As a woman looking to travel and study in Palestine or abroad, there are some extra considerations that may be taken into account. First and foremost, women can and have travelled alone to Hebron, Palestine in the past and the Excellence Center has never experienced any problems with gender-based violence. That being said, women volunteers and travelers should expect some differences in what they can and cannot do and how interactions take place in Palestine compared to their home country.
Overwhelmingly, the people in Palestine are incredibly nice and welcoming. Regardless of your gender, if you are lost or require assistance in finding your way, the people in Palestine will help you as best as they can. While travelling around the city in the daylight, women should be safe. In the night hours, it is best to travel in a group or with a partner. However, this is not to say that you will not be singled out for your differences. If you are a foreigner and do not wear traditional Muslim dress, you will most likely stand out and you may notice people staring and even have strangers try to talk to you. While these things do happen, they are generally harmless and are not cause to worry or to feel unsafe. More often than not, it is simply out of curiosity and interest that these exchanges occur.
As for accommodations for the women volunteers and travelers, the Excellence Center requires that they reside with home stay families. Generally, these families are wonderful people who often make you feel as though you are a part of the family as well. Having a safe place to stay takes a lot of pressure off of the women travelers and offers a great way to get to know and be introduced to some members of the community. Most of your time outside of the host family’s house will be spent working at the Excellence Center where relations between the men and women are friendly, relaxed, and include a lot of joking and friendly conversations. Stereotypes of gender relations do not apply in the Excellence Center, where men and women cook, clean, teach, and learn together.
A few extra considerations should be mentioned for women travelers. While it is perfectly acceptable to not wear any head coverings, there are some clothing articles that are not allowed or may be less common. Many Muslim women refrain from wearing tight fitting clothes here. While it is not forbidden, women should note that it is not common. Additionally, most women do not wear short sleeved shirts. Again, it is perfectly acceptable for foreign women to wear t-shirts, but you should be aware of the cultural norms that exist here. Shorts, however, are forbidden for both men and women. When alone with your home stay family, however, it is acceptable to wear whatever you want.
Being a woman should not deter any travelers or volunteers from coming to the West Bank. It is an amazing opportunity to experience a new culture and learn a new language. The generosity and kindness of the Palestinian people easily overcome any extra challenges that may exist. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises will be not how differently women are treated here, but rather how equally they are treated.
travelling and volunteering in the West Bank would offers a chance to learn and help others, while making friends and picking up Arabic along the way. For internationals, the program here in Palestine is a perfect combination of these aspects.