This month Bishop Ralph is leading a Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, during which the pilgrims will be staying for three nights in Bethlehem. St Martha’s House, is situated in Bethlehem and it is hoped the pilgrims will visit and share Mass with local Christians.
The world has an idealised view of Bethlehem. It is associated with Christmas and the events of 2000 years ago. Many forget that Bethlehem is also a living community facing the everyday challenges of everyday life in a new and emerging state – Palestine.
Peace has not yet come there. There is little industry and few resources. The main industry is tourism and in times of conflict or difficulty the tourists and pilgrims do not come. The economy suffers, unemployment rises still higher and poverty increases. In this cycle of events the elderly are among those who suffer most. It is hard to find work, especially so for women. Widows and those who are alone are particularly vulnerable. The absence of welfare systems such as pensions, healthcare and social care impacts most on the elderly.
The Bethlehem ‘image’ masks the problems of everyday living for its elderly; as such they are, in many ways, a forgotten people.
St Martha’s House
Local Palestinian volunteers have established a registered charity to provide a day ‘Care and Repair’ centre at St Martha’s House. Its ethos is Christian but it is open to all. Its resources are meagre.
The rented rooms are cramped and admit only 22 people at any one time. Some help is provided by other charities but even with outside help St Martha’s House can only cater for 37 women. The list of those who are known to be in need is many times that number.
St Martha’s extends a compassionate hand of support to poor and vulnerable elderly women in Bethlehem. Here ladies meet for companionship, food and mutual support. Without St Martha’s, and its limited programmes, many elderly women would literally be abandoned.
The local community cannot extend its support or make St Martha’s House a permanent feature. They simply do not have the resources.
The objective of the Hallam (Bethlehem) Fund is to make St Martha’s House permanent, providing support to many more people, including elderly gentlemen.
Making St Martha’s permanent in Bethlehem will have a number of benefits which include:
- The centre will be able to extend the help that is provided to the needy Elderly.
- The elderly will be afforded some dignity.
- Its presence will also assist in making it possible for the younger generation of Christians to remain in the Holy Land, as the burden of caring for the elderly is eased.
- It will give hope to the younger people while they are waiting for peace to come.
The success of this appeal will enable the first, necessary steps in providing permanent care and support for those who are alone, abandoned, and/or without income as they struggle with the challenges of daily living. Visit www.hallambethlehemfund.co.uk for more information.