New $16.5m Bethlehem hospital unites Abrahamic faiths

Christians broke ground Tuesday on Bethlehem's first speciality hospital, which organisers hope will be a centre bringing together Christians, Jews, and Palestinians to heal the sick in a land rife with sectarian violence.

The $16.5 million surgical facility is a joint effort between Israelis, who will assist with training, and the Palestinians and Christians, who will staff the hospital.

The centre - located adjacent to the Shepherds' Field where the shepherds first learned of the birth of Jesus - will serve Palestinian children in Bethlehem, West Bank.

US-based CURE International, a Christian medical charity, is one of the groups involved in the construction of the hospital and spearheading the effort to "build bridges of understanding" in the Muslim world.

"The Bethlehem hospital is unique in that it is bringing together three faith groups to build a facility of healing in a very volatile region," said Dr Scott Harrison, an orthopedic surgeon who founded CURE International 10 years ago and serves as the organisation's president and chief executive officer.

"Christians and Muslims will serve together at the hospital and will receive additional training at some of the leading hospitals in Jerusalem including Hadassah and Schneider."

In addition to the surgical hospital, the facility will also boast a state-of-the-art medical training centre.

"This cardiac and orthopedic hospital fills a major need in the West Bank where medical care is severely limited," said Harrison. "We are encouraged by the great support we've already received from both the Israeli and Palestinian governments who understand and appreciate our mission to bring healing to the suffering children in the region."

Besides the new Bethlehem hospital, CURE has built medical facilities in Afghanistan and United Arab Emirates. The charity also operates teaching hospitals in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia. The organisation plans to expand its reach in the next two years with new hospitals in Egypt, Ethiopia and Niger.

CURE International was established by Harrison in response to the need for hospitals to treat children with curable disabilities in the developing world. The medical charity operates the largest number of specialty surgical teaching hospitals in the developing world. To date, CURE has performed 41,000 surgeries and treated more than 600,000 patients.

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