Volunteer and Learn Arabic In Palestine

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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

Hi, great question! The monthly fee to participate in the program is $695 (U.S.$). Anything extra you save can go to personal spending and exploring the area! For an estimate of how much you should bring for personal spending we recommend contacting the program provider more details, which you can do here: http://excellencenter.org/volunteer-in-palestine-2/ .
No. Not at all. Even West Bank Palestinians need a very good reason to go, and getting approval from the Israeli government can take months. The only way I know of for a foreigner non-NGO member to get to Gaza is by crossing the Rafah crossing from Egypt. I believe this is technically illegal though.
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 96 reviews
  • Impact 8.8
  • Support 9.1
  • Fun 8.5
  • Value 8.9
  • Safety 9.1
Showing 76 - 90 of 96
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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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Iris سوسن
9/10

I lost my heart to Hebron

This was my very first time visiting Palestine. I wasn’t completely sure of what to expect of my visit. However, I did know not to trust the Israeli / Western narrative that depicts the Palestinian people in, let’s say, a not very flattering manner. My encounter with Palestinians overseas has always been positive so I sort of expected “more of that”.

I wanted to visit Palestine for several reasons. First of all, having studied Modern Standard Arabic for two and a half years prior to my visit, I had a very strong desire to improve my spoken Arabic - in particular the Levantine dialect. Secondly, being a person with a strong sense of justice I felt drawn to the country that embodies the possibly strongest symbol of injustice in our world today. Thirdly, as a language teacher I wanted to offer my English skills to the many brilliant and eager Palestinian students at the Excellence Center. Last but not least, I wanted to experience the real Palestinian culture through my host family, colleagues, and new friends.

I had decided to travel through Jordan, as I also wanted to meet some friends living in Amman on my way to Palestine. The driver who picked me up from the airport turned out to be Palestinian from Hebron, and he thus made sure to tell me about all the wonderful foods I needed to try when I got to his hometown - especially the grapes! He also told me that I was very lucky to visit Palestine as he was denied entry and had not seen his country nor city in years.

At the hotel I furthermore befriended two young Palestinian guys. One from Jerusalem and one from Hebron. Even before they knew that I was traveling to Palestine they were already offering me nuts and sweets while we were sitting on the rooftop of the hotel. When they learned about my destination we obviously quickly bonded and they offered to show me around their cities and meet their families. They straight away expressed concern that I was going to travel through the checkpoint on my own, and made me promise to let them know when I had arrived at my destination safely.

Based on several firsthand accounts from friends and colleagues I expected the worst from the checkpoint (King Hussein Bridge). The Israelis were not as ruthless as I had expected however, I was questioned over and over again for about 5 hours between long waits. I was literally asked the same 3 questions again and again: “why are you here”, “where will you be staying”, and “for how long”. Not the type of questions you’d find out of the ordinary to be met with at a border except that the Israelis either didn’t believe what you said or didn’t like your response. In my case they did not particularly like my response. Especially the combination of me studying Arabic combined with the fact that I was staying in Hebron - and only for a week. After providing my story to about ten different IDF soldiers – some more accommodating than others – they finally let me into Palestine but limiting my visa to only give me access to Palestinian territories and only for exactly a week. So long visiting Jerusalem and al-Aqsa!! (not happy…)

After a short bus ride from the checkpoint to Jericho (and nearly forgetting my camera on the bus..), I was met my a swarm of taxi drivers who all wanted to take me to my destination. They were all very friendly however, it was a bit overwhelming having about 8-10 people all trying to communicate with you at once in Arabic. Now, although my formal Arabic was quite all right, my colloquial Arabic was weaker than 5 year-old native speaker so I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. Suddenly, a young man who was sitting next to me on the bus (and who kindly reminded me to grab my camera when we disembarked) was standing next to me. He had overheard that I was going to Hebron. Apparently, he lived in Hebron and he insisted on taking me there. The discussion amongst the taxi drivers was getting a little bit too heated for my liking so I decided to accept his offer and drive with him and his family to Hebron (I should add here that I usually would never get into a car with strangers however in this case he turned out to know the manager of the center and also his family was there so I felt very safe). This gesture would be my first taste of the amazing hospitality of the Palestinian people and especially the good people of Hebron.

