Volunteer and Learn Arabic In Palestine

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About

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

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

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

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

Questions & Answers

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

Reviews

92%
based on 109 reviews
  • Impact 8.8
  • Support 9.1
  • Fun 8.6
  • Value 8.9
  • Safety 9.2
Showing 61 - 75 of 109
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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 this program
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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 this program
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Mirjam
8/10

My Palestine experience

I'm a University student from Germany and I volunteered at the Excellence Center for one month.
My main task was supporting the English teachers with their classes at the Center. I would practice discussion questions with the students, help with colloquial exams or do short presentations about German or Western traditions and food. A lot of times I went to high schools in nearby villages where I taught together with another volunteer. We were able to prepare and hold a lot of those classes on our own, dividing the lesson in a theoretical part and a game part where the students had the chance to practice what they’ve just learnt in a more fun and interactive way. Additionally I did a few one-on-one conversational classes with older students at the Center.
Twice a week I had Arabic lessons with one of the teachers from the Center. I always enjoyed the classes and felt like they were very effective, focusing only on conversational skills that I could apply and practice right away during my daily life with my host family.I chose to learn the Palestinian dialect so that I would be able to communicate with the locals. Apart from these classes I learnt a lot just by being around my host family or trying to talk to taxi drivers, shop keepers or people on the streets. As I wasn’t a complete beginner, but had a good basis from Arabic classes at home I felt like I could definitely collect a lot of new vocabulary and learn how to have basic small-talk conversation. Apart from that, one month is not enough to make any major progress if you don’t commit to studying Arabic full time. But my time here gave me a lot of motivation to keep going and improve my Arabic skills at home.
At the Excellence Center I likedthe relaxed atmosphere and friendly relationship between the volunteers and the teachers. Sitting together for breakfast or coffee between classes in the kitchen or on the rooftop has become something I was looking forward to every day. Being around other volunteers and sharing with them the experiences you make with your host family and hearing about what they experience was very important to me and the communal spirit among the Internationals definitely contributed to the positive atmosphere at the Center. Also the staff was very supportive and I always felt comfortable talking to them about any problems or questions that came up during my stay. The students seemed very excited about the foreigners and a lot of times during the breaks they came to say Hi, shake your hand or take pictures with you. I would not have thought that so many people here are so passionate and motivated about learning English.
From time to time, the Center organized trips around the city to show us the local businesses and cultural sites.I went on a tour to the Ceramic, Clothes and Camel Factories and another time one of the teachers took us to the Old City of Hebron and told us about the complex situation between the soldiers and Palestinians that still live there. Apart from that, on the weekends I did a lot of trips with the other volunteers. We visited Jericho and the ruins of Hisham’s Palace, Bethlehem and the wall, Jerusalem, Nablus and Jenin. The shared taxis are an easy and considerably cheap way to get around on your own. In some places, like Jericho, it is better to have someone take you with a car. With my host family I spent one day at the Dead Sea doing a barbecue, which was a great experience as well.
Living in Hebron definitely took some getting used to for me, but after a couple of weeks, once I had a better orientation of the central areas and figured out the taxi system, I felt more comfortable. Especially the Old City with the Ibrahim Mosque, the market and Tel Rumeida are very interesting and beautiful places to visit. Being here gives you the opportunity to learn a lot about the occupation and the current situation between Palestinians, settlers and soldiers, which is a sad, but significant part of life in the Westbank. The host family can make or break your volunteering experience, as you will probably spend a lot of time with them. Family in general plays a huge role in a Palestinian’s life, so during your time there you will probably meet a lot of uncles, aunts, cousins and sisters or brothers in law. Therefor it’s important to feel comfortable around them and if you don’t, to tell the people at the Center. This is why I decided to change host family after one week and have been very happy with my new one. I really enjoy spending time with them in the evening, eating and watching TV or going out for dinner to a restaurant or a relative’s place. Being around the family in the house is also the perfect way to practice Arabic vocabulary that learn during class.
I was a bit concerned about the security situation and about not being able to walk around freely at all or experiencing incidents between Palestinians and soldiers on the streets. But after I got to know the city I felt safe and walking around Hebron during daytime turned out to not be a problem at all. Knowing the directions in Arabic or having someone write them down for me helped a lot to avoid confusion with the taxi drivers. I was surprised that travelling inside Palestine was not an issue at all. Anywhere I’ve went so far, service drivers and people on the streets were very considerate and always ready to help when I didn’t know how to get from A to B and happy to practice their English with me. Also traveling to Israel for the weekend is no problem at all when going through Jerusalem. The only thing that I always had to keep in mind were the Palestinian and Israeli holidays to make sure I don’t get stuck on the way, as I was traveling on Friday and Saturday most of the time.
I think what I came to appreciate the most about Palestine is the hospitality of the people that start treating you as part of the family right away. Of course I loved the food, like hummus and pita and the traditional Makhluba. Being with the other volunteers at the Center, traveling with them on the weekends and sharing with them all the new experiences was very important to me as well.
I do believe that volunteering with the Excellence Center and living with a host family gives volunteers a unique opportunity to dive into the Palestinian culture and learn spoken Arabic while contributing to the community of Hebron. The two days off during the week are a perfect amount of time to travel around the area and explore Palestine together with other volunteers. The best recommendation that I can give to future volunteers is to take any chance to engage with the locals, try to speak as much Arabic as possible and ask questions if you’re curious about certain things. You might be surprised about their openness and their generosity. At the same time being able to clearly communicate when you don’t feel comfortable with something and to not be afraid of insulting them by not accepting every offer is just as important in order for you to make the best of your time here in Palestine.

