A boy is carried as he places his fingers inside holes in a column that form the shape of a cross at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, in the West Bank April 27, 2019..
(photo credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/ REUTERS)
UNESCO removed Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity from its “World Heritage in Danger” list on Tuesday.
The sixth-century building, which marks the site where Jesus was born, has recently undergone major renovations that incorporated remnants of the previous 4th-century church at the same location. It includes, according to UNESCO, “elaborate floor mosaics” and the restoration of the “roof, exterior facades, mosaics and doors.”
In submitting its request for the church’s removal from the list, the Palestinian Authority told UNESCO that it had successfully overseen the “implementation of the conservation works at the Church of the Nativity, which included a series of restoration works which mainly targeted the restoration of the roof and the narthex [altar lobby entrance] and all other components of the desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger.”
The 21-member World Heritage Committee plans to examine the matter on Tuesday during its two-week annual meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, that began on June 30 and will end on July 10.
UNESCO made headlines in 2011 when it became the first UN body to recognize Palestine as a state and award it full membership rights in its organization. Since then it has inscribed under the state of Palestine three World Heritage sites, the first of which was the church in 2012. This was followed by the ancient agricultural terraces of Battir and Hebron’s Old Town with its Tomb of the Patriarchs.
Israel has nine sites on the World Heritage List, including Masada and the Old City of Acre. In 1982, Jordan inscribed Jerusalem’s Old City onto the list by the city’s name, not belonging to any state. It’s still that way today. The Old City and the three sites listed in Palestine are among the 54 sites on UNESCO’s endangered list. None of the Israeli sites are endangered.
Once the Church of the Nativity is removed from the endangered list, it will remain inscribed on the World Heritage List. The PA intends to hold an international celebration next year to mark the end of the restoration project.
Later this week, the World Heritage Committee will hear reports on the conservation status of Jerusalem and Hebron’s Old Town. Both Israel and the US have withdrawn from UNESCO, protesting its biased treatment of Israel. Neither the US nor Israel are among UNESCO’s 193 member states.
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