Volunteer and Learn Arabic In Palestine

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Join Our Family in Palestine and Germany

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

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/ .

Reviews

92%
based on 117 reviews
  • Impact 8.8
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 8.7
  • Value 8.9
  • Safety 9.2
Showing 76 - 90 of 117
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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
Default avatar
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
Default avatar
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
Default avatar
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
Default avatar
Fred
9/10

Excellence Centre Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How can this program be improved?
Reduce price
Response from The Excellence Center

Dear Fred,

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

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

Greetings from all of us

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

This was the best experience of my life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10/10 I would do it again :D

How can this program be improved?
Concerning what could be improved:

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

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

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

Hi Amir,

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

We wish you all the best.

With kind regards,

Yes, I recommend this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program

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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...