Russia has allocated a $4 million grant to the Palestinian Autonomy for the reconstruction of a street in Bethlehem that has been sanctioned as a UNESCO monument, TASS reported Thursday, quoting Aidar Aganin, head of Russia’s diplomatic mission to the Palestinian Authority.
The “Star Street” is a road that runs through the old town of Bethlehem, leading to the Church of the Nativity. It is about half a mile long, and was included in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites in 2012, under the name “Path for Pilgrims.”
In addition to the street itself and the buildings adjacent to it, the Peace Center on Nursery Square in the center of Bethlehem will also undergo reconstruction. According to Aganin, the initial agreement on his government’s allocation of a grant for the reconstruction of the Star Street was signed in September 2016, and the first check was sent in February 2017.
The reconstruction of Bethlehem’s Old City will increase tourism, Russian President Vladimir Putin said following his talks with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Sochi on Thursday.
Putin pointed out that “the development of humanitarian ties has always played an important role in cooperation between Russia and Palestine.” Noting the cultural projects implemented recently, particularly the reconstruction of Bethlehem’s Star Street, Putin said: “I am sure that the renewed complex will become an iconic sight attracting even more pilgrims and tourists from Russia.”
According to Putin, in 2016 more than 300,000 Russians visited the PA.
The Russian president also said on Thursday that a new multifunctional cultural center built with Russia’s assistance had been launched in Bethlehem. “Our cooperation will not end here, we will continue to interact with the center’s Palestinian management in order to implement educational and humanitarian projects,” he said.
According to Putin, more than 500 PA Arabs are receiving medical, technical and humanitarian education in Russia.