write them down. I started to write a diary in order to not forget half of them. The people, the food, the country … I am just happy that I could make this experience and I will come back to Palestine to visit this country and all of my friends.
During the time of the year I came to the Excellence Center (February – April), I was at times the only English teacher together with a British friend of mine. This meant that we were quite busy at times, sometimes teaching many different classes and students each day. While this was a challenge from which I learned a lot for myself, it sometimes kept me a bit from studying Arabic. Because in the evenings you will almost never find yourself sitting on your own, having a bit more time for self-studying during the day would have been good for me. In the end, however, it probably all comes down to time management and setting my priorities right.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Come with an open mind and heart. The Palestinian people will fill both.
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Lauren
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My Time with the Excellence Centre

The time spent getting to know the people of Hebron and working with the Excellence Centre has invaluable beyond belief. Every day here is new, different, exciting and fun. The people at the centre and within the local community are the most generous and welcoming I have ever met.
I came with no experience teaching but was able to participate fully in classes with the guidance of teachers and other volunteers.
The enthusiasm of the students makes the work all the more rewarding, and I was able to become good friends with many wonderful people through my classes.
To anyone considering undertaking this course, regardless of any prior Arabic language knowledge I would very much recommend it!

Thank you so so so much to everyone at the centre again!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
The hospitality of everyone here was beyond words. Almost every night we received dinner or coffee invitations, often from people we had only met once or twice. The feeling of community here is beautiful and refreshing compared to the Western norm.
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Margaret
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Two Weeks Volunteering at the Excellence Center

The Excellence Center truly lives up to its name. The staff and volunteers during my stay were welcoming, personable, and accommodating. They are incredibly receptive to any problems that you may bring up and will work with you to find a solution. Not only are the staff wonderful, but the Center attracts interesting and genuine people, helping you to find strong friends in the other volunteers. By the end of just two weeks, I truly felt that I was a part of the community at the Excellence Center. I took three hours of Palestinian Arabic lessons a week and helped out with both group and private English lessons.
While at the Excellence Center, I was able to take several short trips around Hebron and Palestine. For example, during my stay the staff organized a trip to Susiya, a Palestinian village sandwiched between settlements, and the Old City center of Hebron. Outside of formally organized excursions, I was able to travel to Battir, Bethlehem, and Mar Saba (a functional monastery in the desert outside of Bethlehem; it is a definite must-see as far as tourist sites go) with other volunteers. Within the city, Hebron is very walkable, and people are very helpful if you need directions.
Western impressions of Palestine cast it as a dangerous place. Being in Hebron directly contradicts this picture. With normal traveling precautions, such as respecting the culture and following local news, Palestine is a very safe place for international travel. If you have specific questions about safety, such as good times of day to travel and places to be more careful in, both the staff and your host family are invaluable resources to learn the specifics of how to get around in Palestine.
The lasting impression that I have of Palestine is the extreme hospitality and generosity of its people. On New Year’s Eve, I left the Excellence Center late and had difficulty finding a service back to my host family’s home. My host mother’s sister, whom I had never met before, quickly picked me up from the Excellence Center and insisted that I come to her home. We ended up going to her in-law’s house and I spent several hours being stuffed with food and laughing my way through conversation in Arabic. Finally, we went out driving to celebrate, and we rang in the New Year with a fruity smoothie on Ein Sarah St. At this point, she insisted that I spend the night at her house. This whirlwind evening was one of my favorite experiences in Palestine. While this was the most extreme example of the generosity of Palestinians that I encountered, many other times people invited me to share a meal, coffee, or sahlab (a warm winter drink).
My best advice for a future volunteer is to stay longer in Palestine! If you have the ability, a longer stay in Hebron is ideal as it gives you the chance to see more of Palestine and spend more time with the staff and volunteers at the Excellence Center. I believe that the best way to see Palestine is through the Excellence Center. The programs are flexible based off both your needs and the Center’s needs, and you can have degrees of autonomy or planned activities with the Center as suits your needs. Volunteering with the Center gives substance to your time in Palestine, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to travel to Hebron.

