Coronavirus Update: The Latest from Bethlehem

This report comes to us from Sami El-Yousef, a member of our CNEWA family and our former regional director in Jerusalem. He is now the Chief Executive Officer of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

On Friday the Palestinian Authority declared a state of emergency for 30 days since a few cases were confirmed in a hotel in Beit Jala (very close to the seminary). This meant that all educational institutions including all schools and universities, mosques and churches are closed for 30 days. Bethlehem was placed under lockdown, meaning no one can enter or leave and all 8,000 tourists in various hotels were ordered to leave immediately. The seminary was shut down and students returned to Jordan for fear of closing borders. Bethlehem University was immediately shut down, as one of the confirmed cases is a student there. All conferences were cancelled. You can imagine the panic and hysteria that followed.

The immediate impact on us is that none of our 12 staff who reside in Bethlehem will be able to report to work in Jerusalem until the emergency is lifted. We are having a meeting tomorrow in order to put together an emergency plan to cope with the situation. We will extend electronic access to some to enable them to work from home. You can imagine the psychological impact on families having to deal with all this. Also Archbishop Pizzaballa remains in quarantine till Friday as mandated, since he redently returned from Italy. He is well and this is merely a precautionary measure.

As for Israel, there is no panic mode yet, as they are more accustomed to deal with emergencies. However, most international flights have been cancelled and anyone arriving from many countries will be immediately quarantined. Over 100,000 people are in self quarantine now.

Jordan is more sane as there was one case only and the situation contained. But the schools in both Jordan and Palestine are considering starting offering online classes wherever possible. The new software Edunation we adopted this year lends itself to such a platform.

With this update, I wanted to shed more light on the day-to-day difficulties and again advise against any pilgrimage at the present time. It will be a horrible experience if they eventually make it.

United in prayer for a healthier and safer world,


Sami El-Yousef

Chief Executive Officer

Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

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