Palestinian officials said Wednesday they expect the UN’s cultural body to admit two ancient Christian pilgrimage sites in Bethlehem on a list of world heritage sites.
“We believe the moral majority will be with the Palestinian rights,” Omar Awadallah, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said of the vote expected Friday in Russia. “Self-determination includes cultural rights,” he said.
Palestine’s representatives at UNESCO are putting forth an application that includes two Bethlehem-area holy sites – the Church of the Nativity and nearby Pilgrimage Route. The sites are among 20 in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem that officials hope to eventually submit.
Awadallah said the Palestinian leadership was seeking to add the sites to the heritage list in order to protect them from threats they face under occupation and a poor economic climate.
Along with the Bethlehem sites, they are also making continuous efforts to protect Palestinian heritage areas in Jerusalem, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967, Awadallah said.
George Saade, the deputy mayor of Bethlehem, told reporters at a briefing Wednesday that the UNESCO bid was intended “to preserve our heritage and most important sites.”
“Bethlehem is the capital city of the Christian world,” he said, and the vote will be remembered as “a very important day for us. This is our right as citizens to protect our heritage.”
He added: “We are asking the world to vote for Bethlehem.”