Church of the Nativity, gained the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Church of the Nativity, which stands above the grotto where Jesus was born, recently gained the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site this decision is significant both culturally and politically. The church is situated in the Palestine National Authority territory of the West Bank making this the first site to be approved and registered as a site within the State of Palestine.
The Palestinian proposal was put forward as an emergency candidate as they had missed the deadline for nominees, this cut out the normal 18 month process when applying for World Heritage Status. The decision is controversial as the Palestinian nation which has not been fully recognized worldwide has now combined politics and culture by having this cultural status awarded to their still emerging nation. The UNESCO decision is both a political and cultural victory for the Palestinians.
The Church of the Nativity and other religious sites within the territories are often in danger from conflict in the region as well as local vandalism but whether the church needed emergency protective status is questionable. The UNESCO experts committee (ICOMOS) did not recommend the inclusion on an emergency basis and the custodians of the church (Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Armenian Patriarch Torkom Mancogian and Catholic Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land Pierbattista Pizzaballa) objected to the nomination.
All are in agreement is culturally, religiously and historically significance but the disagreement between various groups is in the manner in which the status was gained. The emergency procedure is usually used only in extreme cases. Thus the UNESCO committee’s decision to allow the use of the emergency procedure casts doubt on the organizations political neutrality.