Palestinians want Bethlehem on UN heritage list

UNESCO may not be able to consider the bid as Palestine is not yet a recognised state.

Last Updated: Feb 08, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

Bethlehem: The Palestinians on Monday made a
formal bid to have the no-longer-so-little town of Bethlehem,
birthplace of Jesus Christ, added to UNESCO`s list of World
Heritage sites.

"We are very proud to announce that we have submitted
the nomination file of Bethlehem: birthplace of Jesus --
Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route ... to the
World Heritage Centre," tourism minister Khulud Daibes told
reporters.

The addition of the West Bank town to the UNESCO list
should have been almost automatic and accomplished a long time
ago, but like most issues in the Holy Land, it has become
entangled in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And the Palestinians are hoping that getting the UN
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to recognise
Bethlehem as a part of Palestinian cultural heritage will give
impetus to their struggle to establish a state.

"This timing is crucial for us, it is part and parcel
of our plan to end the (Israeli) occupation and build the
institutions of the state of Palestine," Daibes said.
In the absence of constructive peace talks with
Israel, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has been
leading an effort to build institutions for a de-facto state.

They feel they have a strong case for Bethlehem`s
recognition when the UN committee meets to decide on the
nominations in July 2012.

"Where Jesus Christ was born is one of the most
important cultural places in the world. It is from here that
the message of peace and light was brought to the world by the
Prince of Peace," said Bethlehem mayor Victor Batarseh.

"Who can question that the Nativity Church is a world
heritage site?" said Louise Haxthausen, head of UNESCO`s
Ramallah office, who has worked with the Palestinian tourism
ministry in preparing the bid.

But in the end, UNESCO may not even be able to
consider the bid for the same reason that it has not been
added to the list to date: Palestine is not yet a recognised
state.

PTI