The Excellence Center in Palestine
The Excellence Center in Palestine Programs
The Excellence Center in Palestine Reviews
Submitted by Felix | August 14, 2017
This summer I participated in the Teach English Learn Arabic volunteer program at the Excellence Center for a little less than two months. At the center I taught English and studied Arabic with my amazing teacher Marwa. I also participated in a lot of trips and got to see Ramallah, Bethlehem and the Dead sea amongst other things. My time here has least to say been fantastic and I feel that I’ve went from knowing near to nothing about Palestine to knowing a great deal.
I leave Hebron with many great memories. One of my best ones is from when I held an English summer camp for Palestinian children. In some ways it was a hard and demanding period but in the end the camp was really rewarding. We had a great time with the kids and I would like to meet some of them again when I come back to Palestine. Also since I and the other volunteers had the freedom to plan the camp by ourselves, we could fill it up with the acitvities that we found interesting. For example I started teaching Swedish to some kids and to my surprise they got really into it. I even kept on giving private Swedish classes to some of the kids for the remainder of my time here.
I also made a lot of great friends from outside of the center. Palestinians are so hospitable and I often got invited to have coffee or shisha. One of my favorite experiences is from when I went barbecuing with some guys my age at the local swimming pool. Everything was planned very meticulously with us going back and forth to different butchers to find the perfect meat the day before. Next day we met early in the morning and traveled to the outskirts of the city where we found the swimming pool. Once there we had a great time swimming and playing around. Later we had shisha and grilled together in the sun, it was so nice! Also, I didn’t find this out until later, but apparently some of the meat we grilled was from camel which is pretty cool.
All in all my experience in Palestine was unforgettable and I will miss the place a lot and all the friends I made here. I will especially miss all the wonderful persons at the center who helped me practice my Arabic with them. I am forever thankful. I wish to continue my Arabic studies and get even better after this.
I would warmly recommend this program to anyone that is interested in Palestine or the Middle East. Of course volunteering isn’t always a walk on roses but I would glady participate in this program again, and hopefully I will next year or the year after that.
Teach English, study Arabic
Submitted by Benjamin Kerwin - Columbia University | August 07, 2017
I was fortunate enough to participate in a variety of classes at the center. I provided assistance to the Beginner English Classes on numerous occasions, taught Intermediate English II, gave independent lessons, and led several workshops. All of the different opportunities to teach were very rewarding.
In addition to teaching English, I was also able to further study Arabic while at the center. I enjoyed the Arabic lessons as they provided a unique chance to learn and use the local Palestinian dialect and not another or MSA.
The staff and local teachers at the center are all exceptional people. From the moment you arrive, they treat you with the warmest hospitality. They all provide a piece of the great personality that the center has, and I greatly miss all of them.
Teaching English to the local students will be the most rewarding experiences of your time spent in Palestine. Most of the students have a deep interest in studying English for various reasons. Rarely some will arrive and be wholly unmotivated to participate in class or complete any work between sessions, but the enthusiasm of the rest of the students more than makes up for it. There wasn’t a class that I taught or assisted with that did not have at least a few students show up significantly late. Don’t let that bother you because, rest assured, students don’t show up late as a personal slight to you. Punctuality will probably be one of the most obvious cultural differences you experience during your stay in Palestine.
I was also able to participate in the majority of the site visits that the center offers. The normal trips in the city of Hebron are very fun and are guided so you are able to get a little more out of them than just walking by or through important locations. They also provide the chance to see a side of Hebron that mosts visitors will not see. The center also provided the opportunity to visit the bedouin village Susiya and the refugee town of al-Fawwar that provided a rare glimpse into the lives of other Palestinians.
Apart from the center, I was also able to visit other parts of Palestine like East Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho and the Golan Heights. Hebron is a very unique city and visiting other Palestinian locations may give you a better understanding of what life in Palestine can mean.
Hebron is a historic city with religious importance Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Being here will give you the chance to see these important sites and walk around the Old City. Most evenings are filled with smoking hookah, drinking coffee, and possibly playing billiards. There isn’t too much to do as far as recreation goes in Hebron, but you will be able to find the occasional pick-up football game and you’ll have plenty of time to read and hang out.
