The Palestinian Authority will attempt to register the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem as a world heritage site in the country of Palestine when the World Heritage Committee meets in Russia from June 24 to July 6.
Bethlehem, situated just outside of Jerusalem, is the resting place of the Matriarch Rachel, and features prominently in the biblical story of Ruth, as well as in that of her great-grandson, King David. It is also significant in Christian theology as the birthplace of Jesus, and became home to a church commemorating his alleged birth at the site. In the years following Oslo, Bethlehem has become overwhelmingly Arab and Muslim in population.
Earlier this month, the committee announced it would be considering registration of 36 heritage sites around the world, including the Church of the Nativity, which was submitted for consideration by the Palestinian Authority. This marks the first time the committee has contemplated listing a world heritage site as Palestinian.
The PA has a right to submit its request for the Church of the Nativity recognition because the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized Palestine as its 195th member state in October, giving Palestine full state rights in all UNESCO bodies, including the right to register sites on the World Heritage List. The UN General Assembly has not recognized Palestine as a state.
The PA seeks to register the church and an associated pilgrimage path under an emergency provision for endangered sites. The International Council on Monuments and Sites has recommended that the PA application be rejected, as it found the site to be neither under imminent threat or severely damaged. The group recommended the PA resubmit its application for regular consideration by the World Heritage List.
Committee members to consider the application include Algeria, Cambodia, Colombia, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Qatar, Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.