Family and Hospitality While in Palestine: The absolute, main thing you will notice as soon as you arrive in Palestine is the hospitality of the Palestinian people and their culture. As soon as you get to Hebron you will first come to the Excellence Center to meet with our director and other staff. You will immediately be offered tea or coffee and a seat to relax in. Tea and coffee are drank throughout the entire day in Palestine and you will never go to someone’s house without being offered one, if not both. Fresh fruit and nuts also often accompany the offering of beverages. It is polite to accept the offer of tea or coffee, even if you are not that thirsty do not worry as these always come in small cups.
Also if you have never been to a Middle Eastern country before you will notice the coffee we drink is quite different than that of western countries. Our coffee called “Arabic Coffee” is served in small cups and is boiled with the grounds still in it. You are not supposed to drink the full cup until it is empty or else you will get coffee grounds in your mouth. Palestinians even on the street will invite you into their shops to drink coffee or tea. Sometimes you may even be invited by Palestinians to their houses to drink tea, coffee or eat at a later date. Overall Palestinians are greatly concerned with being hospitable to their guests, of which you will be one of. They want to make sure you have all you need, that you are never hungry and that you feel their support all around you should you need any help.
Another large difference that you may notice during your stay with us in Palestine is the dynamics of families. First of all the families here are very, very large. Parents have many, many children compared to most nuclear families in other parts of the world. Also family ties here in Hebron remain one of the most important things in daily Palestinian life. Families, though quite large, live within the same area, near one another. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and children regularly gather together throughout the week. There is bound to be some form of extended family over at the house almost every day. Families are close knit and provide a vast and strong support network for all members. If someone is sick, they are never left alone to fend for themselves, there is always someone there to help assist them. If a family has a new baby, other family members will come over and clean their house regularly so that all their attention can be paid to their newborn without worrying about house work. Families stick together and support each other in a really beautiful way. The way families stay in continuous contact and interact daily is really amazing.
Upon settling in with your host family, you become just that, one of the family. All of the extended family will want to meet you and invite you to their houses for refreshments. Your host family is sure to show you off to the rest of the family. This will give you an inside look at family culture here in Palestine as well as provide you with endless and new opportunities to work on your Arabic language skills. The care Palestinian host families show for the international volunteers they host is truly touching. They will never want you to be in need of anything. They will always be there to help you with whatever situation or problem you may have. Over and over again our international volunteers list their relationship and experience with their host families to be one of the greatest gifts they receive while volunteering with us here in Palestine.