Living at the center’s accommodations will not be the most pleasant part of your time in Palestine. It is a space appropriate for maybe four adults, but you may find it occupied by six volunteers. Be prepared to not have water at times and to share the small space with its few commodities with other, possibly less hygienic, foreigners. It will meet your needs, but you may find it a bit cramped.
Security is a concern in Palestine. In most cases, You will notice security measures as they can make traveling here difficult. While arriving to and moving around the Palestinian territories, you will undoubtedly encounter Israeli checkpoints. For most, especially Western, visitors, these are often superficial inspections. Having said that, it is always advised to keep your passport and Israeli-issued entry document with you will moving throughout the area. If you are heading through checkpoints on foot, especially near religious or historic landmarks of Jewish importance, the soldiers may simply ask if you are Muslim or not.
As for safety, the most dangerous activity you will partake in here is riding in taxis and busses. Outside of that, there is a small chance you may catch an errant stone or tear gas canister if you find yourself near a protest, but generally the situation is very safe here for foreigners. You will, however, attract a lot of attention as a foreigner in Palestine. For the most part it will be innocent. From time to time you will encounter Palestinians that may not be especially fond of foreigners. You may be walking down the street or through the market and be called a Jew or an Israeli, and some Palestinians will make other explicit comments. While that is not the most unsafe experience, it does register somewhere on the scale, but it is definitely the exception and not the rule.
I would love to return to the Excellence Center and would recommend it to others looking to volunteer in the West Bank. The center is very different even from my arrival and is always headed in the right direction. The work that the staff and volunteers do for the community is needed and appreciated. Overall, it was a wonderful experience getting to teach English and study Arabic at the Excellence Center.
Intensive Arabic course in Hebron
Submitted by Olivia - Pasadena United States | August 03, 2017
I chose to study Arabic at the Excellence Center for 2 weeks in May 2017. The Excellence Center offered everything I needed: Palestinian-dialect Arabic instruction, cultural field trips throughout Hebron, and a vetted home stay - all for an affordable price. The team at the Center was warm and hospitable and I felt at ease immediately. Hebron can be an intimidating place but the center connected me with a wonderful home stay family, took us on tours so we could get our bearings, and was a great home base for learning.
I started each morning with breakfast and coffee at the center, used the morning to answer emails and study vocab using the center’s wifi, and then in the afternoon met for 4 hours with my Arabic instructor, Ibrahim. He tailored my classes to the topics of my work so I could learn the vocab I needed for my upcoming summer job. In the evenings, I would spend time with my host family who had three small children. The mother taught me to cook Palestinian dishes and we spent many nights staying up late taking over coffee or shisha.
The second week I was there was the start of Ramadan which saw a significant shift in the city. There is a general slowdown everywhere and no one eats, drinks, or smokes during the day. This shifts one’s experience of city and studying considerably so take this into account when planning your stay at the Center. On the other hand, the evening Iftar and festive Ramadan nights are a wonderful experience as well. The families gather and you get the chance to meet family and friends as many invitations are extended.
This two weeks was the best investment I could have made before starting my job in Palestine. I learned a considerable amount about Hebron, Palestinian culture, the political situation, Islam, all in addition to my Arabic study. These things have made my work and stay in Palestine richer and more enjoyable. It is a wonderful feeling to know I now have friends and family in Hebron!
I recommend and endorse the Excellence Center and its Arabic instruction. This is a solid and affordable program which has a wonderful atmosphere and community to welcome you to Palestine.
Program: Study Arabic In Palestine
My experience in Hebron in summer 2017
Submitted by Erin - Shrewsbury England | July 24, 2017
Hebron is a very unexpected place. When I first arrived, I am not sure exactly what I was expecting, but what met me here was a city full of kind, friendly and welcoming people. This is my first visit to Palestine, and upon arrival, I immediately felt comfortable and welcome. It is impossible to walk down the street without constantly hearing ‘Welcome to Hebron!’ or ‘You are welcome in Palestine!’. For a woman from the Western world, normally you learn to ignore anyone who yells out to you as you walk down the street, but here in Hebron I very quickly learned to appreciate the constant polite welcomes and hellos that I received.
Perhaps the thing that made me feel most welcome is my host family. They immediately went out of their way to make me feel as though their home is my home, including taking me to dinner and introducing me to their (very large!) extended family. It truly felt as though I belonged there, and that Hebron would always be a place where I would find friends and a second home.
