Coronavirus emergency in the Holy Land: all the updates

Updates on the coronavirus emergency in the Holy Land from staff and volunteers of Association pro Terra Sancta.

The coronavirus emergency has also evolved rapidly in the Holy Land: after the first cases of infected Israelis returning from Italy and Europe, tourists themselves, expected in large numbers throughout 2020, brought the viruses from their areas of origin.

After the case of the nine Korean tourists who tested positive, the first four CV-19 cases were recorded in Bethlehem on March 5: four Greek guests of the Angel Hotel in Beit Jala, a town a few kilometers away with Bethlehem. From them the inevitable chain of infections started: the driver, some members of the hotel staff tested positive.

The emergency in Israel and the Palestinian Territories has led to the closure of all public activities and places, including the closure of the Sanctuaries.



In the Palestinian Territories, in particular in Bethlehem, Association pro Terra Sancta for years has intervened in the health sector in support of the most fragile elements of the population, contributing a portion of the expense for medicines and medical procedures that are not covered by public assistance, and also at times for services and treatments that are not available in the region.

The public health system in the Palestinian Territories has always been very deficient and presents many problems, notably in terms of the limited number and range of health care services provided. For this reason, today with the Coronavirus emergency that since the beginning of March has also affected Bethlehem, the health situation in the area is what worries us the most. There is a high risk that the Territories will lack the resources required to cope with an emergency of the scale of the Italian or Chinese one.

At this time, Association pro Terra Sancta has activated an emergency number to remain available to the sick so that they will not be left alone at this difficult time, and is trying to continue to provide at least 250 families with support to help meet their medical expenses.

[learn_more caption=”Read more…”] There is also considerable reason to be concerned for the elderly, the group most affected by the virus, and for high-risk individuals who suffer from diabeteshypertension and heart problems. It is for this reason that we are trying to increase our support for the elderly in difficulty in collaboration with local charities – like the Antonian Society – by covering medical expenses and distributing masks which have become almost impossible to find.

In Jerusalem, as Association pro Terra Sancta we answered the request for help from St. Joseph and St. Louis hospitals which are unable to cope with the emergency situation caused by the spread of Covid-19. These two hospitals have been managed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition and they work to support the local Arab community.[/learn_more]


In Lebanon, a country already overwhelmed by financial default and popular protests, the firs cases of Covid-19 were reported and restrictive measures have been imposed to avoid contagion. Here, Association pro Terra Sancta is assisting centers for disabled young people and elderly who remain the weakest subjects in this health crisis.

In Syria, the internal situation is even more dramatic due to the conflict in which the country has been submerged for more than nine years. There are 11.7 million people officially in need of humanitarian aid, nearly half of whom are children. Amidst this grave economic situation, the Syrian health system has for years been at risk of collapse.

As a result of the fighting there has been a progressive shortage of medicines and medical equipment. The war has led to the closure of a large number of pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities, notably in Aleppo, Homs and Damascus and there is is now an extreme shortage of qualified and skilled medical personnel, and the prices of medicines in pharmacies continues to rise making them increasing inaccessible to the general population.

4 emergency centres

Since 2012 Association pro Terra Sancta, through the four emergency centres it opened in AleppoDamascusKnaye and Latakia, has been distributing medicines and vouchers to cover medical expenses for doctor’s appointments and specific interventions to around 1,500 people every month. Following the first Covid cases in Syria and the restrictive anti-contagion measures, the Association has undertaken to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) along with medicines.


Association pro Terra Sancta is committed to supporting a small clinic in East Aleppo, today the most run-down area of the city where the population is extremely poor. The clinic is the only health service to which hundreds of children who were orphaned or born of violence during the control of jihadist militias and who are still not officially registered have access.

