‘Every day is Christmas Day’ at Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem
BETHLEHEM, December 24, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― In Bethlehem, there’s always room at one inn, and they’re adding even more space for pregnant ladies.
Holy Family Hospital of Bethlehem made sure that 4,800 babies came safely into the world this year, and they’re adding two new operating rooms and classrooms for teaching nurses and midwives.
“People travel to come to the hospital; it has such high quality care,” Ambassador Michele Bowe of the Order of Malta told LifeSiteNews.
It’s also the only hospital in the area that has doctors with the expertise to safely deliver high-risk premature babies. Bowe, who is on the Board of Directors for Holy Family Hospital, indicated that the hospital has even saved at least one baby born at 23 weeks. Hospital employees feel particularly inspired in such situations.
“We have such a dedicated staff and everyone is devoted to life,” Bowe said.
Bethlehem is on the West Bank, which is within the Palestinian Territories of the Holy Land. Bowe said Bethlehem is the second poorest place in the Territories, and that the hospital is one of the only employers that can pay its staff on time. The 172 members on the staff are Palestinians, Muslims and Christians, and because of rampant unemployment in the area, a hospital employee could be supporting up to 15 relatives at a time.
These relatives are the lucky ones.
“Some families (in the area) live in caves, and they have no cash,” Bowe said.
Nevertheless, Palestinians, no matter how poor, have a strong tradition of hospitality and present visitors with yogurt, bread, olives, egg dishes -- whatever they have. Happily, there are also generous families among the richer people in Bethlehem, who bring donations like blankets to Holy Family Hospital for distribution. Snow really does fall on Bethlehem, and when it snows, it’s cold, Bowe assured LifeSiteNews.
Social workers attached to the hospital take the blankets to the poor of the area, and Bowe described one Holy Family social worker who buys blankets, milk and bread from her own wages and takes them to the poorest. Medical care is also taken into the desert by way of Holy Family Hospital’s mobile clinic, which treats families who scratch out a living as subsistence farmers.
Bowe is unsure how many of the hospital’s staff are Christians and how many are Muslims. The hospital offers care to everyone who comes.
“We don’t keep track,” she said of the religious beliefs of Holy Family employees.
“All the people of Palestine are the descendents of the shepherds (who visited Baby Jesus).”
Bethlehem itself has a Muslim-majority population today, but Christians still maintain a strong presence there. The Mayor of Bethlehem, for example, is a Christian. Bowe said it’s important to the Order of Malta that a Christian presence is kept in the Holy Land. When she speaks to American Catholic parishes about Holy Family Hospital, her listeners are also concerned about the welfare of Palestinian Christians.
The economic situation is so difficult, Bowe said, because of the Israeli West Bank barrier wall and “the need in the Holy Land is all year around.” But despite the terrible poverty, she finds Jesus’ birthplace beautiful.
“When you come through the gates of Bethlehem, you feel a great sense of peace,” Bowe said.
“You’ll never hear the Gospel the same way after seeing it.”
One of the beauties of Bethlehem is that the Mass for Christmas Day is celebrated there every day, leading Bowe to say “It’s always Christmas Day in Bethlehem.”
Thanks to the generosity of Holy Family Hospital’s supporters, it’s also always Christmas Day for thousands of poor mothers and their babies.
Bowe also attributes the hospital’s success to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“She’s happy that there’s always room at our inn,” she said.