By Evie Carrick
July 03, 2019
Credit: Getty Images

Every year, thousands of people travel through Israel and Palestine to retrace the steps of Jesus. Nazareth, Jerusalem, and the Sea of Galilee are all common stops, but devotees to the Christian tradition believe that it all began in Bethlehem — where Jesus was thought to be born.

The birth was said to have taken place in a cave, and in 339 CE the Church of the Nativity was built on top of it. The church was rebuilt after a fire in the 6th century, but the original building’s elaborate floor mosaics remain. However, The Associated Press reports that the ancient structure had a “leaky roof, broken windows, damaged columns and grime-covered mosaics.”

Credit: Getty Images

On Tuesday, seven years after the Church of the Nativity — which is also on the World Heritage List — was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee removed it from the endangered list due to “the high quality of work carried out on the Nativity Church.”

The renovation was launched by the Palestinian Authority in 2012 after the site was added to the endangered list. The authority set out to repair and restore the roof, doors, exterior facades, and mosaics, and as part of the restoration project, the site also adopted a plan to ensure future conservation.

For years, pilgrims and curious travelers have crossed the border between Israel and Palestine to visit Bethlehem, which sits on the Israeli-occupied West Bank 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) south of Jerusalem. The hope is that the renovation helps boost tourism to Bethlehem’s Holy Land site which also includes terraced gardens, bell towers, a pilgrimage route, and several other churches.

UNESCO’s endangered list was created to inform the world of the condition of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List and the threats they face, be it pollution, poaching, conflict, or natural disasters.