The drive from the checkpoint to Hebron did not take too long – perhaps just a couple of hours. During this ride it was interesting to see how the atmosphere in the car would change according to where we were driving. For example, the first stretch was patrolled by Israelis and thus we were all quiet, wearing seat belts and trying not to draw too much attention to ourselves. As soon as we entered a pure Palestinian area the seat belts came flying off, windows were rolled down, cigarettes were lit, music was played, and people started chatting and laughing.

When we arrived to Hebron I was invited to the young man’s family’s house. Here I was met and greeted by the entire family and provided with juice, tea, coffee, cake, fruits, and wonderful company. Mind you, this was not even my host family and they were still so excited about me being there.

After a while, the manager of the center, Rafat, came to fetch me and took me to the center, where I met a handful of the other internationals for a delicious dinner on the rooftop. After that I met my host family, a lovely young couple who recently had a little baby boy, and I got settled in to my room which, I shared with a young German girl.

Throughout the week I would usually be at the center between 9 and 10am. Rafat would bring us all breakfast which consisted of delicious local dishes such as hummus, foul, mutabbal, etc. After breakfast, I would spend most of the day assisting the local teachers in their classes, carrying out examinations of students, and helping out with different ad hoc tasks. I also received some one-on-one classes in the local dialect, which I found extremely nice – halwa ktir ktir! The staff were great, I bonded with everyone instantly and everyone was like a big family. I will be missing them all greatly until we meet again. My favorite part of the day was without a doubt teaching English to the kids (10-14 year olds). These kids were amazing! They were switched on, cheeky, and eager to learn. At the same time they were well mannered and disciplined. They possessed an amazing sense of humor and had big dreams for themselves, their people, and their country.

I would spend every evening in the company of either my host family or some of my many new friends – locals and internationals. It was strange that my friends and family overseas expressed a fair bit of concern, prior to my departure, about me traveling to Palestine. However, I had not at any time felt unsafe during my stay in Palestine in the hands of Palestinians. On the contrary, Palestine - or more specifically - Hebron is probably the one place in the world I have visited (and I’ve done a fair bit of traveling) where I’ve felt the safest! As a visitor you are constantly welcomed, looked after, and exposed to the overwhelming hospitality of the Palestinians.

I loved hanging out in the old city, exploring the old souq, and just getting lost in the sights and sounds of the city. Not so much for the shopping (although shopping was pretty good here I must say) but more to just absorb the buzzing atmosphere and to observe people as they carried out their daily activities. Perhaps I enjoyed watching Palestinians go about their day in spite of the tightened restrictions of the movement of Palestinians since the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994 that forced them to close their vegetable and meat markets, and banned Palestinian cars on Al-Shuhada Street. Moreover, perhaps I enjoyed seeing that injustice will never prevail and that life itself is a beautiful form of resistance to those who try to silence you as to diminish your existence. This resistance is among others manifested in the new generation’s desire to learn English. The desire to let their voices be heard, understood, and respected by the world. During the oral examination of a young university student I asked her to give me an example of a Palestinian success story. She replied: “To me, every Palestinian is a success story!”. I told her I couldn’t have put it better myself… Then I high-fived her!!

على هذه الأرض ما يستحقّ الحياة: على هذه الأرض سيدةُ”
الأرض، أمّ البدايات أمّ النهايات. كانت تسمى فلسطين. صارت
“تسمى فلسطين. سيدتي: أستحقّ، لأنك سيدتي، أستحقّ الحياة

“On this earth what makes life worth living: on this earth is the Lady of Earth, the mother of beginnings, the mother of endings. She was called Palestine. She came to be called Palestine. My lady: I am worthy, because you are my lady, I am worthy of life.”

