June 2020

Friends of the Holy Land are pleased to announce their Pentecost Challenge has been a huge success as the most generous supporters have donated a remarkable amount - more than £110,000 - which means that all the funds promised by three FHL supporters to match fund this effort are also committed to support their work. Thank you!

The supporters have come from across the whole country, from Scotland to Jersey, and have found creative ways to raise funds under lockdown conditions. Hosting remote fundraising events including distanced Strawberry Teas and sponsored garden / neighbourhood walks.

Plans are well underway to distribute these funds directly to the most vulnerable across the West Bank, Gaza Israel and Jordan with around 500 families identified so far for support through this difficult time.

Curfew restrictions across the West Bank and Gaza have been eased recently. However this, and the closely monitored reopening of the crossing points to Israel, Jordan and Egypt, has resulted in a slight spike in the number of cases reported, meaning that any improvement in the economy is looking uncertain for many months to come. 

This also means that employment prospects remain very poor. Hotels in the West Bank remain closed with little prospect of opening soon and therefore tourism remains dead.  More than 70% of the population of Bethlehem who serve this sector have been unemployed since early March and will continue to struggle until tourism returns to the levels of 2019 which many experts predict may not be ‘til mid-2021.

The movement and other restrictions related to the pandemic have drastically reduced domestic economic activity and external trade across the West Bank, which are also expected to make matters worse over the next year; Palestinian Authority (PA) monthly revenues declined to their lowest levels in at least two decades. This will have significant consequences for public welfare, employment (almost 50% of PA expenditure is on civil servants’ salaries), and the financial and fiscal stability of the PA itself.

At the same time Israel is facing its biggest unemployment crisis in its history with over one million jobless at the end of May, an unprecedented unemployment rate of 23.5% (below 4% pre-coronavirus) with the lowest-paid, the youngest and the oldest workers bearing the brunt of this onslaught.

FHLs Executive Director, Brendan Metcalfe, said: “We are hugely grateful for the generosity of all of our supporters who have given to this appeal and for their efforts to maintain awareness of our mission in the public eye. The situation facing our brothers and sisters is set to remain very challenging for many months to come. 

"I know I can rely on our supporters in the UK to continue to raise awareness of our mission and encourage prayer for the relief of the suffering of those affected by this terrible crisis.

"Our team in Bethlehem and our partners in the Holy Land will need more financial support to provide practical help to our Christian brothers and sisters as these conditions persist and together with those across the UK we will do our utmost to meet those needs.”

Picture captions: Dormiton Abbey, the Upper Room of which was the location of the first Pentecost, and the reopening of St Martha’s House as restrictions are eased.