Volunteer and Learn Arabic In Palestine

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About

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

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

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

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

Questions & Answers

No. Not at all. Even West Bank Palestinians need a very good reason to go, and getting approval from the Israeli government can take months. The only way I know of for a foreigner non-NGO member to get to Gaza is by crossing the Rafah crossing from Egypt. I believe this is technically illegal though.
I have had a lot of free time. Sometimes less because you are planned in for courses as a teacher. But there is a lot of freedom in asking free time and enjoy yourself in an other city or with friends.
Hello Chrissy, No prior visa is needed for Americans, Canadians, and most Europeans to enter Israel and Palestine. You can can a visa for three months on arrival. If you would like to stay for more than three months, you have to leave the country (e.g. visit Jordan) and come back to get another visa for three months. Please write to us if you have any questions. Greetings from Palestine

Reviews

91%
based on 92 reviews
  • Impact 8.7
  • Support 9.1
  • Fun 8.4
  • Value 8.9
  • Safety 9.1
Showing 61 - 75 of 92
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Daniel
10/10

Lifetime experience in palestine

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

How can this program be improved?
According to the TESA program the only thing that should be improved is the information volunteers get about their students. It will be a good idea to give the teachers some information about level, motivation, individual difficulties the student might have...
Response from The Excellence Center

Dear Daniel,

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

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

We hope to see you again in Palestine.

Greetings from the entire team

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Joseph
10/10

Volunteering and Learning Arabic in Palestine

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

Response from The Excellence Center

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

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

We hope to see you soon in Palestine

With kind regards,
Excellence Center's team

Yes, I recommend
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Sascha
9/10

My time here in Hebron

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

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

Dear Sascha,

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

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

with kind regards,
Excellence Center's team

Yes, I recommend
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Sean
10/10

And I thought I knew Palestine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I recommend
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Nazeer
9/10

An Incredible Experience in Palestine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I recommend
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Iram
10/10

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

Palestine – A Precious Experience

By Iram and Arshad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response from The Excellence Center

Dear Iram and Arshad,

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

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

Salam our sister Iram and our brother Arshad
EC team

Yes, I recommend
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Sara
10/10

Volunteer Teacher Experience

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

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

Sara Amin

How can this program be improved?
Better communication with the host families.
Decrease of fees for volunteers.
Yes, I recommend
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Maud
10/10

My unforgettable experience at the Excellence Center

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

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

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

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

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

How can this program be improved?
This program was perfect in every way, it was so rich and intense.
I thought maybe international volunteers could pay less money to Excellence Center because of the fact that they work for free and families don't receive more than 60 dollars per month from Excellence Center. But I was happy to contribute finacially to the center because it's an amazing organization with amazing projects and values !
Yes, I recommend
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Jim
10/10

An Excellent Environment for Learning Arabic and Teaching English

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

Yes, I recommend
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Carmen
7/10

Palestine, of course!

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

Yes, I recommend
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Daan
9/10

Contributing to Palestinian society while learning

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

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

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

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

Yes, I recommend
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Patrick
10/10

My Experience Center at the Excellence Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I recommend
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Eve
7/10

Experience letter

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

Yes, I recommend
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Stine
9/10

Volunteering in Palestine

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I recommend
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Ines
8/10

A way to experience the real West Bank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About The Excellence Center

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