–Mahmoud Darwish

Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Emmy
9/10

See ya habibi

My name is Emmy and I am a 20 year-old Science of Religion student. I am orginately from Amsterdam, Holland and this is my experience as a volunteer in Palestine.
The moment I decided to participate in The Excellence Center project of volunteering I didn’t realise where I was going. The only news we heard in Europe about Palestine was dramatic; a war zone that was difficult to access and habited by terrorists.
The reason for me to take part in this project was that I already had a certain opinion about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian population. My studies leadme to analyse the situation. Also I havealways been repulsed by what the Jewish people had to face during the Second World War. Not necessarily because I chose a side, but because it was a reality of disrespecting the human condition. The situation of the Palestinians is easily comparable to the past of the Jews in the way that they are treated in daily life.
The truth is far from what I was expecting it to be. I was expecting a country in continuous pain, where the habitants were locked up in their houses and where life has essentially stopped. Actually what I saw in Palestine was an incomparable sense of hospitality which I have never experienced before. The family who was hosting me, their family, friends and staff member welcomed me warmly.
I tasted the most flavorful dishes, fruits and vegetables. I was also mesmerised by the parties for graduations and birthdays where good food and laughter were shared. The Arabic music and dancequickly became one of my favourite parts of the culture.
But the reason of my stay in Palestine was mostly to teach English at the Excellence Center. I can assure that I learned much more from my students than the other way around. The struggle to succeed and to use their studies in real life inspired me. I realised how lucky I was with my freedom and to have the constant opportunity to choose. Not only as a young adult but also as a woman. Thanks to my students, this life experience hastaught me how to appreciate what I have and to enjoy the moment.
Before coming to the Excellence Center I had no experience whatsoever in teaching nor pedagogical activities. I honestly was nervous on my first day beacause I thought, “Wait a minute. This is not for me. I cannot do this”. But I also learned that making mistakes doesn’t mean to fail, but to put a step forward because you give yourself the opputunity to improve. Teaching at the Excellence Center was a great experience. What I liked the most was the interaction and contact with the students. Also, being a member of a mixed team composed of Palestinians and international English teachers and Arabic students created a comfortable environment.
It would be a lie to say that my whole stay was only filled with fun, happiness and laughter. The harsh reality of Palestinian discrimination and the Israeli occupation hit me multiple times in the face. The injustice procured me several times, if not all the time, with the feeling of frustration.
This was, and still is, the truth of Palestinian people for me. The occupation, the violence, the humiliation, and the suffering, which are all compensated with so much happiness to be alive, and with enjoying their families and everything that life has to offer.
Palestine was my first trip to the Middle East, and in fact also my first trip out of Europe. I feel that I have matured greatly and gained so much life experience. This journey defintely gave me the Middle Eastern fever and most of all the Palestinian fever. I hope to come back soon to Palestine where I’ve met incredible people and maybe “Insh’Allah” as they say here, the bordering countries.

Yes, I recommend
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Danielle
8/10

In Sha Allah...I'll be Back

I was a little hesitant what I would be doing, and if I would like it or not before coming at the Excellence Center. To be honest, I was a little hesitant the first few days I arrived. I think the first time I truly felt at home was the first time (or I guess the second) I met with one of my classes. Most of them struggled with pronouncing, "Danielle" but that didn't stop them from the warm greetings I received. I think the same thing can be said for my host family. I only stayed with them for two weeks, but only a few days in we all realized two weeks would be far too short for all of us.

I studied Arabic for 3 years in college, but I think the few weeks that I stayed in Hebron drastically improved my language skills. I had never had the opportunity to speak with so many native Arabic speakers, especially in the Levantine dialect.

I think the best part of my experience was learning so much about Hebron, Palestine and the Occupation. It's very different to hear over the news about the events in the West Bank versus actually being here. You not only see but feel the Occupation and how it manifests itself in everyday life.

The Center took us to Fwaar Refugee Camp and we had the opportunity to see how the camp is run by the UN and all of the atrocities that have happened there. Again, it takes a while to truly comprehend what is happening here, but it's enough to want to tell every person who know.

There was so much learning for me the entire time, and it's been an experience that I wanted to be longer.