Of course, there are cultural differences that take some getting used to. First, arriving in the middle of Ramadan, I must continually remind myself that drinking water outside during the day will lead to an awful lot of angry stares. Similarly, one must always be careful to cover your knees, elbows, and collar bone when walking around the city. However, once you get used to these simple customs, fitting into the local culture becomes quite easy. One thing that is very easy to get used to is the food. It is different from the sort I am used to, but it is delicious. A lot of rice, meat, and vegetables cooked in a variety of spices and sauces.
There are a lot of interesting things to see as well. The Old City, the glass factory, and a variety of museums and cultural centers that locals are always eager to tell you about. As a general rule, many people you meet on the street will offer to show you around, tell you about things to do or see in Hebron, and ask you if you are enjoying yourself in their city. It is a kind of friendliness largely absent from big cities in the Western world.
Overall, my experience during in Hebron has been incredible. I have never felt such a warm welcome to a place of which I am a perfect stranger, and I already feel very comfortable in my unfamiliar surroundings. The next few weeks promise to hold even more experiences in getting to know my new temporary home, and I am excited to see what will come.
My time in Hebron, West Bank, Palestine
Submitted by Jana - - | July 05, 2017
As Palestine was the first Arab country that I’ve been to, this was the first time for me to experience daily life in the Muslim culture. I knew a lot of things from theory or Arab friends in Germany, but apart from that a lot of things were new to me. I was surprised about how friendly, interested and open most people around here are towards strangers. It seems almost impossible to enter a Palestinian’s home without constantly being offered food. The hospitality can even become a bit of a struggle if you really don’t want that third serving or another dessert or the fifth cup of coffee.
I was a bit concerned about the security situation and about not being able to walk around freely at all or experiencing incidents between Palestinians and soldiers on the streets. But I felt safe and walking around Hebron during daytime turned out to not be a problem at all. There are a lot of cheap taxis as well, in case you don’t want to walk. Knowing the directions in Arabic or having someone write them down for you in Arabic helps a lot to avoid confusion as just a few of the drivers know English well enough. I was surprised that traveling inside Palestine was not an issue at all.
Anywhere I’ve went so far, service drivers and people on the streets were very considerate and always ready to help when I didn’t know how to get from A to B and happy to practice their English with me. Also traveling to Israel for the weekend is considerably easy when going through Jerusalem.
I didn’t really know what to expect from work at the Excellence Center and how my weeks would look like. I was positively surprised by the relaxed and friendly relationship between the volunteers and the teachers. Sitting together for breakfast or coffee between classes in the kitchen or on the rooftop has become something I am looking forward to every day. A lot of times I help the teachers with English classes in the center or go to high schools in nearby villages where I teach together with another volunteer.
Additionally, I did one-on-one conversational classes with older students at the Center. Almost all students are always very excited about the foreigners and during the breaks, they come to say hi, shake your hand or take pictures together.
I would not have thought that so many people here are so passionate and motivated about learning English. What also surprised me was that volunteers are able to prepare a lot of the classes on their own for the most part. Even though it is nice to be free in choosing exercises and teaching methods, I think sometimes it would be good for the students if there was more planning together with their teachers for the sake of consistency.
During my stay, I came to appreciate the hospitality of the Palestinians and their interest in foreign countries and cultures. At the same time, I noticed that being a foreign woman in a traditional Muslim country can become difficult at times. Whenever being shouted at by men on the street or getting marriage proposals by host family members I realized the cultural differences the most.
Before I came here I would not have thought that I would be confronted with behavior like this on an almost daily basis. It would have been helpful for me if I had heard about this beforehand. Being told about the status women here and about how to best behave around men might prevent a lot of misunderstandings and irritations in the long run.
I do believe that volunteering with the Excellence Center and living with a host family gives volunteers a unique opportunity to dive into the Palestinian culture and learn spoken Arabic while contributing to the community of Hebron. The two days off during the week are a perfect amount of time to travel around the area and explore Palestine together with other volunteers. The best recommendation that I can give to future volunteers is to take any chance to engage with the locals, try to speak as much Arabic as possible and ask questions if you’re curious about certain things. You might be surprised about their openness and their generosity.
At the same time being able to clearly communicate when you don’t feel comfortable with something and to not be afraid of insulting them by not accepting every offer or piece of advice is just as important in order for you to make the best of your time here in Palestine.