The Excellence Center in Palestine
The Excellence Center in Palestine Programs
The Excellence Center in Palestine Reviews
My experience volunteering at the Excellence Center in Palestine
Submitted by Sophia - Colorado Springs United States | February 04, 2018
My name is Sophia, I am from the United States and I have spent the last three months volunteering with the Excellence Center in Hebron, Palestine. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Middle East Studies with a minor in Arabic so my participation in the “Volunteer to Write about Palestine” program at the Excellence Center fit right in with my previous experience.
My main task each day at the Excellence Center was to write two articles that would be put up on the EC website or distributed to other travel and volunteer information sites. I covered a range of different topics in my articles. I interviewed other international volunteers and wrote about their experiences and the work they were doing at the center. I got the chance to sit down with the director of the center for a discussion of which I later wrote about. Cultural and social norms of Palestinian society was also a topic I touched on regularly, these articles were important because they let prospective foreign volunteers get a sense of what Palestinian life is really like from the perspective of an international volunteer on the ground. Additionally, I wrote about practical subjects for future volunteers such as what to expect from security at the airport, how to navigate travel from the airport in Tel Aviv to Hebron, items current volunteers wish they had packed and items they packed but did not need, how to stay in touch with loved ones at home and how to dress in Hebron.
My Arabic lessons at the center were an enormous help and definitely one of the highlights of my week. Having studied Arabic before my modern standard Arabic was already pretty solid but I was completely unfamiliar with Palestinian dialect, so that was what my lessons focused on. My Palestinian Arabic teacher at the center was certainly the best Arabic teacher I have ever had.
Fairly regularly the EC would gather up all the international volunteers and take us to site visits around Hebron or in the surrounding area. During my time at the center I got to visit: a kufiyah factory, watch glassblowers in their workshop, see ceramics artisans molding and hand painting pottery, visit Bethlehem, eat traditional Palestinian food at the house of a student at the EC, walk through the old city and enter the Ibrahimi mosque. On my own time I went to Jericho and swam in the dead sea as well as visiting Bethlehem and Jerusalem several times I also greatly enjoyed visiting Ramallah.
Living with a Palestinian host family was one of the most important aspects of my time volunteering in Hebron. I was immediately taken in as one of the family and I never ceased to be amazed by their hospitality. I would never understand the Palestinian culture and people as I do now without my homestay experience. I will never forget my time living with my Palestinian family. Secondly, my Arabic improved leaps as most of my family spoke little to no English. My Palestinian family gave me a sense of safety and security, I knew I had people here who cared and would look out for me. During my time volunteering in Hebron I have not once felt my safety was I danger.
Knowing I must leave Palestine and the Excellence Center in just a couple days it is hard not to think of everything I am going to miss. I think the hardest part will be saying goodbye to my host family. Leaving the special aspects of Palestinian culture such has their welcoming and inclusive spirit will certainly be a huge culture shock when returning to the west. Lastly, I would not be truthful if I did not mention the food in Palestine. It is so delicious that I do not even want to think about being without it in just a couple days.
Overall, I had a great experience volunteering with the Excellence Center and I would definitely recommend this program to any who are interested. The more people we have come to Palestine and see the true day to day life, feel their open , and witness their love for life and their fellow humans, the better.
Submitted by Lisa - - | November 01, 2017
My name is Lisa and I am on the Teach English Study Arabic Program at the Excellence Centre in Hebron. I am currently live England and am a university student of Arabic and Islamic studies
I spent the previous year in Jordan and it was there where I became interested in doing voluntary work in Palestine. This was largely due to meeting and hearing the stories of a large amount of Palestinians in Jordan and coming to the realisation that it would be impossible to understand the history and culture of Jordan without understanding the history and culture of Palestine. I was further inspired to visit Palestine after hearing stories from other students in Jordan who had spoken to highly about both the beauty of the place and the warm hospitality of the people. Finally, I wanted to have the opportunity to consolidate the Arabic I had learned in the previous year and to improve my conversational skills.
