“If one word describes my experience here it is “warmth”. I came to Hebron in the depths of winter (note to winter travelers: bring layers!) but warmth permeated every moment of my stay. I spent hours in the Excellence Center kitchen huddled around the fire, drinking sweet and warm Palestinian tea while exchanging sweet and warm words. My eagerness to learn the language and soak in the culture was received with an enthusiasm level that matched my own. Open arms, minds, and hearts opened doors for indelible friendships.
I think I heard and used the word “habeepty!” (“my sweetie!”) as much as every other word combined, but it was never unmerited. Marwa taught me to wrap hijab. Shayma took me to a Palestinian glass factory. Abu-Mohamed showed off the Hebrew words he knows while he drove me on a tour through the city. My Arabic teacher Haifa taught me a traditional Islamic wedding dance and I showed her the Hora while we dreamed up plans for each of our someday-weddings.
And each of my new besties / habeepties are powerful and inspiring and brilliant. My teacher Haifa was my older-and-wiser role model until I learned her age. So now she is my younger-but-wiser role model. Her patience, energy, and Arab coffee fueled me through seven days of (brilliantly executed) 3-hour classes. The Center’s coordinator Marwa went above and beyond with around-the-clock assurance and support that made me feel welcome, safe, and loved. I am so grateful for these seven days, short but so full, of linguistic exchange and cultural give-and-take. Thank you for having me.” -Ariel Koren from the USA who studied Arabic in Palestine at the Excellence Center