The elderly are generally part of one of the weakest elements of contemporary society, and this is especially the case in a place such as Bethlehem where, in addition to the Wall which severely complicates daily life, the elderly must frequently struggle against the “wall” of solitude and illness. To be elderly in Bethlehem means, all too frequently, to be alone, abandoned by one’s family, ill and with no access to support services.
The number of elderly and the vital role they play in Palestinian society
In Palestine the elderly today represent 4.4% of the total population, a small minority that is frequently overlooked; nearly half of elderly women in Palestine are widows and, due to the high youth emigration rate, one out of every six households consists of elderly people living by themselves. In addition to this, a third of the elderly in Palestine face health problems, with 70.7% of these suffering from at least one chronic illness.
Assisting the elderly is essential for all societies, but the danger of losing memory and tradition is an even stronger reality in a society such as that of Palestine. It is truly important to preserve the memory of the elderly, because it is only through them that the Palestinians have the possibility of knowing their own identity and traditions.
The Antoniana Charity of Padua in support of hope
In a difficult situation like that of Bethlehem, Providence has willed that individuals and organizations, such as the Antoniana Charity of Padua, should recognize the fundamental role that the elderly play in the preservation of Palestinian historical and cultural heritage, and choose to support the center for the elderly in Bethlehem, one of the few near those who would otherwise be abandoned to themselves.
The Antoniana Charity of Padua has taken the decision, in this matter, to support the project of ATS pro Terra Sancta, and hence the home for the elderly of the Società Antoniana where the Gianelline sisters and volunteers are working to treat the chronically ill, alleviating the physical pain of numerous elderly women who have been abandoned, and allowing them to live a life of dignity.
The assistance provided by the Antoniana Charity of Padua is restoring hope to the abandoned. We are therefore very grateful for our benefactors, and we pray that Providence will continue to act through them.