01BOB ABERNETHY: Our story takes place on a hillside 500 yards from the Church of the Nativity. Here and elsewhere, members of the Catholic Order of Malta have embraced as their mission taking care of the poor and sick, especially of mothers and their babies, especially preemies and others who need special care.

DR. SALIM KUNKR (Holy Family Hospital): The aim is to help people—to help the poor, to help the sick, Muslim, Christian, or whatever, and we try to help also the poor people who doesn’t have access to medical help. So, usually, we don’t refuse anybody.

ABERNETHY: The majority of patients here are Muslim, while the majority of doctors and nurses are Christian. Over the last 25 years, they say they have delivered more than 68,000 babies.

Holy Family Hospital survives through the generosity of its friends, nearby and in the West. Its staff is proud of its state-of-the-art equipment and teaching, and so are its patients.

MARY MAOH (Social Worker): They are happy that they have a hospital like this hospital. It’s one of the best hospitals in this area, and all of the people know that.

06ABERNETHY: Twenty-five percent of those served by the hospital reside in refugee camps run by the United Nations.

DR. LOUIS JAAR (Holy Family Mobile Clinic): It is important here, what we do—medical care, giving help to the people of these regions, this desert, Judean desert.

ABERNETHY: Nearby Bedouins, for instance. They can’t get to the hospital, so the hospital staff sends care to them.

DR. SABA ABUFARHA (Holy Family Hospital): We need to continue serving the poor people exactly the same way, because our philosophy here in the hospital—that the poor deserve the best.

ABERNETHY: At several locations, here and all over the world, the Order of Malta has been caring for the poor and sick for more than 900 years.

Bethlehem’s Holy Family Hospital

In the midst of all the political and religious tensions in the city of Bethlehem, the Catholic Order of Malta oversees Holy Family Hospital, just up the hill from the Church of the Nativity. Members of the medical staff are primarily Christian, and most of the patients are Muslim, but the hospital serves everyone, especially mothers, their newborn babies, and all children who need special care. “Our philosophy,” said one of the leading doctors, “is that poor people deserve the best.”  The Order of Malta has been caring for the sick and the poor in the Middle East for more than 900 years.