Unesco Adds Nativity Church in Bethlehem to Heritage List

Bethlehem – Nativity Church (Reuters photo)

JERUSALEM — The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, along with the Pilgrimage Route, was added on Friday to Unesco’s World Heritage List, a move that was celebrated by Palestinians who hailed it as a significant political and diplomatic achievement as much as a cultural one.

Hanan Ashrawi, who leads the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Department of Culture and Information, called the 13-to-6 vote of the World Heritage Committee meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, “a welcome recognition by the international community of our historical and cultural rights in this land.”

The venerated church, the traditional birthplace of Christ, is in what is now a Palestinian-administered part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. It was the first such site to be nominated since Palestine was granted full membership in Unesco, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, eight months ago.

Israel and the United States lobbied strongly against the church’s listing, which was approved with two countries abstaining, just as they had opposed Palestine’s Unesco membership, viewing it as part of a contentious, wider campaign for international recognition of statehood in the absence of an agreement with Israel.

Particularly galling for Israel was the fact that the church was also placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, which Unesco attributed to the damage it has suffered from water leaks. Palestinian officials have also suggested that the site is endangered by Israel.

Read the entire article on the The New York Times website.


Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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