Bethlehem: new covid area in the Antonian Society

Giacomo Pizzi18 December 2020

Finding beds for the Covid-19 sick. From the first months after the start of the pandemic, the main concern in the Bethlehem governorate was the lack of adequate facilities for the sick. Pro Terra Sancta moved immediately in this direction. At the beginning of March, a project was launched to create new beds on the premises of the Antonian Society called “Emergency Elderly Women of Bethlehem Covid 19”, financed by the FAI – Foundation Assistance Internationale.

The R.S.A. Società Caritatevole Antoniana is a local Palestinian association founded as a non-profit organisation that has been helping the most fragile and vulnerable in Bethlehem since 1913. The first home for the elderly was opened in 1942 and since then it has been a welcoming home for 38 elderly women with serious mental and physical problems, from backgrounds of hardship and neglect. In addition to the home for elderly women, in recent years a day centre and canteen for over 60 poor people have been set up. In the past, these activities were carried out thanks to the participation of many groups and volunteers, but during the Covid 19 pandemic, the Società Caritatevole Antoniana found itself almost without volunteers and in serious difficulty in paying the salaries of its employees.

Pro Terra Santa therefore intervened promptly, allowing employees and sisters to work safely and at the same time prepare for the management of the virus in terms of adequate space and medical equipment. The intervention took place on several levels, from renovation work to create a separate Covid-19 area from the rest of the facility, to financial support to meet human resources, cleaning and sanitation and medical device needs.

Azzurra Ferrauti, one of the civil services who remained in Bethlehem throughout the pandemic, was in charge of overseeing the renovation work at the Anthonian Society. As a young volunteer architect, she also made a valuable contribution to other projects carried out in spite of the health crisis, such as the work on Dar Al Siide, the guesthouse that we hope will soon be able to welcome new arriving pilgrims, and the study of the plans for the Dar Al Majus Community Home.

“I was able to experience my job in many ways,” says Azzurra. “Very often while working you don’t think about being part of a chain that will help many people, but you only think about doing the job well. At the end of the course, looking at all that we have achieved, I can only say that I am very proud and happy to have given a hand to those in need”.

Azzurra is nearing the end of her year of volunteering, finishing work in the Covid area just in time to deal with the second wave that has hit the Palestinian Territories again, just as we approach Christmas. Projects like “Emergency Older Women of Bethlehem Covid 19” not only benefit the local community and in particular its weakest members, but also help many young people like Azzurra to put their skills to use in the service of others. In the midst of difficulty, the elderly and the young meet, creating an exchange of solidarity.

When the emergency is over and we can finally return to normality, the Covid area will once again become a centre for volunteers and pilgrims. In the hope that it will soon be possible to resume all the activities of the Antonian Society that were once carried out there.