1.         Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (Palestine) (C 1433)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2012

Criteria  (iv)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    2012-2019

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1433/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2016-2016)
Total amount approved: USD 30,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1433/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted: USD 723,000 from Italy (Emergency Action Plan 1997-1998; Conservation and Management Plan 2006-2010); USD 205,000 from the Government of Sweden for building rehabilitation

Previous monitoring missions

September 2016: Joint WHC/ICOMOS Advisory mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1433/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 1 December 2020, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1433/documents. Progress in addressing a number of conservation issues identified by the Committee at its previous sessions is presented in the report, as follows:

The report indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant disruption, with tourism being one of the most affected sectors. Implementation of some of the initiatives has been delayed. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

In recent years, the State Party has made significant progress with conservation work of high technical standard at the Church of the Nativity, addressing the necessary corrective measures, and elaborating a Conservation Management Plan, leading to the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2019 (Decision 43 COM 7A.28).

Progress reports have been provided about ongoing and completed work, in addition to information on planned future activities. The need to undertake further interventions to ensure the conservation of the property is noted. These comprise the restoration of the marble tiling at Bema area; structural consolidation at the two sides of the transept; installation of firefighting and microclimate control systems; restoration of the central nave stone tiling; restoration of the front yard and installation of electric hydraulic bollards; and consolidation of the Basilica external southern wall against seismic action – all of which require financial resources. It is recommended that the Committee express satisfaction for the continued high-quality conservation work and encourage the ongoing efforts to secure funding for the remaining needed interventions. The planned elaboration of a risk preparedness plan for the church is appreciated.

The “Mobility Study – Transport and Mobility Strategy for the Conurbation of Bethlehem” is a significant undertaking, which aims at arriving at a holistic approach to resolving traffic issues in the Bethlehem region, while taking into consideration cultural values and allowing for pedestrianisation.

The rehabilitation of Star Street and its branches, carried out by the State Party in line with the recommendations of the 2016 Advisory mission, is welcomed. However, details of the works have not been provided, which makes it difficult to assess their conformity with the recommendations of the ICOMOS technical review of 2019. In this regard, it is recommended that technical information on these interventions and for the unified signage strategy for cultural and touristic sites are provided.

The elaboration of Marketing Policies and Plan for Star Street is also welcomed. It would be beneficial to develop a design guide for shopfronts, as per the recommendations of the ICOMOS technical review.

Despite the prevailing situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected all aspects of life in Bethlehem, especially tourism, the State Party has made substantial efforts in continuing conservation, fundraising for several projects, and implementation of significant initiatives.

Decision Adopted: 44 COM 7B.135

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 7A.28, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Commends the State Party for the continued implementation of the high-quality conservation work at the Church of the Nativity and the planning for the elaboration of a risk preparedness plan, and encourages the State Party to pursue its efforts to secure resources for the remaining necessary interventions;
  4. Takes note of the preparation by the State Party of the Mobility Study – Transport and Mobility Strategy for the Conurbation of Bethlehem, and the Marketing Policies and Plan for Star Street and urges the State Party to implement the Mobility Strategy as soon as practicable;
  5. Welcomes the rehabilitation of Star Street and its branches, and requests the State Party to submit additional information, specifically with regards to:
    1. Moving the main visitor car parking adjacent to the Action Club roundabout,
    2. Using matching materials in repairs following removal of inappropriate additions and mechanical and electrical services, based on the principle of minimum intervention,
    3. Design guidance for shopfronts,
    4. Avoiding uniformity in shopfront colours, and avoiding the use of billboards without further justification,
    5. Conformity with the recommendations of the ICOMOS technical review of 2019;
  6. Also welcomes the development and implementation of a unified signage strategy for cultural and tourist sites, and also requests the State Party to provide further information in this regard;
  7. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2023, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above.