Two Men from Palestine Had a Dream…
In early 2011, the Excellence Center in Palestine was established as a language and cultural center. The Center was founded by two men, Rafat Shantir and Mutaz Tamimi. Rafat Shantir had many years of experience working with local, community organizations in Hebron, Palestine. Similarly, since early 2009, Mutaz Tamimi had been leading community activities with Palestinian youth. Together, Rafat and Mutaz combined their compatible educational and community styles, methods, and programs to open the Excellence Center as a youth initiative to serve the Palestinian community in Hebron.
At the end of 2011, Rafat Shantir traveled to Germany to obtain his master’s degree in international business. At that time, Mutaz Tamimi was working with his father (Mohammed Saleh Tamimi who owns the Center) and Rafat’s sister, Marwa Shantir, to develop the Excellence Center in Palestine and keep it running. In 2013, Rafat moved back to Palestine where he worked alongside Marwa, Mutaz, and Mutaz’s father to create new programs for internationals at the Center. They particularly focused on developing the Study Arabic in Palestine program. By 2014, Marwa Shantir and Mohammed Saleh Tamimi were running the Excellence Center independently.
It was then that co-founders Rafat Shantir and Mutaz Tamimi traveled back to Germany. Rafat began learning the German language and Mutaz started his master’s degree in human rights. During that time, they were both involved in organizing many cultural and social activities for Germans, immigrants, and refugees resettled within the country. Language exchange, cultural nights, food activities, and sports activities were some of the voluntary work they participated in.
Over the last 4 years, Rafat Shantir and Mutaz Tamimi have traveled to at least 30 countries. Within that time, both men have been involved in voluntary work in Spain, Jordan, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, and Mongolia. Additionally, with a large number of refugees that have arrived in Germany since 2012, Rafat and Mutaz have engaged with the refugee population in Germany. With many refugees from Syria, Rafat and Mutaz were able to use their common language of Arabic to communicate and aid refugee families. For two years Rafat worked directly with young refugees in the city of Halle (Saale). Mutaz also worked with refugees, mainly families, and youth residing in Berlin.
After volunteering, traveling around the world, organizing cultural exchanges, and working with refugees in Germany, the two men from Palestine had the dream to open a cultural and educational center which would provide services to internationals, Germans, refugees, and immigrants in the city of Halle (Saale). The dream became a reality in 2018.
With the help of the third co-founder Elisa Kohl, who is pursuing her Ph.D. in social anthropology, the team decided to open their educational and cultural center in Halle (Saale), Germany. Halle (Saale) was chosen as the area to establish the Excellence Center in Europe for many reasons. For one, Halle (Saale) is a relatively small city, yet not too small. In addition, the city is in a strategic location in close proximity to Berlin. Finally, Halle (Saale) is home to many refugees and immigrants and is an affordable place to live. And that is the story of how the Excellence Center in Europe came into existence.