The situation in the Holy Land remains very difficult with ongoing coronavirus infections resulting in intermittent lockdowns being reinstated. Israel has now declared a second national lockdown. Community transmissions are increasing rapidly in Gaza, where social distancing is physically not possible.
Many of the poorest Christians in the Holy Land will still not be able to work for many more weeks or months to come. Where they may have just been able to make ends meet, unemployment or reduced wages will push them over into debt. Basic needs like rent, food and medicines become heavy burdens they cannot afford.
Tourism has been devastated. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem reports:
'all 32,000 Palestinians employed in this industry [tourism sector] have become unemployed. The current difficulties and complications are exacerbated by the debts that the sector accumulated from large investments into the tourism sector during the past few years, especially in 2019. The tremendous damage caused by the loss of the tourism industry has devastated Palestine’s GDP and foreign exchange reserves'.
Our office in the Holy Land is inundated by people seeking help and the reports from our partner organisations are the same.
- In Bethlehem area around 80% are dependent on tourism, which we understand will not be back to previous levels for at least a year.
- Families are running out of financial cushion so basic support is needed and new employment opportunities need to be created.
- There is general fear and depression compounded by political pressures from Israel as people (especially the young) are worried, bored and listless at home.
- The Palestinian Authority is not providing any government assistance through a social programme. Their guideline that organisations should pay at least 50% of staff salaries during the crisis, although taken on by some larger organisations in the beginning is now mostly ignored so those unable to work have no income.
- There are layoffs announced and more expected from many sectors impacted by the crisis – the Custos will be laying off staff from its tourist destinations especially (museums, guesthouses, hotels), schools are rationalising staff, Bethlehem University is in a similar crisis and layoffs are expected, hospitals and other non-profits are under budgetary pressure. The PA itself has income issues and public sector jobs are not safe.
The Latin Patriarchate have given an update on the situation as children start returning to schools, read the article here
How are we helping?
So many people generously donated to our Bethlehem Appeal and Pentecost Challenge. As a result, you helped us raise more than £210,000 to help Christians who are struggling.
Together we have:
- distributed grants of NIS 300 – 500 each
to 450 families in the Bethlehem area to
meet their immediate needs
- met a variety of the urgent needs of 45
families in East Jerusalem
- paid for the supply of medicines to 20
chronically ill Christians in Gaza for 6
- provided food and hygiene kits to many of
the 100 families identified by local
churches that were unemployed and
- targeted the unemployed Christians of
Nazareth through a grant of £10,000 for
- supported both our projects in Jordan working with Christian refugees with grants of over £6,000
School of Joy interview
Fr Mamdouh Abusada talks about the challenges for the School of the Joy during the Covid-19 pandemic and how it is affecting the children and their families.