- Title: WEST BANK: Renovation planned in Bethlehem Nativity church
- Date: 29th October 2010
- Summary: BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK (FILE 2002) (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF SMOKE OUT FROM NATIVITY CHURCH. AUDIO: FIRING
- Embargoed: 13th November 2010 12:00
- Location: Palestinian Territory, Occupied
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Light / Amusing / Unusual / Quirky
- Reuters ID: LVAC95G85Y4BRSTPQM9E5BVQQ1SO
- Story Text: The Palestinian Authority has begun renovation of Bethlehem's ancient Church of the Nativity, revered as the birth place of Jesus.
The restoration project is the first since 2002 when the church was surrounded by Israeli troops for three weeks during the Palestinian uprising.
Israeli forces ringed the church in attempts to seize Palestinian gunmen who burst into the building in order to seek refuge after Israeli soldiers raided Bethlehem as part of a sweep for Palestinian militants across the West Bank.
"The church was intentionally attacked during the invasions (2002). A unique exception was made by the International Heritage Sites Centre, in fact, Palestinian heritage is threatened in general from Israeli occupation. Therefore we started to design the needed projects and make the necessary plans to restore the city of Bethlehem and the church in order to nominate it for the world heritage sites," Minister of Tourism and official overseeing the restoration, Kholoud Daibes, told Reuters Television.
The renovations of the West Bank's Nativity Church may take several years and cost millions of dollars, according to Daibes.
She added that Italian expert Remigio Rossi will first fix the roof.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited the Church on Monday (October 25) and announced the start of restoration. He said the three churches -- Catholic, Armenian and Greek- that administer sections of it have agreed to the project.
"We are happy that the renovation of the Church of Nativity just started. This is a religious, humanitarian and Christian site and we were very keen to start restoring it," Abbas added.
It is the first comprehensive renovation in the Nativity church since it was completed 1700 years ago.
The church which draws millions of visitors annually was built on the site where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus in a manger.
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