“Hello! My name is Jennifer and I am from America. I was a university student and I majored in Arabic. Just because I graduated with a bachelor’s in Arabic, did not mean that I was fluent in it, so I wanted to immerse myself in an Arabic-speaking environment. I also minored in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and enjoyed tutoring people in English. Because of this, I wanted to combine my desire to learn Arabic with my enjoyment of teaching English, and decided to teach English abroad in an Arabic-speaking country. But where to go?
Since I have studied Arabic for many years, and because I live in a diverse area, I have Arab and Muslim friends who introduced me to Palestine and its history. They were very passionate about it, so Palestine caught my interest. In college, I took a lot of Middle Eastern history classes as electives for my major, and I ended up taking an Arab-Israeli Conflict class because I wanted to know the whole story. After that class, I really wanted to help Palestinians, in my own way. I am not a political or human rights activist, but I do have training in teaching English, so I thought that is something that I could do to help them. In my opinion, learning English can help the students in furthering their employment opportunities and in their own interests on an international scale. I chose to come to the Excellence Center as a teaching assistant because its program was very flexible and affordable for me, which is hard to find in teaching opportunities abroad.
My first impression of Hebron was probably very different from the first impression that I gave to the people of Hebron. I had taken multiple buses from Tel Aviv, through Jerusalem, and finally ended up at the Cave of Makhpela, which is on the Israeli side of Hebron. I had to then walk to the Arab side of Hebron, which was not very fun since I had been traveling since 8 o’clock that morning and gotten sick multiple times while riding the buses. In short, I was incredibly lost, which is not surprising at all to those who know me. Immediately after reaching the Palestinian side, I was surrounded by Palestinian children who just got out of school. It was like playing a giant game of Telephone; I would ask if they knew where the Excellence Center was or if they knew its program manager, and they would ask each other and every other child they met. Eventually I was taken to the home of one of the children, where his mother greeted me, attempted to give me water and coffee, and told me if I didn’t have any place to stay, that I could sleep at their house. That’s why if anyone asks me if I feel safe in Palestine, I will always point to this one act of kindness and say, “yes, always,” because this type of kindness is shown by everybody here in Hebron. I am happy that I have chosen Hebron and the Excellence Center because I know I will always be taken care of and helped in any way. And yes, the story of the lost international girl has already spread around Hebron, I will wear my ‘lost girl’ badge with pride”.