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 119 reviews
  • Impact 8.8
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 8.7
  • Value 9
  • Safety 9.2
Showing 1 - 15 of 119
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Jamila
10/10

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED IN PALESTINE AND WITH THE EXCELLENCE CENTER

Jamaila, French-Algerian living in Barcelona Spain.

For me coming to Palestine was a dream come true. I came to The Excellence Centre as a volunteer writing articles about life in Palestine, teaching and learning Arabic. Once advice, "expect the unexpected in Palestine."

What you will see here is people wanting to go about their lives like you do at home. I have gone to the gym, to restaurants, I have travelled by myself. I honestly felt safer here than in my own European cities. But mostly I have witnessed how the Palestinians value the importance of family and friends, of welcome a visitor and always having a spare dinner plate for them.

This is why I think The EC is doing an excellent job:
- bringing visitors to Palestine
- mixing the local community with English-speaking foreigners

I really loved staying with a host family that has been like a second family to me, I have been invited to dinner and lunch daily. I had lessons with Marwa, she has been incredible and gave me the confidence I needed to learn basic Arabic.

I have witnessed the reality of the occupation for the Palestinians but they have kept their spirits up, they still have hope for the future. One of their hopes is to see more of you in Palestine. Each visitors brings with them a window into the world and takes with them unforgettable memories of wonderful people.

Again, please please come to Palestine, come to Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem and any other Palestinian City.

How can this program be improved?
Perhaps with more tips on travelling arrangements to different cities, places to stay etc.. But really that's a minor thing really.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Calumn
9/10

Learning Arabic and Teaching English in Hebron

My name is Calum, I’m 21 and have recently graduated from the University of Dundee studying Politics and International Relations, with a sub concentration in the Middle East. Having graduated and not had the opportunity to learn Arabic I was keen to find ways to learn such an important and useful language, not just for employment but also for travelling. I set about looking for programs and courses that would give me a truly immersive experience and this is where I found the Excellence Centre, and I have not looked back since.

I chose the volunteering and learn Arabic option, as I not only wanted to learn the language but also meet people under the occupation and learn first-hand the difficulties of the situation. Having had no experience in teaching before I found my time in the classroom thoroughly joyful. I was eased into being an assistant and look forward to every lesson I had, as the kids were great and so eager to learn.

I had 3 hours a week of Arabic with my teacher Marwa, who made the learning of this daunting and completely new language fun, interactive and worthwhile. She was patient, encouraging and very supportive, everything you will need in a teacher and more. We always went at my pace and anything I didn’t understand was quickly and expertly explained to me. I came away from every lesson feeling more and more confident, and optimistic, that I would one day be fluent. This confidence was evident in all the volunteers at the Excellence Centre, as it was such a productive and enjoyable learning environment to begin with a new language. I was surrounded by fluent speakers and could ask at any time for help or explanations, something which thoroughly helped my learning and comprehension of Arabic.

I have made some amazing memories in Hebron and look forward to going back one day. Its bustling busy, busy and such a friendly city. I was instantly greeted with such politeness and kindness everywhere I want. Everybody was so welcoming and the food I had was delicious- or ‘zaki’! I would recommend for everyone to try Maqluba, as a trip to Palestine is not complete without it! I lived in an apartment with other volunteers and we would regularly talk an relax with our neighbours, the Hijazi’s, who are some of the most kind and welcoming people you will ever meet. They don’t just make you feel like a volunteer but as a friend. Inviting us for dinner, ensuing we were always content and showing us the meaning Palestinian hospitality. To them I say a warm hello from Scotland and a massive thank you!

Hebron is an extremely safe city and I feel safer here than in Scotland. Before I came I was concerned about the security situation, but never experienced anything dangerous, only an extremely welcoming people is a hard situation. A situation I would encourage anyone to witness for themselves the full extent of the occupation.

Living, teaching and learning in Palestinian was a truly amazing and remarkable experience, and I hope to be back leaning and speaking Arabic soon. I could not recommend this program enough, the centre goes out there way to make sure you are comfortable and have the best possible time there.

Shukran for a wonderful time!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Alex
10/10

Best experience of my life

My name is Alex and I’m from Melbourne, Australia. After completing my Communications Degree from RMIT University, I came to Palestine to do the Teaching English and Study Arabic course at the Excellence Center.

I expected to do a heap of teaching, while squeezing in some Arabic here and there, but I have completed my time here learning significantly more Arabic than I had hoped. The Centre is a great place to work and learn, the teachers and volunteers here are like a family. My teacher, Marwa has been so amazing and helpful, she has made learning Arabic so enjoyable and has motivated me to study hard (something I am notoriously bad at). In my spare time here, I study, chat to teachers and volunteers, and most importantly; undertake informal cooking lessons with Khitam, who has taught me how to cook delicious Palestinian dishes while also improving my Arabic food vocabulary.

