Let’s meet Alessandro Cordova and Niccolo’ Costantini, both 21 and from Italy. Alessandro studies Intercultural Communication at the University of Rome and he plans to work in the field of International Cooperation for Development and Humanitarian Aid. Niccolo is also studying the same discipline as well as Modern Languages. These two very intelligent and motivated Italians have found their way to Palestine to assist at the Excellence Centre. Why?
Alessandro wanted to get an ‘insiders’ view on the Palestinian issue and what better way to do that while improving his Arabic both through lessons and real-life communication. He wanted to:
“…live an amazing life experience that could make me grow academically and personally”.
Niccolo participated in the Teach English Speak Arabic program because he wanted to improve his Arabic speaking skills and to get to know about Palestinian culture and history, which he was studying at university.
For both, experiencing the ‘Palestinian situation’ first-hand was a very important motivation to come to Palestine. So what was it really like for them both?
According to Allesandro, Hebron is a safe city, easily comparable to many European towns, with a very low rate of petty crime in the streets. He never felt in danger even at night. The situation in the old center can be:
“…surprising at a first sight, because of the presence of soldiers in the streets, but I never felt threatened by that. This applies to basically every city in the West Bank. They’re all normal and beautiful cities, full of life and amazing things, absolutely not a war zone”.
Niccolo also felt really safe despite the dire warnings he’d received from people back home who had told him that he was risking his life travelling to Palestine. He soon discovered that these dire warnings had no basis at all, as:
‘…apart from a rough check performed by Palestinian authorities when coming back from a trip to Jericho, I had absolutely no trouble either with Israeli forces or with Palestinian authority’.
Both strongly recommend learning Arabic before coming to the Excellence Centre. While it is not essential to speak Arabic it enables you to make the absolute most of your experience as, according to Allesandro:
“Direct contact with Palestinians is an essentially important part of the experience. Moreover, even if starting from a basic level, living and studying here is the chance to get an incomparable improvement, especially in oral communication skills.”
Niccolo agrees, saying:
“It will make your learning here way more productive and satisfying: I saw some people coming here with no prior knowledge and being disappointed when leaving since their level was not as high as they expected. Arabic is a particular language and you cannot expect to each an A2 level in just a month or two”!
Both Allesandro and Niccolo take lasting memories back to Italy with them. For Allesandro it was his visits to Umm Abed, an amazing woman who lives in the center of Hebron. Simple pleasures, like listening to her stories and tasting her amazing handmade food and the fact that she was genuinely happy every time he visited her are memories that will live on. Hopefully Umm Abed can teach him the art of cooking Maqluba before he returns home.
For Niccolo his lasting impressions are also centered on the people he met. He got to know so many smiling, humble, welcoming and generous people:
“I will always remember their hospitality, it is the most precious memory I could collect”.
A particular example is when he visited the Dead Sea and met a guy named Fares, who was so kind that the two men became friends. Another astonishing memory was a trip to the desert with some Bedouins, a precious memory, indeed!
Niccolo also learnt some movements of Dabke, a traditional Palestinian dance, which some kids at the summer camp where he worked as an English teacher taught him. Unfortunately Allesandro was not so successful with learning Dabke.