Heritage status for Bethlehem church

July 1, 2012  

Palestinians win endangered world heritage status for Bethlehem church

US ambassador condemns Unesco decision to grant protection for Church of the Nativity on site seen as Jesus’s birthplace

Unesco has granted endangered world heritage status and funding for repairs to the site seen as Jesus’s birthplace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, despite objections from the US and Israel.

Israeli officials have questioned the need for Bethlehem to be registered as an endangered site and see Palestinian moves at Unesco and other UN bodies as an effort to embarrass Israel on the world stage.

Thirteen out of 21 members of the world heritage committee voted in favour of the move at a meeting in St Petersburg. The decision was met by a standing ovation. Six members voted against and two abstained.

The fourth-century Church of the Nativity, built over a grotto where Christian tradition says Jesus was born, needs repairs but the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is short of funds. Read more