Everyone at the Center is warm, friendly, helpful and caring. The teachers are so much fun, the other volunteers are awesome and have become great friends of mine, and the students are motivated and eager to learn. Coming here everyday is fun, walking in for breakfast and chatting to everyone is a family affair, we laugh a lot, tell stories and plan trips around Palestine and Hebron. Manager Abou Mohannad is so helpful and funny, always chatty and friendly with us, he makes settling in and seeing the city so easy for us.

While here I have explored Hebron and the rest of Palestine, taking trips to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem, Dheisheh, Doura and Khan al-Ahmar. Being such a small country, it is very easy and cheap to travel around on days off, accomodation is usually cheap as well.

The apartment for the volunteers is in the bustling area of Bab al-Zawiye, where our neighbour Sheikh Abed and the whole Hijazi family make us feel so welcome. I thought that being in the apartment meant we would miss out on speaking Arabic all the time, but as we spend so much time with our neighbours, we speak Arabic all the time and they teach us new phrases and vocab constantly.

The other volunteers and I would often joke at the fact that so many people back home told us to ‘be careful’ here, ‘you know it’s such a dangerous place’ etc. etc. etc. But I honestly don’t think I have ever felt safer anywhere, not once have I ever felt threatened by anyone, or felt worried about where I was. You can walk the streets at any time and feel safe, it’s easy to forget about the occupation here, as the people are all so friendly and welcoming, I usually spend most of the day smiling.

My favourite thing about Palestine is definitely the people, I have made great friends from Hebron and Dheisheh, who I hope to know for the rest of my life. Even strangers make your day better, as they want to help you and make sure you have the best time possible.

I also inadvertently became a celebrity here via appearing in a video with singer Ayman al-Sabawi. In my last month here, I have been constantly recognised on the streets, taking photos with people and and telling them about the gig. Usually people just yell out ‘Australia!!’ and smile, it has been one of the oddest and funniest experiences of my life.

All in all, I cannot recommend this program enough. I didn’t expect to feel so comfortable here, I have settled in and now I have to leave!!! I am desperate to come back here and continue my study, and I hope to keep in touch with everyone I have met here. Hebron has become my second home, and I hope to continue coming back here in my life. I have fallen in love with Palestine and it has made me want to learn as much Arabic as possible.

Thank you to everyone at The Excellence Center, I’ve had the time of my life here.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Samuel
10/10

My experience with the Excellence Center in Hebron

My name is Sam Halton, I am originally from San Francisco Bay Area, and I am both an Irish and an American citizen. I have a BA in Political Science from the University of California and a Master’s degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London University in Near and Middle East Studies. I volunteered with Syrian refugees in Turkey and I felt that a future career in the region would require me to learn Arabic. Because of this I wanted to find an Arabic program in the Levant (Bilad el Sham). Additionally, I have always been interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I have always dreamed of volunteering in the Occupied Palestinian territories to witness the politics of the Occupation first hand.
During my stay in Hebron I studied Arabic and volunteered as an English Teacher. The Excellence Centre made teaching very easy. Teachers are gradually weened into teaching by initially working side by side with a Palestinian teacher. I did this for a short period before eventually teaching my own classes at the centre. Initially I was worried that I would not receive enough Arabic because of my volunteer schedule but this was not the case. I received about an hour a day. My Arabic teacher Marwa Shantir, was incredibly helpful and was very good at fitting my Arabic courses in with my volunteer schedule. Though male students are not generally kept with a host family the accommodation for male volunteers is in the centre of a lively Palestinian community. Our neighbour and friend Sheikh Abed Hijazi lives directly above us and socializes with us on regular basis. The Hijazi family treats us like one of their own, and the frequent visits and socializing not only made me feel at home here in Hebron, it has also helped me with my Arabic. Our close friendship with the Hijazi family allows us to learn new words and use our Arabic on a daily basis.
Many people from the United States and the United Kingdom are concerned about whether or not living in Palestine is safe. I can personally say that I feel much safer walking around Hebron at night then I do in many parts of the San Francisco Bay area or parts of London. The Occupation is a reality, but living in H1 it is very easy to forget about the political issues that plague the Occupied West Bank. The hospitality and kindness of the Palestinian people is beyond words. Given the current leadership of the Trump administration and Americas lopsided approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I am often ashamed of my American nationality. The Palestinian people are directly affected by American policy, most often negatively. Because of this one would assume that Palestinians would rightfully hold some negative feelings towards Americans. Despite Americas policy toward the Palestinians I have found that Palestinians are more capable of separating the actions of the U.S. government from its citizens then many people in the United States are when judging other nations. It does not matter if I tell people that I am Irish or American. I am always politely welcomed and treated with respect, kindness, and hospitality.
The excellence centre is a fantastic way for any individual studying Middle Eastern politics, Human Rights, or Arabic to experience the region firs hand. The staff are extremely helpful and have become very close friends. The excellence centre can be as hands on or hands off as volunteers wish. They have been extremely helpful in connecting me to local human rights groups and Universities and have even helped me in my job search in Palestine. They know people are here to learn and make connections and they are happy to help volunteers in this endeavour. My time at the excellence centre has been amazing I feel that two months was not enough. I fully intend to return as soon as possible and I have recommended the excellence centre to all my friends studying Arabic in Europe and America.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Riley
10/10