In Jordan, I undertook some voluntary work in which I greatly enjoyed helping others, meeting a large and diverse group of people and learning about their lives. I therefore decided to combine this love with my desire to visit Palestine by seeking voluntary work in here. Whilst I did not specifically seek voluntary work teaching English, after researching various voluntary programs, I decided that I would like to participate in an educational program as learning another language can give people a valuable gift for life. It was also apparent to me that the Excellence Centre seemed to offer the most structured program for this.
On arriving in Palestine, I was immediately struck by the helpfulness of the people. This was because my journey from the airport to Hebron was rather confusing and it was amazing how many people rushed to help me. As it was a Friday in Ramadan and there were no taxis in the area, a minivan driver from Jerusalem took me to Hebron for a discounted fee as I was by myself and did not stop until I had found the Excellence Centre, albeit with the help of various groups of people. What was most remarkable was how a young boy got into the taxi to help with the journey. During this journey, I also was surprised by the geography of Palestine as it was very green and full of trees which was not what I had imagined. I was welcomed very warmly to the Excellence Centre and was kindly given a lot of coffee which was very needed after my journey!
Whilst my journey to the Excellence Centre was rather stressful and not as planned, it was also a pleasantly surprisingly safe journey. The driver repeatedly warned me that there was no need to worry and despite what I had heard about Palestine on the news, I in no way felt threatened by the conflict during this journey. It was very touching that on my way to the Centre, my safety appeared to be the priority of so many people who kept on claiming that they were responsible for me.
During my time in the Excellence Centre, I helped many people with their studies of the English language. I love to meet and become friends with a variety of different people from different cultures and countries.
I traveled the significant historical and religious sites in Palestine in places such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho; places whose name’s I have heard so frequently throughout my childhood.
Living in Hebron is a great change from Britain and even Jordan. My host family have been very welcoming to me and have taken great care of me.
“Welcome to Palestine!”
Submitted by Mark | October 25, 2017
Well, when one comes to Palestine, one is expected to have at least some idea and expectations of how it will be. How will the people react to me? Will it be safe or will it be dangerous? Will I fit in, will I be accepted? Where can I find the cheapest kebab? Legitimate serious questions may muddle your mind upon your arrival to this fascinating land but do not worry. Unless you have extremely surreal high expectations, everything will go better than expected.
I personally did not know what to expect. I knew I was going to Palestine and I understood what that meant but I really did not know how to translate all that knowledge into the expectations of my own daily life. My attitude was to be positive and have an open mind about what would happen, and I do recommend this mentality as it will allow you to enjoy and get the best about the experience. Obviously, don't be naive, a little healthy skepticism won't affect your experience. For me, working with the Excellence Center and it's staff, teaching the children English and learning Arabic from my teacher in the context of Hebron and Palestine is being one of my best life choices. I'm already imagining of coming back!
The main thing that will impact you is the honesty and generosity of the people of Hebron. You will be randomly greeted multiple times at the shout of “Welcome to Palestine!” during your stay and even invited to tea and coffee by complete strangers. Some will be anxious to know about you whilst others will simply let you sip your tea, relax and enjoy the hot drink. At the beginning, it can be surprising and I was wary at first, suspicious of their intentions (a Spanish trait, undoubtedly) but you will soon realize that this is simply a characteristic of the culture and the people and one you will surely miss when you leave Hebron.
In my case, a male volunteer, there was no serious culture shock. I transitioned easily into the organizational and social life of the Excellence Center, thanks, both to the volunteers and the staff. One integrates smoothly into the Arabic classes, the English lessons, and other activities but I can easily disconnect when I get home, where I live with other male volunteers. Female volunteers and students must also integrate into the dynamics of their home, which can be much more challenging!
To be honest, the best recommendation is to read and comprehend the advice and guidelines offered by the Excellence Center and ask any questions that may emerge. Use common sense, be critical and inform yourself about where you are coming from and will have a great vital experience!
Program: Internship in Palestine
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.