Advice from Current International Volunteers to Prospective Volunteers in Palestine: Here at the Excellence Center in Hebron, Palestine we host international volunteers from all over the world and for most, this is their first time in Palestine, if not the Middle East as a whole. When planning to travel to such a foreign country with a foreign culture it is natural to want to know as much as possible about where you are going before your plane takes off. As one of our volunteers tells us, “I did so much research before I came to volunteer at the Excellence Center however one thing I wish I could have read was information directly from people who were currently in Palestine doing exactly what I was going there to do.” Hearing this from several of our current volunteers we decided to sit down with them and hear about advice they would give to incoming international volunteers.
Regarding arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv there is a chance you will be pulled aside at immigration, or beforehand, and questioned because your destination is Palestine. Our volunteer’s experiences range from absolutely no problem or hold up at all, to being questioned for half hour after exiting their gate to being taken aside and questioned for several hours before being allowed to leave. No matter what your experience is it is important to remember several things, first and most important is that you are not doing anything illegal or wrong by coming to volunteer in Palestine, you are breaking no laws. If you are questioned remember to just stay calm and treat security with courtesy. One of our volunteers from Australia who participates in our “Teach English and Learn Arabic” program tells us, “I got held up for several hours of questioning when I landed, I took it east, did everything they asked of me and stayed friendly despite what I may have felt inside. Though it was nerve-racking and lengthy because I kept my demeanor calm everything went smoothly and here I am, I made it to Palestine.”
Another volunteer from the United States who participates in our “Intern and Learn Arabic” program tells us, “it is important to look up the weather forecasts before you pack! I just assumed because it was the Middle East that it would be warm/hot and dry, which is not the case in Palestine during the winter. I brought no warm clothes with me from home and the other day it snowed here. The rain and winds in the winter really cut right through you.” This is something we hear from so many volunteers who stay with us during the winter.
If you are a woman traveling alone, do not be afraid. One of our volunteers who was here working in our technology program at local universities told us, “I love to walk, I walked everywhere all the time and I never once felt unsafe, one of my favorite parts of being here is getting to walk through the wonderful streets of this city just exploring.” Another volunteer from the United States participating in our “Volunteer to Write about Palestine” program tells us, “you get a lot of attention on the streets but that is because they do not have a lot of foreigners visit so you certainly stand out, but I have not once felt unsafe in this city or in any of the surrounding cities I have visited.”