Volunteering at the Excellence Center

I spent 3 months volunteering in Palestine with the Excellence Center this past winter/spring. I participated in the Volunteer to Write about Palestine program and the Volunteer to Teach English program.

Over the course of the 3 months I spent in Hebron, I met amazing people both within the Excellence Center and outside. When entering the Center as a volunteer, intern, or Arabic students, you are truly entering into a family. The dynamic of the Center is nothing short of communal. The staff members are lively, exciting, and fun people to be around. The warm work environment makes for enjoyable days spent volunteering at the Center as well. Also, the constant coming and going of internationals means that I had the opportunity to meet many people from all around the world. Many of whom I have stayed in touch with! I truly loved meeting everyone who walked through the door - both internationals, local Palestinian students and, of course, the staff members.

Marwa was my personal Arabic teacher and I shared so many fond memories with her during my time learning Arabic and being at the Excellence Center. She quickly became a great friend to me. I came to Palestine knowing the basics of fusha, but had no knowledge of the Palestinian dialect. My Arabic language skills improved slowly but surely during my time at the Excellence Center. My motivation to come to Palestine was fueled by a desire to learn Arabic and I found that there was no faster way to do so than through immersion.

In addition to being immersed in the Arabic language, I enjoyed being immersed in Palestinian culture. I attended many joyful events, such as weddings and birthday celebrations, during my time in Hebron. I loved getting the change to experience everyday life in Palestine. As much as I thought I would travel to various cities during my 3 months in Palestine, I hardly left Hebron because I had developed such great friendships within the city. Apart from two trips to Bethlehem and a trip to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, I spent most of my days in Hebron and most of my weekends with my host family. This was also my second trip to Palestine, so that is why I went on fewer trips to other cities and spent more time settled in Hebron. I grew very attached to the host family I was placed in and am thankful for the way they welcomed me in with open arms. I truly felt a part of the family and when I come back to Palestine, which I hope happens sooner rather than later, I would not want to live with anyone else. From my host family to the staff members at the Excellence Center, I felt as though I built lifelong friendships in my short 3 months there. The people are certainly my favorite thing about Palestine (the food, certainly being the runner-up).

This is my second time to Palestine and during both of my trips the thought of danger had never crossed my mind. I never felt scared or threatened in Palestine, even when walking alone around the city. If the fear of danger and violence is a worry for any prospective volunteers I hope you listen to the experiences of past volunteers when we say that Palestine is a very safe place to visit.

Leaving Palestine meant many hard goodbyes for me, but I pray that those goodbyes were only see you later's. I cannot wait to return and visit my host family, my lovely Arabic teacher, and the friends I made while at the Excellence Center. I felt supported during the entirety of my trip and cannot say enough great things about the Center!

My one piece of advice: If you are on the fence about volunteering with the Excellence Center, do it! I treasure the time I spent in the West Bank and am expecting to be back soon.

How can this program be improved?
Culturally, things operate very differently in Palestine than in the United States. This is to be expected. I had no problem adjusting to the flexible and changing weekly volunteer schedules, but I know that some volunteers struggled with the Center's organization and wished weekly work schedules would be more fixed and clear-cut. I think this could be one area of improvement for the Excellence Center, as I spoke with several volunteers that desired for there to be more organization when it came to the coordination of their volunteer projects.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Kayuri
10/10

Volunteer at the Excellence Center

I would recommend the program to anyone from all over the world who would like to support the bright future of Palestine and make yourself experience something very precious. Once you would come here you will know exactly what I mean. You can learn the language and culture on a daily basis by meeting people of this beautiful land and also international supporters from various countries. The volunteer program at the Excellence Center in Hebron is such a wonderful opportunity to experience and learn lots of things at the same time.

