Until recently, pilgrims travelling to the site believed to be the birthplace of Jesus may have been concerned. After years of neglect and conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity was dilapidated, and its artworks had lost much of their lustre. Part of the problem stemmed from a centuries-old agreement that said no changes could be made to the building without consensus from all the Christian denominations with a presence in the Holy Land — no small requirement considering the tensions between many of them.
By 2012, the situation was so grim that when UNESCO named the church a World Heritage Site it also placed it on the List of World Heritage in Danger. But all that has changed thanks to extensive renovations that began in 2013. UNESCO has now removed the church from the endangered list, citing the high quality of work. In December 2018, Associated Press photographer Majdi Mohammed captured scenes of the renovation in the lead-up to one of the church’s largest Christmas celebrations.
— Celina Gallardo
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This photo essay first appeared in Broadview’s December 2019 issue with the title “Saving Jesus’ birthplace.”
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