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Samuel
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A great experience

I spent two months at the Excellence Center in Hebron participating in the 'Teach English and Study Arabic' program which turned out to be a memorable experience. I received three hours a week of Arabic lessons from the wonderful teachers Dua'a and Isaac and learnt more than I expected which has inspired me to continue my Arabic studies. The teaching aspects of the program gave me a broad experience as I assisted the full-time teachers, taught independently and also gave 1 on 1 classes. This gave me valuable experience and insight into the various teaching methods and skills. All the teachers and staff at the Excellence Center are highly skilled and professional and design schedules and programs which cater to each volunteer's needs and level of experience. Not only was my time at the center a great academic experience, I also met so many wonderful people (both staff and volunteers) and found the center to have a very strong family (love) environment. The city of Hebron itself is also great to live in. As it is quite off the tourist trail, the locals are very welcoming and hospitable to foreigners. I was invited over for dinner several times and made friends with many of the locals.
In contrast to what mainstream news may say, Hebron (and Palestine in general) is safe. In my two months of living in Hebron, not once did I feel unsafe or threatened in anyway whatsoever. I think however, it is wise for anyone considering coming to Hebron to do a good amount of research on the city in order to gain an understanding of the situation in the city and its significant religious history.
For me, arguably the most rewarding aspect of my time in Hebron, was learning about Palestine, the culture, traditions, politics, religion, the people etc, all through first hand experience of living here. I also had the opportunity to travel to other cities/places in Palestine, both through trips organised by the center and by myself during my days off. I will miss my time in Palestine and hope to return someday.
Thank you for a wonderful time!

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Jamila
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED IN PALESTINE AND WITH THE EXCELLENCE CENTER

Jamaila, French-Algerian living in Barcelona Spain.

For me coming to Palestine was a dream come true. I came to The Excellence Centre as a volunteer writing articles about life in Palestine, teaching and learning Arabic. Once advice, "expect the unexpected in Palestine."

What you will see here is people wanting to go about their lives like you do at home. I have gone to the gym, to restaurants, I have travelled by myself. I honestly felt safer here than in my own European cities. But mostly I have witnessed how the Palestinians value the importance of family and friends, of welcome a visitor and always having a spare dinner plate for them.

This is why I think The EC is doing an excellent job:
- bringing visitors to Palestine
- mixing the local community with English-speaking foreigners

I really loved staying with a host family that has been like a second family to me, I have been invited to dinner and lunch daily. I had lessons with Marwa, she has been incredible and gave me the confidence I needed to learn basic Arabic.

I have witnessed the reality of the occupation for the Palestinians but they have kept their spirits up, they still have hope for the future. One of their hopes is to see more of you in Palestine. Each visitors brings with them a window into the world and takes with them unforgettable memories of wonderful people.

Again, please please come to Palestine, come to Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem and any other Palestinian City.

What would you improve about this program?
Perhaps with more tips on travelling arrangements to different cities, places to stay etc.. But really that's a minor thing really.
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Calumn
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Learning Arabic and Teaching English in Hebron

My name is Calum, I’m 21 and have recently graduated from the University of Dundee studying Politics and International Relations, with a sub concentration in the Middle East. Having graduated and not had the opportunity to learn Arabic I was keen to find ways to learn such an important and useful language, not just for employment but also for travelling. I set about looking for programs and courses that would give me a truly immersive experience and this is where I found the Excellence Centre, and I have not looked back since.

I chose the volunteering and learn Arabic option, as I not only wanted to learn the language but also meet people under the occupation and learn first-hand the difficulties of the situation. Having had no experience in teaching before I found my time in the classroom thoroughly joyful. I was eased into being an assistant and look forward to every lesson I had, as the kids were great and so eager to learn.

I had 3 hours a week of Arabic with my teacher Marwa, who made the learning of this daunting and completely new language fun, interactive and worthwhile. She was patient, encouraging and very supportive, everything you will need in a teacher and more. We always went at my pace and anything I didn’t understand was quickly and expertly explained to me. I came away from every lesson feeling more and more confident, and optimistic, that I would one day be fluent. This confidence was evident in all the volunteers at the Excellence Centre, as it was such a productive and enjoyable learning environment to begin with a new language. I was surrounded by fluent speakers and could ask at any time for help or explanations, something which thoroughly helped my learning and comprehension of Arabic.