How can this program be improved?
It is already an excellent program like the name of the center itself.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Daniela
9/10

My experience in the Excellence Center

I spent almost two weeks in Hebron on February 2018, and my experience in the Excellence Center was everything I was hoping for and more. Through the Excellence Center and it’s wonderful staff I was able to do everything I wanted to do during my stay, finding the perfect combination of volunteer work and cultural and social activities. I volunteered as an English teacher and did classes to different groups (children, university students and adults), who I could see were genuinely motivated to learn, and truly happy and thankful to have me there. On the other hand, I really enjoyed being immersed in the Palestinian culture, which is so warm and welcoming. I was impressed by how friendly was everyone I met, ready to offer help and excited to engage in conversation. I always felt safe in Hebron, and would recommend everyone to visit the West Bank . It was amazing to stay with a host family and experience Palestinian hospitality from up close, visiting refugee camps and other cities in the West Bank, getting to learn the basics of Arabic, enjoying the typical food and just talking to people and getting to know the daily life in Hebron and the traditions, motivations and struggles of the locals. Overall, I think every aspect of my visit to Palestine was great, and I feel very fortunate I had this wonderful opportunity through the Excellence Center. I definitely recommend this experience and plan to go back for a longer period of time.

How can this program be improved?
My only recommendation would be to organize the volunteer schedules in advance, which would allow volunteers to have more clarity on what they will be doing, so as to manage their time better and preparare the lessons ahead of time.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Dana
10/10

Volunteering at the Excellence Center

I was at the Excellence Center for most of the month of March 2018. At 69 I must have been one of their older volunteers, but age was never an issue. I took the opportunity offered by the Excellence Center to be immersed in a different culture because I have grown increasingly concerned about the issues faced by the Palestinian people. The Excellence Center does not address that per se, but believe me one learns plenty just by being there.
I never felt unsafe; in fact all Palestinians were quite friendly (this is not true of most of the Israelis I encountered). For example I took a taxi out to the natural area near Hebron (Wadi al-Quff) to study and enjoy the plants there, and by the time the 25 minute ride was over the taxi driver had invited me to his house for a meal and given me a children's book that himself had written and illustrated. That level of friendliness is not unusual.
I was interested in and concerned about the situation in the village of Nabi Saleh, where the Tamimi family lives. You may know some of their story: Ahed Tamimi just completed 8 months in prison for trying to get Israeli soldiers out of her front yard. I was completely free to travel, and thus went to Nabi Saleh (2 hours from Hebron) twice and spent several hours with Bassem Tamimi, Ahed's father.
If you want an education about the real world it is ready and waiting for you in Palestine, through the Excellence Center.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Maria
9/10

Women's rights program in Palestine

At the Center I facilitated workshops in human rights, with a particular focus on women's rights. The Center organised the sessions and the staff took an active part in the discussions as well as helping out with translations when needed. As part of the volunteering program, I had a couple of Arabic lessons per week and everyone I met was willing and eager to engage in unofficial lectures. To live with a host family also gave me an opportunity to practice my Arabic skills when I was not at the Center.

Living with a host family I believe gave me a completely different experience. Not only did I make new friends, but I also got to take part in the Palestinian culture. We shared experiences and learned from each other. I am very humbled to the way I was welcomed into my host family and their expended family. Most of the Palestinians I met were like this, open, warm and inviting. Connecting you with family and friends in other cities so I had someone to show me around when I made my way there.

Thinking of my experience during my time in Hebron it felt as though I was there for longer than two weeks. Between workshops and Arabic lessons, the Center organised field visits to local textile, ceramic and glass factories. I also visited the old town of Hebron, the Ibrahimi Mosque, the Russian Compound Church, Hebron University, a local radio station as well as a refugee camp in south of Hebron. Always accompanied by someone from the Center or by a local Hebron person who shared their knowledge and experience. On my own and with other international volunteers I also visited other cities in Palestine, such as Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Jericho. Even though I organised these trips myself the staff at the Center helped with the logistics and giving recommendations on sites to visit.

I truly felt, what I believe was one of the most frequent sentences during my time in Palestine, “Welcome to Palestine”.