How can this program be improved?
Better/More concrete scheduling for class times.
More details on how to travel via taxi/bus/etc
Yes, I recommend
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David
9/10

Teaching English at the Excellence Center in Hebron

I just completed a short term as an English-teaching volunteer in Hebron, Palestine, and I am already making plans to return. The experience was eye-opening and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was able to encounter the political situation in a very personal way both through interactions with the Israeli army alongside my Palestinian hosts, and by living with the locals. I was also able to practice my Arabic speaking skills, learn a bit of the local dialect, and learn just how challenging it is to teach someone a new language (something I hadn’t sufficiently appreciated before).

A bit about me: I am a native of Houston, Texas; I graduated two years ago from the University of Houston with a Bachelor’s in Mathematics; and I currently work as a consultant in the Dubai International Financial Centre. To be completely honest, I stumbled across the Excellence Center through a Google search while trying to find something to do for my two week vacation. I had studied Modern Standard Arabic in my university for two years, and I wanted an opportunity to practice a local Arabic dialect.

Upon arriving at the Excellence Center, Marwa, Osama, and the rest of their excellent staff ensured that I was well-accommodated with my host family. They checked that all the essential living amenities were available at the house, and ensured that I was comfortable with how to get to the center in the mornings – even taking me through a trial run from my house to the Center so I knew exactly how to navigate the taxi system (it’s a bit different) and exactly how much I should pay the drivers.

Because my term was only two weeks, I worked mostly as a teaching assistant to the formally employed English instructors, and as a substitute teacher when needed. People always say that the best way to learn about something is to teach it, and I learned this truly is the case. There is an accommodation one must make when teaching one’s native language to a non-native speaker, and I found it surprisingly challenging to explain why, for example, we say, “The four year old boy eats food,” while we also say, “The boy is four years old.” In short, I hadn’t expected to learn so much about English in Palestine.

The Center was also generous in supplying formal Palestinian Colloquial Arabic lessons. This will be essential for anyone who’s only studied Arabic in a Western university, since he or she will find that day-to-day Arabic is quite different from that taught in Al-Kitaab. Each day I would come in saying, “The cab driver today said X, but I learned that he should say Y.” This would kick off a 30 minute impromptu lesson on the local dialect with the other teachers, which would be continued in my formal Arabic class.

Life at home was also enjoyable. I lived with two other Excellence Center volunteers in an apartment just adjacent to our host family, with my own private room and bathroom. This allowed for privacy when needed, while also making it easy for us to go next door for late-night meals with the family. With an abundance of local delicacies always on order, 11 family members to talk with, and a genuine curiosity about one another’s lives, we spent many late nights discussing everything from local foods, traditions, language, and even politics with the family.

One fact should above all be acknowledged by anyone considering this program: West Bank Palestinians' freedom of movement is severely restricted by the Israeli authorities. For example, in order to travel outside Palestine or Israel, Palestinians must petition the Israeli government weeks ahead of time requesting permission to use the international airport in Tel Aviv. This burden, combined with the much lower wages Palestinians earn relative to their Arab and Israeli neighbors, means that a typical Palestinians' ability to travel internationally is severely constrained, meaning their opportunities to interact with different cultures are limited. For this reason you will be asked many questions about your home, your culture, and your religion. You will also be asked your opinions of Palestinian culture, as well as very candid questions about what you and people in your country think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

These genuine exchanges of ideas, combined with a first-hand exposure to life in Palestine and an opportunity to practice Colloquial Arabic, are exactly the things I was looking for when I applied for this program. I got all this and more, and I highly recommend anyone wanting the same to apply with the Excellence Center in Hebron, Palestine.

Yes, I recommend
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Jonathan
10/10

A visit I will never forget

-- 2015 --

This was my second visit to the Centre and was for only 10 days this time - I wish it was longer. As before, the staff were so friendly and helpful and the students were lovely. I particularly enjoyed running the employability skills workshops as they gave me the opportunity to feel that I was making a really valuable contribution. I also enjoyed helping out with the English classes and interacting with the younger students who were so keen and interested. The city of Hebron is a great place to spend time; colourful, noisy and full of life, and the food is great! The family who were my hosts last time are so kind and generous and this time are far more than just a 'host family', they are my dear friends. I look forward to my next visit!