I have made some amazing memories in Hebron and look forward to going back one day. Its bustling busy, busy and such a friendly city. I was instantly greeted with such politeness and kindness everywhere I want. Everybody was so welcoming and the food I had was delicious- or ‘zaki’! I would recommend for everyone to try Maqluba, as a trip to Palestine is not complete without it! I lived in an apartment with other volunteers and we would regularly talk an relax with our neighbours, the Hijazi’s, who are some of the most kind and welcoming people you will ever meet. They don’t just make you feel like a volunteer but as a friend. Inviting us for dinner, ensuing we were always content and showing us the meaning Palestinian hospitality. To them I say a warm hello from Scotland and a massive thank you!

Hebron is an extremely safe city and I feel safer here than in Scotland. Before I came I was concerned about the security situation, but never experienced anything dangerous, only an extremely welcoming people is a hard situation. A situation I would encourage anyone to witness for themselves the full extent of the occupation.

Living, teaching and learning in Palestinian was a truly amazing and remarkable experience, and I hope to be back leaning and speaking Arabic soon. I could not recommend this program enough, the centre goes out there way to make sure you are comfortable and have the best possible time there.

Shukran for a wonderful time!

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Alex
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best experience of my life

My name is Alex and I’m from Melbourne, Australia. After completing my Communications Degree from RMIT University, I came to Palestine to do the Teaching English and Study Arabic course at the Excellence Center.

I expected to do a heap of teaching, while squeezing in some Arabic here and there, but I have completed my time here learning significantly more Arabic than I had hoped. The Centre is a great place to work and learn, the teachers and volunteers here are like a family. My teacher, Marwa has been so amazing and helpful, she has made learning Arabic so enjoyable and has motivated me to study hard (something I am notoriously bad at). In my spare time here, I study, chat to teachers and volunteers, and most importantly; undertake informal cooking lessons with Khitam, who has taught me how to cook delicious Palestinian dishes while also improving my Arabic food vocabulary.

Everyone at the Center is warm, friendly, helpful and caring. The teachers are so much fun, the other volunteers are awesome and have become great friends of mine, and the students are motivated and eager to learn. Coming here everyday is fun, walking in for breakfast and chatting to everyone is a family affair, we laugh a lot, tell stories and plan trips around Palestine and Hebron. Manager Abou Mohannad is so helpful and funny, always chatty and friendly with us, he makes settling in and seeing the city so easy for us.

While here I have explored Hebron and the rest of Palestine, taking trips to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem, Dheisheh, Doura and Khan al-Ahmar. Being such a small country, it is very easy and cheap to travel around on days off, accomodation is usually cheap as well.

The apartment for the volunteers is in the bustling area of Bab al-Zawiye, where our neighbour Sheikh Abed and the whole Hijazi family make us feel so welcome. I thought that being in the apartment meant we would miss out on speaking Arabic all the time, but as we spend so much time with our neighbours, we speak Arabic all the time and they teach us new phrases and vocab constantly.

The other volunteers and I would often joke at the fact that so many people back home told us to ‘be careful’ here, ‘you know it’s such a dangerous place’ etc. etc. etc. But I honestly don’t think I have ever felt safer anywhere, not once have I ever felt threatened by anyone, or felt worried about where I was. You can walk the streets at any time and feel safe, it’s easy to forget about the occupation here, as the people are all so friendly and welcoming, I usually spend most of the day smiling.

My favourite thing about Palestine is definitely the people, I have made great friends from Hebron and Dheisheh, who I hope to know for the rest of my life. Even strangers make your day better, as they want to help you and make sure you have the best time possible.

I also inadvertently became a celebrity here via appearing in a video with singer Ayman al-Sabawi. In my last month here, I have been constantly recognised on the streets, taking photos with people and and telling them about the gig. Usually people just yell out ‘Australia!!’ and smile, it has been one of the oddest and funniest experiences of my life.

All in all, I cannot recommend this program enough. I didn’t expect to feel so comfortable here, I have settled in and now I have to leave!!! I am desperate to come back here and continue my study, and I hope to keep in touch with everyone I have met here. Hebron has become my second home, and I hope to continue coming back here in my life. I have fallen in love with Palestine and it has made me want to learn as much Arabic as possible.

Thank you to everyone at The Excellence Center, I’ve had the time of my life here.