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HOLY LAND/ Elderly people in Bethlehem

ATS pro Terra Sancta seeks to help meeting the needs of the elderly in the Holy Land, often left to their own devices by a social system that fails to provide adequate health care

“…the one who sits with the elderly is respected”  Pro. 31, 23 “…the one who sits with the elderly is respected” Pro. 31, 23

When people think of Bethlehem they think of it, above all, as the place where Jesus was born in the Holy Land. They think of the many children who were born and continue to be born here, in this land that is as holy as much as it is difficult and full of contradictions. But Bethlehem is not only a place of birth but also a place where people grow, become adults and, why not, sometimes get old. The complicated political and economical situation in the Holy land strongly hits the weakest and particularly, besides the children, the elderly. Many families in the Holy Land and particularly in Bethlehem have no income, with serious problems on their shoulders and it is very difficult for them to look after the elderly of the Holy Land. There are more and more cases of abandonment in Bethlehem, one of the most important sites of the Holy Land.

The Project of Bethlehem and the elderly in the Holy Land

The Custody of the Holy Land, with the help of the parish priest and the friars in Bethlehem, wishes to be a support for the families taking care of the elderly and to sustain works of the Antonian Charitable Society of Bethlehem, which has been attempting to help the poorest and the least well-off since 1913. A home for the elderly was founded in Bethlehem in 1942, where today five nuns, of various nationalities, called ‘Gianelline’ dedicate all their energy with patience and dedication, despite difficulties, to accommodate the elderly, or rather, that part of society that is being forgotten too often in the Holy Land and particularly in Bethlehem.

The nuns, together with some local “social workers” look after, wash, feed, give medicine and keep company to about 40 elderly women, each day and each night. But food, medicine, water and electricity have also here a certain cost. Most of these elderly people of Bethlehem do not have a family and therefore, the charge for bed and board, which is in theory requested, doesn’t get paid by anyone in the Holy Land. In fact, on the territory of the Palestine autonomy, there is no system of public health assistance. The cures linked to any type of illness are to be paid by families who don’t receive any financial help, if not from their parish. In other words, the only hope for these elderly people and for the ones who have decided to dedicate their life to them is providence.

With the funds raised for the elderly people in Bethlehem, we wish to deal with the most urgent emergencies of the Holy Land, which are mainly connected to the purchasing of medical equipment and medicines, as well as to bear the costs of operations in hospitals and subsequent medical care. Besides we want to complete the structural extention of the house in Bethlehem. The objective is to set up a home for the elderly men in Bethlehem, in the Holy Land. At present, this structure is almost completely finished: in order to accommodate its first guests it is necessary to purchase some furnishings, mattresses, beds and medical and first aid equipment.