[learn_more caption=”Read more…”]The Association collaborates with the St. Louis Hospitals in Damascus and Aleppo, among the most active in these cities, through its support for current expenses and total or partial coverage of the costs of hospitalization of some of the patients treated within the facilities, relieving the costs of a health system which in view of the emergency could very quickly become catastrophic.[/learn_more]


In the Jaramana district, we are supporting the medical practice of Dr. Suleiman where 2,000 patients are offered free check-ups each year, and those most in need are supported with a contribution to cover the cost of specialist examinations and expensive and difficult-to-find medicines. 

[learn_more caption=”Read more…”] Also in Damascus, Association pro Terra Sancta is supporting a reception and medical assistance centre in the Tabbaleh district, which each year hosts 140 seriously ill patients who have to undergo long-term medical treatments in the hospitals of the capital. For the poorest among them a contribution is also offered to cover part of their medical expenses (medicines, treatments and operations).[/learn_more]



The works cannot be stopped

24 March 2020

Matteo tells us how people live in Bethlehem during the Corona Virus emergency, but above all how the works of charity continue to operate also thanks to the young volunteers coordinated by the Association pro Terra Sancta.


Bethlehem: the emergency centre doesn’t stop

18 March 2020

Naila Nasser, social worker of the Association Pro Terra Sancta in Bethlehem, continues her work even during this critical moment, at least for the most urgent cases.


Bethlehem: the emergency centre doesn’t stop

18 March 2020

Naila Nasser, social worker of the Association pro Terra Sancta in Bethlehem, continues her work even during this critical moment, at least for the most urgent cases.



Other news form the Custody of the Holy Land (



Witnesses from Israel and Palestine

Testimonianza di Osama Hamdan 

Osama Hamdan, direttore del Mosaic Centre Jericho e collaboratore dell’Associazione pro Terra Sancta, ci aggiorna sull’andamento dei progetti a Betania e Sebastia, in questo momento di emergenza.


Matteo and Sister Lisi from Bethlehem

The volunteers of the Association Pro Terra Sancta Association keep on helping the Antonian Society and the sisters of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary Most Holy of the Garden. With the arrival of COVID-19 in Bethlehem, the elderly of the Antonian Society need more attention. This is why our support and contribution cannot be stopped. Every day Matteo and the other boys, equipped with gloves and a mask, help out in the kitchen and help the nuns to run the structure forward.


The Holy Sepulchre as you have never seen it before

The coronavirus emrgency also hit the Holy Land. After the first suspected cases in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, the authorities are moving towards increasingly severe measures. 

The access to the Holy Sepulchre was then closed. 

Check all updates on sanctuaries and celebrations for the Holy week here. 


Coronavirus a Betlemme: Noi restiamo qui

Vincenzo Bellomo, responsabile dei progetti di Associazione pro Terra Sancta a Betlemme, racconta la drammatica chiusura della città a causa dell’emergenza Covid-19 e le soluzioni adottate per continuare l’assistenza a Betlemme.

Ecco cosa continuiamo a fare a Betlemme.


Witnesses from Lebanon and Syria

Covid-19: update from Aleppo

Mirella Halabi, a doctor in Aleppo, tells us about the preventive measures implemented by the Syrian government to avoid the outbreak of the epidemic in a country that has already experienced 10 years of conflict. With 54% of hospitals partially destroyed or unusable, the coronavirus in Syria would be uncontainable.

Nono anniversario di guerra in Siria

Giacomo Gentile dell’ufficio progetti di Associazione pro Terra Sancta riassume i dieci anni di conflitto in Siria e racconta delle iniziative di Associazione pro Terra Sancta nell’emergenza. 




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Ogni sabato alle 11:00 (ora italiana) viene trasmessa la preghiera dell’Angelus in diretta dal luogo dove il Verbo si è fatto carne.

Ogni martedì alle 19:30 (ora italiana), la diretta della recita del Rosario di san Giuseppe durante la processione dalla Basilica dell’Annunciazione alla chiesa di san Giuseppe e alla casa della Sacra Famiglia.