Maneesha’s Two Months in Palestine

“My name is Maneesha, I am from the United States and I just finished my two month volunteer period at the Excellence Center in Hebron, Palestine. I work in software engineering at Apple in California and I came to the Excellence Center to participate in the technology program.

Due to the subject of technology and software engineering I spent most of my time at Polytechnic University in Hebron and came to the center to study Arabic with local Palestinian teachers.

I absolutely loved my Arabic lessons in the center. I had two different teachers throughout my time in Palestine, my teacher Ahlaa and Ahlam were very different. Ahlaa taught me a lot about Islam and Palestinian culture while trying to teach me Arabic. Ahlam, on the other hand, focused on my Arabic. My second lesson with Ahlam was an exam. She took my Arabic learning very seriously. I am going to continue my learning with Alham through Skype. I hope she becomes my best friend in Palestine. I don’t want to lose her. She is an inspiration! My life here in Hebron has become easier because she taught me enough Arabic to survive. She has 10/10 score.

The Excellence Center provided me the foundation and connections for my 2 months stay. Osama, the director is always there taking care of each one of us. He has 30 eyes — all of them busy making sure we volunteers are doing well during our stay in Palestine. Osama took care of our safety, our well being and organized our work every week. He is a very empathetic director running the center. I will cherish the memories of trips with Osama. I will recommend him and the center to all who might be interested in working in Palestine.

The Excellence Center and Osama organized multiple trips to the Old City, Bethlehem, a leather factory, a glass factory, the Dead Sea and Jericho. These trips were absolutely lot of fun. On my own, I went to Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Jordon (Petra and Wadi Rum).

I lived with a local Palestinian host family: Mai Atiya’s family. Mai took wonderful care of me. I don’t think it is humanly possible to give the amount of love Mai and her family gave me. She made me a part of her immediate and extended family. I danced with them to Indian music and also learned from them belly dancing moves. I was part of birthday celebrations for her kids and I hope to stay in the kids’ lives forever.

I have walked the roads of Palestine all hours with no problem. I keep getting lost and I keep getting help from locals to direct me to the right way. In last 2 weeks of my stay, I moved to Lamar Hostel to get a downtown old city experience. There were days when I was the only guest in the hostel and I still felt super safe. This must be the only place on the planet that is absolutely safe for women traveling alone.

I loved the Palestinian people. They are not bitter. They are not scared of loving strangers. I also admire that people in Palestine have kept their culture and traditions. They don’t look or live or wear like people in the west. They look so beautiful in their cultural attire. I hope they can keep Hebron the way it is! It is perfect.

My favorite time spent here was my time with Ahlam, my Arabic teacher. Maybe because she is my most favorite person in Palestine. I absolutely recommend the Excellence Center to all those that are interested in volunteering abroad. I plan to return home to my life and my job and tell everyone about this amazing experience I had in Hebron, Palestine. I guarantee you will see more people from Apple here in the future! I love this center and I would love to continue helping in any way I can in the future.”