“Palestine has always been the centre of history and politics for centuries. Arshad and Me, live in Australia and like most couples dreamed of travelling to see historical sites around the world. We decided to start our journey with Palestine and after spending nearly four week here, it’s hard for us to say goodbye to the wonderful people and the lovely places of Palestine. The smell of freshly baked bread, zaatar and olives each morning, the busy streets filled with cheerful faces ready to take on the day, the smell of coffee of the cool wintery mornings, all of these sounds and smells will be treasured in our memories.
The people of Palestine need no introduction. They are one of the most resilient and hard working people who are humble, loving and affectionate. Every elderly lady we met blessed us, every young person we came across cherished our company and every child we taught, thanked us. We believe that Palestinians are gracious people who honour their guests more than anything.
During our stay in Palestine, we conducted a range of workshops. From young school students of grade 6 to high school students we taught children in classroom settings and taught them creative writing. Various strategies like Think, Pair and Share, Cooperative Learning, Joint Construction of Text, Modelled and Guided Writing etc were used throughout the series of workshops. A variety of games were introduced to enhance the listening and conversational skills amongst the students. Another series of workshops was conducted that targeted the written communication skills of students from various Universities. They attended workshops that helped them in preparing for their Resume’ and job interviews. These were essential skills for students who were preparing for potential job opportunities.
During our weekends we travelled to Tel Aviv, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho and some other small towns and villages. We spent most of our time in Hebron. The scenery around Palestine is breathtakingly beautiful. The magnificence of the green orchards of Grapes, Dates, Olives and Mangoes, the hilly terrains and the vast plains are almost indescribable. Besides visiting the many historical and religious sites, we loved travelling through the country because of the rich culture, simplicity and hospitality of the people.
There are two sides to all Palestinians. On one hand we found them as very generous and kind and on the other hand, they are resilient and determined. The love for gaining knowledge is admirable. During the various conversations we had with students at Excellence Centre, I found that each student strives to excel academically and grabs any opportunity that is offered, to work hard and achieve their goals. Excellence Centre helps to make students’ dreams come true through their Learn English Program. Different levels of English courses offered at the Centre, provide different paces of learning.
The volunteers at the Excellence Centre are given the opportunity to learn Arabic to completely immerse in the culture. We had Arabic lessons at least 3 times a week with an excellent teacher who helped us to learn conversational Arabic. We completed a starter level course and were able to make simple conversation in Arabic language. The staff and administrators of the centre are very friendly and accommodating. They always display professionalism and hospitality towards their teachers and volunteers. The centre was a home away from home for us and we built lifelong friendships with all staff and most of the students we came in contact with. The positive environment around the centre is its key to success.
The local delicacies were too good to be missed. The food here is prepared fresh and tastes amazing. Maklube, Mansaf, Kebabs, Felafel, Baklava and Khunaifa are the best delicacies and desserts cooked here. The city is full of affordable restaurants and food kiosks, that left us spoilt for choice.
It is important to mention that our host family was the friendliest and full of generosity for us. They looked after us like their own family and treated us to the most delicious home cooked meals. Their love and warmth kept us upbeat and excited each day. They shared their home and their extended family with us and each night we looked forward to the discussions over tea and coffee. We feel indebted to them.
Our experience in Palestine has been one that is hard to put on paper. The true experience will be in our dreams and memories. Our heart is heavy as we say goodbye to this beautiful land and even more beautiful people. Palestine is not what is portrayed in the media. Its streets are full of life and colour. The hustle and bustle of the old city is an experience that you can only have when you walk through the small cobbled streets, children playing on the streets, taxis passing through unimaginably tiny spaces and women chattering away on their way to the market, you often wonder if this is the Palestine you were afraid to visit. A sigh of relief goes through my heart when I think of the day that we decided to visit Palestine. Indeed, it was a decision that I will gladly make again.”