Bethlehem, October 12, 2021
Millions of dollars have been raised, including several millions from American Christians, for extensive restoration work at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Though unfortunately divided between several Christian groups, like many sites in the Holy Land, the main basilica of the Church belongs to the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, under which is the Grotto of the Nativity, marking the exact spot of Christ’s birth.
The original Nativity Church was built in the 330s. About 200 years later, it was destroyed by fire during the Samaritan revolts, and today’s structure was then completed around 565. It hadn’t undergone extensive restoration since 1480, but fundraising efforts have successfully funded the restoration of the external facades, a wall mosaic, basilica doors, internal plaster, the last 11 columns of the central nave, the narthex, wooden architraves, and the installation of lighting and smoke detections systems in recent years, reports the Christian Post.
“The Church of the Nativity is a treasure of history and of faith,” commented Mazen Karam, managing director and CEO of the Bethlehem Development Foundation (BDF). “We’ve made great progress and look forward to completing the work to return this treasure back to the world.”
The BDF launched a non-profit NGO called the American Friends of the Bethlehem Foundation (AFBDF) in 2018. Together, they have raised about $30 million that has been spent at various sites in the Bethlehem area.
Restoration work on the Church of the Nativity has cost $15 million so far.
“Christians in the United States have an enthusiastic love for the Holy City of Bethlehem,” said AFBDF President George Salem. “We are thrilled by the outpouring of support from our American friends and their commitment to help revitalize the Church of the Nativity.”
There are further plans to consolidate the church walls against seismic activity, tile the floor with stone and marble, restore the stone tiles in the front yard, and install firefighting and microclimatic systems.
“We are committed to restoring the Nativity Church to its former glory,” said Samer Khoury, chairman of BDF’s board of trustees.