Volunteer and Study Arabic in Palestine!

Palestine Summer Encounter (PSE) is a one to two month service learning and cultural immersion program in Bethlehem, Palestine. Participants study Arabic in and outside of the classroom setting, live with a Palestinian host family, meet with both Israeli and Palestinian NGOs and peacemakers, and volunteer with a local organization.

Experience you Can Trust In 2016 we will sponsor the 13th Annual Palestine Summer Encounter (PSE) program. PSE is a joint project between Middle East Fellowship, a U.S. based 501(c)(3) nonprofit and Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian nonprofit organization.

Every year we have our participants fill out extensive evaluations and use their feedback to improve upon our performance. Our experienced staff on-the-ground handles delegations throughout the year and has been responsible for the safety and well being of hundreds of internationals traveling to the West Bank. 

Join us We would love for your to join us this summer in Palestine. You can register for the program at any time. Once you have submitted the online application and sent in your $150 application fee we will begin the process of setting up your volunteer opportunity and working on all other aspects of your summer experience. Please check the dates and costs page for information about application deadlines. If you have additional questions about the program your first step is to check the frequently asked questions page. We look forward to working with you in Palestine this summer!


The Basics

Basic Information

Everyone is Welcome! Palestine Summer Encounter is a program for men and women of all ages and nationalities!

Live with a local Family Participants live and share meals with a local Arabic-speaking family in Bethlehem or neighboring cities Beit Sahour and Beit Jala.

Study Arabic The summer encounter includes an intensive Arabic language acquisition program for beginners as well as other academic programs.

Volunteer Each participant will utilize their unique skills and talents to serve as a volunteer at a local nonprofit, children''s summer camp or humanitarian organization.

Be a Witness for Peace Participants will be exposed to daily life in Palestine and will meet with dozens of Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations and peace activists.

See the Sites Every weekend, participants will have the opportunity to visit different sites of historical, religious and political importance. Some sites may include: the old city of Jerusalem, Haifa, Nazareth, Ramallah, Hebron, Qalqilya, the Dome of the Rock, the Nativity Church, etc., etc. There is normally a total of 8 weekend trips.

Dates & Costs


The program is divided into two sessions:

Session One: June 15 – July 14, 2016 

Session Two: July 15 – August 14, 2016 

Deadlines: TBD

The first listed day of each session is the day which participants should plan to arrive. Activities will begin the following day. The last listed day of each session is the day participants should plan to leave (unless they are staying on for the following session). So, for example, if you are just participating in the first session your flight should arrive on June 15th. The orientation will take place the following day, June 16th. 

Costs: TBD.
Use our currency conversion tool).

This price includes:

The price does NOT include:


Please contact us.



Palestine Summer Encounter (PSE) is designed to build relationships and the Arabic classroom material will primarily help you to communicate with locals. We will provide a beginner's Arabic class focusing on the Palestinian colloquial dialect. Intermediate level classes are also available. To take full advantage of your time, however, we encourage you to think of the classes as just one small component of your Arabic study—even more important is the time you spend practicing what you learn in real life situations (with your host family, at your volunteer opportunity, etc.)

In addition to Arabic study, we are offering a number of other academic tracks, including: Nonviolence in Palestine, Regional Politics, Theology and the Land, Comparative Religions and the history of Zionism. As an example, your scheduling options will look something like this:

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Morning Volunteer Positions - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Afternoon/Evening Arabic Lecture A Arabic Lecture B Arabic
Evening         Lecture C

Beginner Arabic: 
Colloquial Arabic for beginners using Omar Othman''s book "Yalla Nihki Arabi" which uses transliteration to teach Jerusalem dialect Arabic. Students will also be taught the Arabic alphabet which is a required foundation for further study of Arabic.

Private tutors will be available for those who are ready to study Arabic at a higher level.

You will have plenty of opportunities to practice what you are learning in the classroom with your host family and fellow employees at your volunteer placement. We encourage every participant to do so as this is the best way to improve your Arabic fluency. It is important to come with fair expectations and a good attitude. You will not become fluent or a master of Arabic in one or even three months; it can take years to master a language. 

As with most language programs, if you don't study you won't learn and for those PSE participants who simply rely upon class, they will not learn much Arabic. The structure of the program is designed to try and balance volunteering, Arabic class, learning and building relationships. Participants have a great deal of control over their learning environment and can shift the balance by focusing on different aspects of the program. This is part of the beauty of PSE: your experience is greatly determined by your initiative and what you find most important.

Home Stays

Living in Palestine

For many participants of years past, the most rewarding part of Palestine Summer Encounter is living with a Palestinian host family.  Whether you practice Arabic with a host sibling or help prepare traditional Palestinian food, you will probably learn more in the living room than in the classroom. Holy Land Trust has a wide range of contacts among Palestinian families living in Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala. Additionally, we have contacts with families in three refugee camps in the Bethlehem area: Aida, Deheisheh and Azza. Participants who want to live in a refugee camp should mention this on their application.

Host families provide all of their guests with a place to sleep, breakfast, dinner and, when possible or appropriate, access to laundry services (normally a washer and dryer). Anyone who has special needs or request in relation to their home-stays should contact us about it least two months before their departure date.


Information about Bethlehem and its sister cities, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour. Palestine Summer Encounter participants will be living, volunteering and studying in this part of the West Bank.All participants will be living in Bethlehem or one of its two neighboring cities: Beit Jala or Beit Sahour. Below is some brief information about each of these population centers:

Bethlehem Quick Facts:
  • Population of approximately 27,000.
  • 65% Muslim and 35% Christian.
  • Located approximately 5 miles from Jerusalem.
  • Birthplace of Jesus Christ.
  • Location of Rachel''s Tomb.
  • Tourism industry employs 20% of pop.

  • Beit Sahour Quick Facts:
  • Population of approximately 12,000.
  • Unemployment rate is 60%.
  • Highest % of university grads. in Palestine.
  • 75% of residents are Christian.
  • Industries: chemicals, stone work, textiles, crafts, tourism.
  • Location of "Shepherd''s Field" where angels announced the birth of Jesus in the Biblical story.

  • Beit Jala Quick Facts:
  • Population of over 12,000 people.
  • Name, in Aramaic, means "grass carpet."
  • Highest point located 900 meters above sea level.
  • Main agriculture: olives, grapes, apricots, apples and plums.
  • Land threatened by 3 settlements: Gilo, Har Gilo, Giv''at Hamatos.
  • Population by religious affiliation: 7,000 Greek Orthodox, 2,500 Roman Catholics, 2,000 Muslims and 500 Protestants.

  • Sources: Bethlehem Municipality Website: http://www.bethlehem-city.org/
    Beit Sahour Municipality Website: http://www.beitsahourmunicipality.com/
    Beit Jala Municipality Website: http://www.beit-jala.org/
    Palestine & the Palestinians, Alternative Tourism Group.