UNESCO lists Church of Nativity as World Heritage site


Christian pilgrims visit the Church of Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the biblical Palestinian town of Bethlehem on June 28, 2012. Less than a year after winning membership at UNESCO, the Palestinians won a bid to place the Church of the Nativity on the World Heritage sites list.



UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural body, granted the Church of Nativity, in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, World Heritage in Danger status on Friday, according to Agence France Presse.

The Palestinians hoped for heritage status which would expedite funding for repairs, said Reuters.

The church, dating back to the 4th century and said to be built over a grotto where Christian teaching says Christ was born, was in need of repair. The Palestinian Authority was short of funds, and had only come up with $3 million for renovations, according to Reuters.

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UNESCO overrode Israeli objections and placed the church and its pilgrimage route on the list of World Heritage in Danger sites by a 13-6 secret vote, according to AFP.

The site also had emergency status, which means the Palestinians could take a shortcut to getting it on the list, said the Associated Press.

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The United States and Israeli opposed the move at the meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.

"These sites are threatened with total destruction through the Israeli occupation, through the building of the separation wall, because of all the Israeli sanctions and the measures that have been taken to stifle the Palestinian identity," said the Palestinian delegate after the vote, according to AFP.

The Jerusalem Post said Israel viewed the move as the latest attempt by Palestinians to pursue statehood at the UN.