Palestinians Renovate Church at Bethlehem
Bethlehem: After two years of painstaking work, experts have completed the initial phase of a delicate restoration project at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, giving a much-needed face-lift to one of Christianity’s holiest sites. The project, partially funded by the Palestinians and conducted by a team of Palestinian and international experts, is the biggest restoration at the iconic church in some 600 years. The removal of centuries of dust has left Crusader-era mosaics sparkling in sunlight filtering through brand new windows. Ziad al-Bandak, who leads the Palestinian committee in charge of the restoration, calls what has been accomplished so far nothing short of “revolutionary.” The Church of the Nativity was built by Saint Helena in the 4th century over the grotto where the Virgin Mary is said to have given birth to Jesus. Despite its spiritual significance, the church was neglected for centuries and is listed as endangered by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency.