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Order of Malta Australia


Interview with Order of Malta Ambassador to Palestine Michèle Bowe


Nearly two weeks after the outbreak of the Israeli-Hamas war, Ambassador Michèle Burke Bowe, Head of the Representative Office to the State of Palestine, gives an update on life in Bethlehem, where the Order of Malta runs the Holy Family Hospital.

What are the immediate consequences of the Israel – Hamas war on Bethlehem?

The economic effects on Bethlehem are already devastating. Schools and businesses are closed and 90% of the workforce is without salaries because there are no pilgrimages. Nerves are fraying and daily life has become quite difficult. Grocery prices have skyrocketed, and the stores in Bethlehem have empty shelves.

How has this situation impacted the Holy Family Hospital that the Order of Malta manages since 1990?

Life at Holy Family Hospital has become more challenging. Even so, our Hospital has redoubled its commitment to the mothers and babies of Bethlehem to remain open and to provide care for all, especially for those most in need. Deliveries of babies do not stop for conflict or war. We are the only Hospital in the region that can manage high-risk pregnancies and care for premature babies. Pregnant women do not have options. Despite roadblocks that limit access to Bethlehem, the Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is running at near full capacity and the number of deliveries is stable. We have been receiving many calls to transfer in women with high-risk pregnancies.

Is the Hospital experiencing shortages in medicine supplies?

Our resources are very limited now, and we are unable to get the supplies that we urgently need due to restrictions on transportation between cities. Our Hospital’s administration has issued an urgent call to all employees to be vigilant in their use of supplies. Several of our doctors live outside Bethlehem and for them commuting to Bethlehem has become increasingly difficult due to Israeli security closures. Many of our employees are unable to resume normal work schedules. The Hospital has adopted an emergency protocol under which nurses and midwives are asked to work double shifts in order to reduce their exposure to the risks of transportation. Some nights, we are obliged to ask residents and doctors to take two double shifts to maintain staffing in the labor department and the NICU. Staff are becoming creative in finding ways to come to work since gasoline is rationed and hard to find and the checkpoints are increasingly difficult to navigate.

A Hospital doctor shared with me that, “I don’t know how much longer we can continue to operate this way but I sure hope and pray that things don’t get any worse.”

Life in Bethlehem had been already heavily affected by the Covid pandemic…

 Tensions have been building since the start of this year. Fewer patients have been able to contribute towards their care and supply prices have risen. We have been conserving cash and containing costs since the Covid Pandemic. Our staff have not had raises or cost of living increases since 2020. Despite these austerity measures, the Hospital will be out of operating cash at the end of the month.

Holy Family Hospital needs your help now to continue to champion life and to continue serving as a beacon of hope and peace in a region in desperate need. You will allow us to continue caring for the most vulnerable of Bethlehem and to pay our staff who contribute to the peace and stability of Bethlehem with their presence. Be the hope for the mothers and babies of Bethlehem. They need you.


Gifts of $2 and more are tax deductible for Australian taxpayers.

The Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, Palestine

Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, located just 1,500 steps from the birthplace of Christ, is a state-of-the-art maternity and neonatal critical care center serving poor and at-risk women, infants, and children throughout the region.

In this area of conflict, the Hospital stands as a beacon of hope for families in the Bethlehem region, including refugee camps and remote desert villages. The Hospital and its Outreach Clinics have impacted more than one million lives since 1990. No one is ever turned away.

Since 1990 more than 90,000 babies have been born in the hospital. The Holy Family Hospital delivers approximately 70 percent of all Bethlehem infants, maintaining a survival rate of nearly 100 percent. It is the only hospital in the region medically equipped to deliver babies born before 32 weeks. Doctors and midwives fight to save every mother and baby, demonstrating a commitment to life that is absolute. Holy Family Hospital is often asked to accept the Bethlehem region’s most challenging medical cases. As a result, approximately 9% of all newborns delivered at the Hospital require neonatal intensive care.

American and European specialists have confirmed that the hospital operates according to an excellent western European standard. Because of the continuing unstable political and the very tight economic situation, the need for the hospital services has increased.

Palestine has a limited national health system and not all patients can afford to pay the full cost of hospitalization, so a team of social workers assesses the individual situation of patients in need and defines the appropriate support.

In order to provide efficient essential and specialized services, the running costs of the hospital are heavily subsidized by the Order of Malta, other governmental or non-governmental organizations as well as by private donors.

Holy Family Hospital is a beloved institution, known as an oasis of peace to the greater Bethlehem community. Here, Christians and Muslims work together every day to serve families in need without regard to religion, ethnicity, or ability to pay.

As the second largest employer in Bethlehem, the Hospital also plays a crucial stabilizing role in the community, providing jobs to over 174 Palestinian families and creating employment opportunities for women in an area where few exist.

The Australian Association

The Australian Association, formed in 1974, currently has in excess of 300 members and aspirant members across every State and Territory of Australia. We also have ongoing and strong links with the Order’s National Associations throughout the Asia Pacific Region including in Singapore and the Philippines and with members of the Order in New Zealand, Hong Kong SAR, Thailand and Korea. The Order of Malta is committed to serving Our Lords the Poor and Sick worldwide and has done so for over 900 years. This website shares with you the history, mission and current activities of the Order of Malta in Australia, and provides links to the work of the Order world-wide.