Places Palestinian Host Families Take Their Guests to Visit: One of the main pillars of the experience our international volunteers in Palestine get when they volunteer with us at the Excellence Center in Hebron, Palestine is getting the chance to live with a host family. Staying with a Palestinian host family integrates our international volunteers into daily life in Palestine and provides them with a real-world understanding of what life is really like in Palestine. Palestinian Host families also provide comfort, support and care to the international volunteers they host and truly treat them as one of the family.
In staying with a Palestinian host family our international volunteers gain much more than just a place to sleep and someone to feed them. We call it a “host family experience” because it truly is a multi-dimensional experience. No matter how much our volunteers prepare themselves prior to arrival they are always astonished at the degree of generosity and welcoming spirit they encounter with their host family.Palestinian Host families are always very attentive to their guests, this is Palestinian culture, and one of the things they often enjoy doing is showing their international guest around Hebron and other sites of interest.
Bailey is from the United States and she participates in the “Intern and Learn Arabic” program with us at the Excellence Center. During her first week, she told us, “it is amazing, every day when I get home from the center where they are waiting to show me someplace new.” She expressed that despite being somewhat tired there was no way she would pass up this opportunity, “to be shown around by real people who live here.”
Another one of our volunteers who is from the United States and participating in our “Volunteer to Write about Palestine” program tells us her host mother took her to Jerusalem on her first day off. “It was my first time to Jerusalem and having my host mother there to guide me and explain things around me, it was really great.” She tells us they went all around the classic sites of the city and that it was wonderful to take it all in without having to worry about where they were going and would they get lost, “it is certainly a different experience spending time in a place like Jerusalem and having someone who knows the area showing you around.” She also tells us that even for just small details like being shown where to catch a service, how much is the ride and what to say were so helpful, “having my host mother with me the first time took all the anxiety out of traveling and I would not have felt as comfortable as I did when I made future trips to Jerusalem on my own.”
A volunteer from Canada who participates in the “Teach English and Learn Arabic” program has also been shown around by her host family. One evening when she came home from work her host mom was dressed to leave the house and very excited, “at first I had no idea what was going on but then she said with a huge smile on her face that we were going to a coffee shop.” This volunteer had newly arrived and had not yet been to a coffee shop here in Hebron, “we arrived at a building, took the elevator up to the eighth floor and stepped out into this beautiful view, one whole side was just glass and you could see out over all of Hebron.” This volunteer relates to us how fun the evening was, “we drank coffee or juice and smoked sheesha and just laughed relaxed, it was my first time spending with my host family outside of the house.”
As is seen, Palestinian host families really do make a difference in most of the aspects of the international volunteer experience here at the Excellence Center. Getting the chance to visit Jerusalem or Bethlehem or the Old City of Hebron and be guided by someone who you know and who knows these sites well is a chance most people do not ever get. It is not just our volunteers who gain positive things from this relationship but the local Palestinian families who host volunteers come away from it all with cultural exchange and the satisfaction of having had the connections with the internationals who spend time living with them.