If you’re planning on volunteering in Palestine, or even considering it, you’ve probably got a lot of questions about the culture, the people, and what you should know before coming. First off when you come here you’re coming to a new culture and atmosphere, one which likely differs greatly from what you’re used to. Another thing you may be wondering is what the Palestinian people are like, how they feel about foreigners, and how they’ll treat you when you’re working with them. Finally, a large consideration must be given to the occupation and how it will impact your daily life while you are living under it. All of these are valid concerns, concerns which can be dispelled by volunteers who have already worked in Hebron for several months.
When coming to volunteer in Palestine you have to be flexible and adaptable since the culture here is generally more conservative than what you will be used to. You have to be conscious about how you dress and how you behave when you are in public, always respecting the local culture and people. If you do this you can be sure they will respect you in return. This means not dressing like you may be used to (no matter how hot it gets), respecting religion when it comes to things such as alcohol, and checking your public displays of affection.
In addition to this respect comes an unrelenting and genuine hospitality, the people here want you to feel safe and at home, and they’re not shy about it. They love it if you know some Arabic and try and speak it, but don’t worry if you don’t. You’ll always find someone on the street who’s willing to help you if you’re lost, confused, or just trying to hail a cab. There are times that they’ll go as far as calling a friend who can speak English on the phone so you can get help that way. The way Palestinians make you feel welcome is special, and their hospitality is something to look forward to rather than be anxious about.
Many people preparing to come to volunteer Palestine must also feel anxious about the occupation, how it will impact them, will they feel safe while living in the West Bank. This is a double edged sword because in some ways it will affect you and in others it will not. When it comes to daily functionality it does not truly impede your ability to work, or to get to work. However, that is not to say that it will not impact you in other ways, emotionally being one. While as a foreigner it may not be as difficult for you to travel or live daily, that’s not saying it’s the same for a Palestinian. While being here you will witness some of the brutality of the occupation and must be aware of that.
Coming to volunteer in Palestine has a lot of question marks around it, especially when you plan on working here for an extended period of time. Which brings up one last piece of knowledge imperative when planning travel to the area. It gets cold here! Yes, Palestine has seasons and the winters here get very cold, even bringing snow at times. Due to this you should prepare accordingly, not only for the cold but also for all of the new and different cultural experiences awaiting you.