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 116 reviews
  • Impact 8.8
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 8.7
  • Value 8.9
  • Safety 9.2
Showing 91 - 105 of 116
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Sara
10/10

Volunteer Teacher Experience

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

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

Sara Amin

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

My unforgettable experience at the Excellence Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Excellent Environment for Learning Arabic and Teaching English

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

Yes, I recommend this program
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Carmen
7/10

Palestine, of course!

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

Yes, I recommend this program
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Daan
9/10

Contributing to Palestinian society while learning

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

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

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

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

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program
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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 this program

Interviews

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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...