How can this program be improved?
I would have liked to be able to spend more time with them during the week, having a sort of common room where we could have hung out on Friday or Thursday nights would have been great. Another thing that might be a good idea to implement is a guide line about the cultural differences and a few advice, especially for girls, how to behave around men in order to avoid misunderstandings. I would have wished to know about certain things beforehand that I was told after a while by family members or other volunteers.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Dean
8/10

My first time to Hebron

This was my first time to Hebron and I only had a short stay while I was in town. I was running a small academic project in which I was interviewing English teachers in Palestinian educational institutions to learn about their experiences and I was lucky enough to have learned about the Excellence Center online.

Hebron is my penultimate place to visit in Palestine (I have been here for about 10 days in which I visited Ramallah and Nablus) and one thing I am struck by is how courteous and generous the people have been. I would say that my experiences of just going-around and meeting people has been quite positive. I have been to a number of other Arab countries before (mainly in the Gulf) but I think my visit to Palestine is going to be the most memorable. I've been having very warm and friendly conversations with people at pretty much every turn.

The foreign volunteers here are very motivated to learn Arabic and they work very hard to plan their English lessons. As for the Center's Palestinian teachers, they were very enthusiastic and I was happy to get a chance to meet and interview them. They care about their students, which is probably the most important part of a school. All in all, I think the Center looks dedicated to its work and they care about their students.

Response from The Excellence Center

Hi Dean,
Thank you so much for leaving a review. We are glad that you enjoyed your time in Hebron, Palestine.

We hope to see you in the future at the Excellence center and in Palestine.

With kind regards,

Yes, I recommend this program
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Lucie
9/10

My experience in Palestine

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

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

Hello Lucie,

Thank you so much for leaving a review. We are glad that you enjoyed your time in Hebron, Palestine. Your great work during the two months and a half at the Center will not be forgotten.

We hope to see you in the future at the Excellence Center and in Palestine.
With kind regards,
EC Team

Yes, I recommend this program
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Itzel
9/10

Short time, great memories

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

How can this program be improved?
Providing furhter details about local transportation and maps (or at least a diagram) before and during the arrival
Yes, I recommend this program
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Klaudia
10/10

Experience in Hebron

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I recommend this program
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Maeva
10/10

A short yet sweet trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I recommend this program
Stephanie
10/10

Best first time ever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can this program be improved?
Letting more people know in social media about what is been doing here so they can come help and live the experience
Yes, I recommend this program
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Tamsin
9/10

Brilliant volunteering opportunity, I highly recommend the EC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response from The Excellence Center

Dear Tamsin,

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

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

Hayaki Allah Ya Tamsin

With kind regards,

Yes, I recommend this program
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Ellen
8/10

Amazing experience in Palestine!

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

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

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

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

I will miss my Khalili family so much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Ellen,

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

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

With kind regards,
EC Team

Yes, I recommend this program
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Alison
9/10

My Experience in The Excellence Centre

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response from The Excellence Center

Dear Alison,

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

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

With kind regards,
EC Staff

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Harry
9/10

My time in Hebron

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

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

Dear Harry,

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

Greetings from the entire team
Excellence Center's staff

Yes, I recommend this program
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Eleanor
9/10

Excellent

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

How can this program be improved?
Organisation of classes, level of teaching assistant participation in lesson organisation.
Response from The Excellence Center

Dear Eleanor,

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

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

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

My experience in Hebron

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

Response from The Excellence Center

Dear Elena,

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

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

With kind regards,
Excellence Center' team

Yes, I recommend this program

Interviews

Meet the Alumni

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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...