Friar Serafino Acernozzi thinks that the Holy Family Hospital in Nazareth is doing more than just heal bodies.
NAZARETH, Israel – Friar Serafino Acernozzi thinks that the Holy Family Hospital in Nazareth is doing more than just heal bodies.
“We are a living proof that coexistence is possible,” said the prior of the hospital, a facility run by the Brothers of St. John of God and by the nuns of the Child Mary congregation.
“No one tends to love or hate genetically. Man fears only what he doesn’t know,” Friar Acernozzi affirmed.
“We think that our hospital, in its daily service, plays a small but significant role in the peace process because we are educating our workers and patients to live and work together. We are certain this is possible,” he told recent visitors to the hospital.
Friar Acernozzi explained the history and service that this humanitarian endeavor carries out.
The center is recognized as a private, non-profit entity; it was founded by the Brothers of Saint John of God in 1882. It is known popularly as the “Italian hospital,” much loved by the population in Galilee.
The hospital’s staffers and workers come from a range of backgrounds. On a daily basis, Jews, Arabs, Muslims and Christians of all denominations take care of one another in the hospital.
In 2000, when the hospital’s executives were planning to enlarge the facility, the intifada came and put a halt to expansion plans — for a while. Then, a new managing director arrived and breathed life into the center.
The vigor led to the opening of a new maternity ward in 2005. Groups of friends and Italian associations contributed to the project.
Aristide Colombo, an Italian volunteer, came up with a crucial idea to make the maternity ward a reality.
When the Italian province of Lecco decided to dismantle a 500-bed hospital which was closed down, Colombo’s group Metals for Solidarity asked that all the reusable material be made available for other needy centers, including the Holy Family Hospital of Nazareth. Thus, refurnished beds, flowered curtain and operating-room equipment all made their way to the new maternity ward.
Staffers at the ward include women religious from Italy and India, as well as Christian and Muslim nurses who lovingly hover over newborns in their cribs. Some 1,500 children a year are born in the hospital.
On a typical day a Muslim anesthesiologist, a Jewish surgeon and a Catholic nun work in the operating room. Some 50,000 patients a year are received in emergencies, hospitalized or attended to in outpatient clinics.
Overseeing the operations is the hospital’s general manager, Giuseppe Fraizzoli. He used to work for International Business Machines in the United States.
One day in 2001, a colleague called Fraizzoli: “They are looking for a director willing to go to the front line where shots are fired, do you understand? It is for the hospital of the Brothers of St. John of God of Nazareth. Are you interested?”
Fraizzoli told his bosses at IBM that he wanted to take the new job. He bought a one-way ticket to Israel and was just about to board the plane on Sept. 11, 2001, when he saw New York’s twin towers destroyed.
He had to wait a few days for the airports to reopen. By then it was clearer than ever to him that he should go to Israel.
When Fraizzoli arrived and visited the hospital for the first time, he realized he didn’t have an office.
He found a table and a chair and began to work near the kitchen.
“For some months, I worked there without a computer, without a telephone, or fax or secretary, surrounded by the aroma of the hummus, the typical sauce based on chickpeas and oregano,” Fraizzoli recalled.