How can this program be improved?
More organised volunteering program where the students of the center can requests workshop topics and the international volunteers try and accommodate the interest of the students. Also more organsied arabic lessons even for volunteering program.
Yes, I recommend this program
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ines
9/10

Volunteer at the Excellence Center

My name is Inès, i have 21 years old. I’m from France and i live in Paris. I’m studying political Sciences at La Sorbonne University in Paris, 3 rd year of bachelor. I came to the Excellence Center to make the Human Rights program as volunteer.
Thanks to the center i have made a lot of different activites. I was an assistant in some English classes, which was a very interesting experience. Students are very interested by foreigners, which makes dialogue easy. I also gave a class on human rights, a class of more than 20 students ! It wasn’t easy, and i found it quite stressful, but it was really a good experience. I learn a lot from their point of view, and we were able to talk about the conflict.
I also had arabic lessons. I really loved take this courses and I feel like I really learned a lot. The advantage of being in a host family is that you can practice every day. My teacher Ahlam is very nice and i enjoyed spending time with her. I regret not being able to do more Arabic lessons to improve myself.
Thanks to the Center, I visited a lot of interesting places in the city of Hebron. For example, i have seen the Camel Sandals factory, It's an fascinating place to visit, and the products are good qualities. I have found a gift for my mother, a beautiful bag !
I have also visited the United Nations center, which was really a good experience. I thought access would be more complicated, but in reality, they are very happy to share with us their activities. I also met the Palestinian family planning and protection association, which was really the best thing because i’m looking for an internship their in link with my studies and they are very accessible. I have also visited the refugees camp of Bethlehem called Aida, and the Russian orthodox church in Hebron, which was a really nice place to see.
In Palestine, i go to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, but also Haïfa and Akka.
I have really enjoyed my time in Hebron and with my host family. They were so nice to me. I have never felt uncomfortable, and always in my place. I enjoyed discovering a culture like this. I hope to see them again very quickly. Palestinian are very kind, and love strangers ! it is very easy to discuss with them because they come talk to us directly.
Most of the time i felt safe in Palestine. In fact, the only times it was not the case was when I met Israeli soldiers.
I liked to discover the culture of Palestine and its history. Talking with locals was my favorite thing. Culinary discovery is, according to me, a part of culture here. I loved testing all the new things that were available to me !
I think my best experience was my visit to the city of Jerusalem. I went alone as an adventurer, and I really found this city, especially the old city, unbelievable. The mixture of cultures and religions, the holy places ... really a very good experience. I have also tested the Turkish baths of Ramallah, it is to do !
I keep a very good impression of Palestine and its people. Everything is very positive for me, and of course i recommand this experience for others. it is a very good way to discover the country as close as possible to its people, and to know a little more every day. I enjoyed also be with internationals students, it's an opportunity to spend time with people from all over the world.

Shoukran Ktir

How can this program be improved?
In suggestions, i can say that a more organized schedule in advance would have been preferable !
Yes, I recommend this program
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Meg
9/10

My Experience at the Excellence Center

My name is Meg and I am a registered nurse in the United States of America. I came to the Excellence Center to learn Arabic and volunteer teaching workshops to nursing students. Volunteering at the Excellence Center has been an amazing and unforgettable experience. During my time volunteering at the center I developed and facilitated workshops related to ethics in healthcare, communication skills, medical terminology, patient education, and disease prevention. I made so many friends at the center and frequently went exploring Hebron with the amazing students.
The staff at the Excellence Center are so warm and welcoming. Every morning I would come eat breakfast with the staff and other volunteers at the center before beginning my day of volunteering and/or exploring. In addition to the wonderful experience I had teaching the students, I also had an excellent experience learning Arabic. My teacher was incredibly knowledgeable, truly loved teaching Arabic, and was always available to help me with translation or pronunciation, even if I wasn’t at the center. Additionally, Hebron is a great place to practice your Arabic with the locals and people are always willing to help you learn words or correct your pronunciation. My Arabic teacher explained the basics to me in a way that was easy to understand and he made the lessons fun! I volunteered at the center for two weeks but feel like I learned so much in such a short amount of time! I thoroughly enjoyed learning Arabic at the center and I hope to continue my studies when I return home.
In addition to exploring the wonderful city of Hebron on my own, a local volunteer took me to the old town, Al-Ibrahimi mosque, the best falafel shop in town, the only remaining kufiyeh factory in the West Bank, multiple bookstores, and also set me up with locals in other West Bank towns to provide me with guided tours (an excellent way to explore cities in the West Bank!). During my time in Palestine I explored Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Jericho, and even got a chance to float in the Dead Sea!
Staying with a host family was another wonderful experience. My host family lived in Halhul, about a 10-minute taxi ride or a 45-minute walk to the Excellence Center. My family made me feel right at home. They fed me dinner every night and made sure I had everything that I needed to be comfortable during my stay. I was able to try delicious authentic Palestinian dishes like maqloubeh and knafeh! Furthermore, there is no need at all to worry about your safety in Palestine because it is incredibly safe here. Not once have I felt concerned, threatened, or unsafe. This is my second visit to Palestine alone and definitely not the last! Palestine is by far one of the safest places I have ever traveled to!
Palestine is such a beautiful country and the people will go out of their way to make you feel welcome and comfortable. Palestine does not just have amazing people—it has incredible food as well!! The sights and smells of walking down the street or through the souk are unforgettable. People’s generosity is apparent everywhere you go, just like the Arabic coffee! I will miss so many things about Palestine, but I will miss the people more than anything. If you want an authentic Palestinian experience, and an amazing way to connect with the young people of Palestine, then you should volunteer at the Excellence Center! I will definitely be back to Palestine soon, and would never pass up a chance to visit Hebron and its amazing people!

