Palestinian Arabic Courses: Providing Arabic classes to members of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) is another important program that the Excellence Center organises. These Arabic courses are primarily designed to ensure that these members, who come from six European countries, are able to converse in Arabic for the duration of their stay in Hebron. While being the only program in the Excellence Center that operates in a political space, it is, as well as being a reflection as to the reality of the situation in Hebron, another important means through which the Excellence Center is able to serve the community and assist internationals as they come, in this instance, to work in Hebron.
The TIPH was created (for the second time) as part of the agreement Israel struck with the PLO to withdraw from 80% of Hebron and divide the city into H1 and H2. Without any intervening, military or police powers, TIPH members, who come from Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Italy and Turkey, are mandated to ‘assist in monitoring and reporting efforts to maintain normal life in the city of Hebron, thus creating a sense of security among the Palestinians in Hebron’. By observing the actions of Israeli’s and settlers, TIPH members provide reports on any breaches of international humanitarian law and the relevant agreements relating to Hebron agreed upon by the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. Through their outreach work to schools and local organisations, TIPH members seek to educate the Palestinian community as to their mandate and their availability to the community in Hebron, which provides community members another avenue to report any illegal behaviour or undue harassment from Israeli forces.
As well as these observing duties, TIPH members are also engaged in the community in Hebron through their community relations work. This work revolves around ensuring Palestinians are afforded a sense of security and stability and to also contribute to the development of an environment in Hebron that is conducive to economic development. TIPH members therefore implement and support small scale development projects for the community in Hebron. TIPH members have assisted in providing play equipment for a local school while also participating in the celebrations of Isra Miraj in the Old City.
Given the important role TIPH play in Hebron, and particularly given their engagement with the community, Arabic language skills are essential. As Ibrahim, a teacher at the Excellence Center explained, their presence on the streets of Hebron means being able to speak Arabic is essential to their ability to complete their mission and engage with as many Palestinians in Hebron as possible. And it is the staff at the Excellence Center that have been providing these lessons for the past two years. TIPH members that complete Arabic language lessons at the Excellence Center complete approximately 20-30 hours of one on one tuition with an Excellence Center teacher.
Marwa Shantir, a manager at the Excellence Center and the Coordinator of the TIPH program is proud of the relationship between the Center and TIPH. While not a program directly targeted at the Palestinian community, it is one that still contributes to the lives of Palestinians in Hebron. As a mutually agreed upon decision by the Israeli and Palestinian governments, TIPH play a vital role in ensuring a constant international presence remains in Hebron.