-- 2014 --

The time I spent at the Excellence Center in Hebron was a fantastic opportunity to learn some Arabic and to find out more about Palestine. I was so warmly welcomed and supported by all the staff and by my host family. I made some wonderful friends and would love to go back some time soon

Yes, I recommend
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Conor
10/10

Excellence Center

My experience at the Excellence Center was good, I encountered no problems regarding my safety and the staff was helpful in any situation where I required help. I had very few difficulties and any difficulties I faced were independant of the program. I would recommend volunteering at the Excellence Center to anybody who is interested in learning about the culture, education, and daily life in Palestine.

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change one thing, I would reccomend adding a few resources to the center. On a few occasions it was necessary to use a video projector for lessons and there is one that is shared between up to three classes at a time.
Yes, I recommend
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Sila
10/10

Excellent Program

My name is Sila, I am a Canadian Turkish student living in Montreal. I am 21 years old and finished my university baccalaureate in international development and Middle East studies at McGill University. I came to Hebron to teach English to young Palestinians and learn Arabic language and culture. I was a volunteer assistant teacher for a whole month. I taught teenagers boys and girls and young adults too. Their level ranged from beginner 1 to intermediate 2. During this time I stayed with two host families. Both of them were amazing and very welcoming. With these families and the friendly staff of the Excellenxe Center, I have never felt unsafe. Every person I met went out of their way to make me and the other volunteers at ease and safe in Hebron.
During my stay, I visited many places in Hebron. For example, I went to the Ibrahimi mosque many times, to Hebron's Old City and to its famous glass and kufiyah factories. I also went to Dura, which is a town in Hebron. Outside of Hebron, I went to Jericho, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Yaffa.
All in all, it was an amazing experience. A month felt like a week. The people at the center and the host families are so generous, so friendly and so warm that you will want to extend your trip!

Yes, I recommend
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Josef
10/10

My volunteering Experience in Hebron, Palestine

It was amazing experience in Hebron. Everyday we had an amazing time with local Palestinian people. I taught school students, university students and some community members conversational English. The students were amazing.

I also learnt some Arabic, I can say some sentences in Arabic which made my stay much nicer in Hebron.

Its really safe, I never had any problems in Palestine. I was always surrounded with Palestinian people. I also travelled around Palestine. I visited many places from Jenin to Bethlehem to Rammallah.

How can this program be improved?
I would say if they can organise weekly meeting with all interns and volunteers to discuss the plans for the next weeks or days. Thanks a lot
Yes, I recommend
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Fiona
9/10

Summer 2014

I really enjoyed this programme. Even though I arrived just as the Gaza conflict was developing, I always felt safe in the Hebron due to the my host family and the support from the Excellence center. All the students in the classes were very eager to learn, which made teaching a pleasure. I learned so much about Palestinian culture, history, and daily life, and it was really harrowing to experience the reality of life under Israeli occupation first-hand.

Yes, I recommend
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Lydia
7/10

Palestine 2014

I learnt a huge amount from my two months in Hebron. My trip coincided exactly with the recent conflict in Gaza but that served only to enhance the experience and the attachment that I now feel to the area. Living with a family was an incredible way to improve my Arabic.

How can this program be improved?
I would have liked more than the allocated number of Arabic sessions.
Yes, I recommend
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Lola
9/10

An extremely rewarding experience

Being part of the Excellence Center team during the Summer of 2014 has already become one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, both professionally and personally. All four groups I taught (all different ages, from age 7 to 25) were so enthusiastic about learning they renewed my belief in the importance of education. The staff at Excellence Center were extremely welcoming and supportive and I hope I get to collaborate again with them. overall, one of the best teaching (I have taught at the college level for 18 years now) and personal experiences of my life and I highly recommend it to anyone.

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...