How can this program be improved?
I would suggest the volunteers be given information on exactly what they will be doing when they arrive. I was unsure about my responsibilities until I arrived and I had to rush to complete powerpoints for my workshop. It would have been nice to have had some direction prior to arrival so I could have had more time to work on the powerpoints and prepare for the workshops!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Daria
10/10

My month in Hebron

I spent July of 2018 volunteering at the Excellence Center as an English teacher - and it was the best experience ever. Most of us had 2-3 classes a day (max 4, but that was when a lot of people took an extra day off) - I always finished no later than 5 pm (usually 2 or 4 pm).

As for Arabic classes: I already have quite a good grasp of MSA but didn't know any dialect at all. By the end of the month, I was thinking in dialectal Arabic. My teacher was the wonderful Marwa Shantir, who always made sure I got my 3 hours a week - although some other volunteers did have a little trouble. As long as you remind the teachers at the centre about your lessons, you'll receive all of them.

As a female, I lived with a host family, and I can honestly say that I had never experienced such hospitality before. I felt very welcome and almost pampered - I had to convince them to let me wash the dishes at least :) Also, living with a host family means that you get to practice Arabic every waking moment of the day. Marwa regularly checked in with me to find out if I was okay, and openly told me on the very first day that if I don't feel comfortable - no matter the reason - I could move to live with a different family. So don't be scared about that.

Finally, safety. As a solo female traveller, I was a little concerned - but there wasn't any reason to be. Everyone was happy to help me and looked out for me. Obviously, you should still use common sense, there are treacherous people everywhere - but nothing out of the ordinary.

How can this program be improved?
Tbh, that's a difficult question. I can't really think of anything...
Yes, I recommend this program
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Irene
10/10

My second experience at the Excellence

My name is Irene and I am a 22 years old Spanish student with a BA in International Relations. I have been volunteering at the Excellence Center as an English teacher in Hebron twice. I spent two months at the center last summer 2017 and I decided to come back in 2018 for month and half so, of course, I can say I am one of those who absolutely enjoy their time in Palestine!

Volunteering at the Excellence Center is mainly focused on English teaching. Therefore, during the volunteer program I have primarily participated in teaching to beginner and intermediate groups of Palestinian students, both in Hebron's city center and in nearby villages, with whom the Excellence Center builds local development projects and partnerships. Usually the role I take when teaching in the city center is that of an Assistant Teacher, mostly helping with specific conversational activities and oral examinations. However, teaching in villages implies a greater deal of leading role as a teacher, what includes planning and structuring the learning objectives and content of the courses. Students are all engaged with the language and is a pleasure to share time with them during our lessons.

Learning Palestinian Arabic Dialect is a second component of the volunteering programs at The Excellence Center. In this sense, I must say that I began to learn Arabic the first time that I came here and that, just in year, my Arabic has improved enormously, now being able to read, write and talk at a beginner level; for which I enormously thank the work of Arabic teachers at The Excellence Center. Accordingly, I have received private Arabic lessons 3 hours per week. The teaching during the lessons is really practical and you will be able to learn useful vocabulary for daily conversational skills based on your previous knowledge of the language, interests and goals.

The Center's atmosphere is exceptional. I have been able to build strong bonds with both staff and teachers, they will support you with any question you might have and so will also make your experience in Hebron feel like home, as you will get to spend time together during breakfast and special dinners.

At the same time, the Excellence Center also gives you the opportunity to meet other international volunteers and Arabic students, among whom you will get to meet lots of interesting people from very diverse backgrounds and a shared interest for Palestine and the Middle Eastern region! During the program you will also have the time to travel to Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho or the Dead Sea; and making these trips together with volunteering certainly adds joy to the experience!

Hebron is, like the rest of Palestine, a very friendly, safe and welcoming place to be volunteering and learning Arabic. The host families make the stay really pleasant and will help you improve your Arabic conversational skills by spending some time together. In sum, I thoroughly recommend to come visit and consider the Excellence Center's programs!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Elizabeth
9/10

My experience with the Excellence Center in Hebron

My name is Lizzie and I am from England. At home I work with children- supporting a child with Down’s Syndrome in a primary school and teaching dance. I have been in Palestine for 1 month on the volunteer programme. Though I have never taught English before, and crossing the language barrier has been challenging at times, I have been able to use my experience of teaching other disciplines.

Whilst working at the Excellence Centre, I have taught and assisted with different classes. In the mornings, for my first two weeks was the summer camp. This was a mixed ability group of teenage students. I was assisting another volunteer, who had started the camp before I arrived. I enjoyed working in a team and it was interesting to see how the students engaged in the tasks they were given, a lot of which was based around self-identity. This gave me an insight into Palestinian culture and way that these students viewed their life.

In the afternoons I worked with Palestinian english teacher Ibrahim on the starter course. He would spend the first hour of the lesson teaching the subject, then in the second hour I would use games and conversation to encourage students to use the concepts and vocabulary that they had just learnt. I found that depending on the students, even if I had the same activity planned, it could go completely differently and I may end up doing a different activity. I really enjoyed working with Ibrahim, I had freedom to engage with the students, and I liked the challenge of communicating with them when they had limited english.

I also spent three mornings teaching in Kharass, a village just outside of Hebron. Each day consisted of two 2 hour lessons with young children, age 5-9. They had very limited English and there was a lot of focus on writing and learning simple vocabulary. There were some volunteers from the village who spoke English who were there to help up. After the first day I knew what to expect and quite enjoyed my time in Kharass, but 2 hours is much too long for children of this age to stay focused. I found that it was important to use a lot of repetition to help the children remember the vocabulary, and it was important to encourage them to speak individually as well in a chorus with the whole group. As much as I enjoyed working in Kharass, the organisation and resources were somewhat limited, and I feel that it would be a more successful programme if there was a set scheme of work so that international volunteers and volunteers from Kharass all knew what they should be teaching, and work together to teach it.

I enjoyed my Arabic lessons whilst at the excellence centre and have learnt some Arabic. I have previously studied languages, find grammar really interesting, therefore steered my lessons so that there was a focus on that. Though I enjoyed this, at times I felt it may have been beneficial to have shared a lesson with another volunteer so that I could develop my conversation skills. This being said, I feel that I have a good base so that if I decide to continue my Arabic studies when I return home, it will be a successful endeavour.

The environment at the Excellence Centre was friendly and welcoming. All the staff would engage in conversations and answer any questions that I had, and the other internationals were supportive and friendly. The students in the classes were, on the whole, very receptive to being taught by a native English speaker, and many of them would speak to me out of lessons, either wanting to know more about me and my country, or to practice what they had learnt in their lesson. I found this work ethic and intrigue from them very satisfying.

The Centre organised group excursions within the local area, and although I didn’t manage to join all of them, I did visit Al Fawwar refugee camp. The trip was well organised and I found it fascinating to see the contrast between my life with a host family, and life in the refugee camp. Despite the many problems that faced the people living there, they did their best to overcome and children of the family we met had gone on to study at university.

I also travelled within Palestine and Israel on my own, with friends from the Excellence Centre and with my host family. I made two trips to Bethlehem, the first with two of my host sisters and the second with other internationals. Both times I visited the church of the nativity, the Banksy hotel and the wall. I went with another volunteer to visit the Koffiyeh factory in Hebron. Just a short walk from the Excellence Centre, is this non-descript building that houses the last remaining Koffiyeh factory. Inside are the original machines weaving away a spectacular variety of the traditionally Palestinian scarf, and a shop where you can buy your own, along with other locally produced products.

I have visited Jerusalem twice during my stay here, and I love the city. There is so much to see, and each time I leave I want to go back and spend more time there. The Old City is beautiful and seeing the proximity of the different quarters- Armenian, Jewish, Christian and Muslim, it a contrast to the separatist narrative that is seen within the West Bank and the rest of Israel. I also visited the Israel museum in West Jerusalem. This museum, among many art and historical exhibits, is home to the Dead Sea Scrolls- ancient Jewish manuscripts found by a Bedouin in a cave at Qumran. As well as the scripts themselves, the building that they are housed in, specially designed for the purpose, makes an impressive exhibition. Other places I have visited are Masada- an old settlement built by King Herod atop a mountain in the desert, Ein Gedi- a natural Oasis in the desert and the Dead Sea.

During my time here I lived with a host family, in the next town Halhul. My host family, rather than a typical family was a group of 7 siblings who lived together, without their mother and father. They were very welcoming and I enjoyed staying with them. One of the main differences I found was the fluidity of time, there were no set meal times- on my first day, having eaten lunch at around 5 o’clock, I was getting ready to go to bed at around 10:00 when they started to prepare dinner! I also found that as they didn’t have to get up for work or school in the mornings, they would stay up late at night, then sleep till midday. Though I couldn’t join them on this schedule when I was working, over Eid I did. The emphasis that Palestinian culture places on family is very different from that in England. As well as families being much larger, they spend much more time together, and live closer together. (Though saying that, growing up, all my grandparents, one of my mum’s cousins, and my uncle’s family all lived on the same road!) Even though often, I had no idea what anyone was saying, it was nice to spend time with the extended family and watch the interactions between them.

During my last week here, it was Eid Al-Addah. This, as I was told, is the more important of the two Eids, and warrants a 6 day national holiday. The first day people fast, and I was lucky enough to have to the opportunity to join my family as they broke the fast. The whole family- grandparents and many cousins- joined together in the garden, as plates and plates of food were brought out of one of the kitchens. We sat together on the floor like a big picnic and shared traditional Palestinian food together. On the second day of Eid, again, most of the celebrations took place in the evening. During the day, there was some visits from other family members, but not as much as I had been lead to believe. This was the day that the animals would be killed. Each family bought an animal- sheep, goat, cow- and had it slaughtered, then the meat was split into thirds. One third to keep for their family, one third to give to wider family and friends, and one third to give to the poor. It was amazing to see the amount of meat stacked on the kitchen table at the grandma’s house, and watch the family sort it. For the rest of Eid, mainly it was relaxing and socialising with the family.

During my time in Palestine I never felt unsafe. There were unfamiliar situations, like seeing soldiers with guns in the street in the Israeli areas, or when 2 soldiers boarded the bus at a checkpoint when I travelled to Jerusalem, however I still felt safe. The people in Palestine were so welcoming, walking through the Old City in Hebron, shopkeepers would talk to you and invite you for coffee, an odd concept when in England we are taught that nothing is free- there is always a catch! This was not the case, people are genuinely friendly and want to welcome you to their country. As you walk down the main street people will say “welcome” to you as you pass.

Overall, my lasting impression of Palestine, and Hebron in particular, is a positive one. The people, the food and the landscape are all beautiful.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Dominic
10/10

My experience with the Excellence Center in Hebron

My name is Dom and I am a student from the UK. I have just finished my History degree at the University of Bristol. I have been volunteering at the Excellence Center as an English teacher in Hebron for a month and I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Palestine.

During the volunteer program I participated in, I have primarily engaged in teaching beginner English classes to beginner and intermediate groups of Palestinian students. In this regard, I have acted both as a teaching assistant at the Excellence Center, which is located in the heart of Hebron, and in a more central role with another volunteer in a village 20 minutes outside of Hebron. Whilst I had no previous experience in teaching, let along teaching to non-native English speakers, the students’ willingness to engage in lessons and the available teaching resources made these classes extremely easy to get into the swing of.

In addition, I also had the opportunity to teach private Arabic lessons in a 1-on-1 situation. These private lessons were particularly fulfilling as I directly could pass on my skills and knowledge to a student in who actually planned to travel to the UK, therefore feeling like I could use this intimate environment to really make a difference to this student’s life.

Moreover, the positive atmosphere and structural network of support at the Excellence Center made my experience even smoother as the staff were always welcoming and on hand to answer any question or help me in any way they could (especially Ibrahiem!)

For learning Arabic, the private lessons were extremely helpful. Although I had no prior knowledge of the language, my teacher, Marwa, taught me a fair bit of Arabic in the small amount of time I spent in Hebron. Women certainly have an easier time learning the language as they live with host families and thus have full language / cultural immersion, whilst men live together at an apartment that is perfectly located in the centre of Hebron.

The volunteer program also gave me the opportunity to travel extensively to places such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Tel Aviv. With regards to safety in Hebron, I felt totally safe throughout my stay in Hebron and I cannot recommend coming to visit Hebron enough, either as a tourist or as a volunteer.

What I liked most in Palestine was the friendliness and hospitality of the people in Hebron. The locals make every effort to make you feel very welcome and comfortable in an alien and sometimes confusing culture / place. I certainly believe that this a place I will visit again and I cannot stress enough, that if you are slightly interested in visiting the Middle East or Palestine, you should definitely consider the Excellence Center.

Yes, I recommend this program

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About The Excellence Center

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