A new project has been set by the Palestinian government, with the help of European countries, for the restoration of the Nativity church.
This project will be divided into four phases, expected to take one year of work. The first phase will be the restoration of the church's roof and windows.
Ziad Al-Bandak, President Mahmoud Abbas' adviser for Christian affairs, said that the Nativity church is one of the most important churches for Christians in the world, and is part of the Palestinians' historical heritage. For centuries, there has been significant interest in preserving this church due to the wars and natural disasters that have weakened its structure.
He also said that this project is considered the first comprehensive restoration work for the church since it was erected in the third century.
Al-Bandak added that the restoration of the roof is important because the church has a problem of rainwater leakage from the roof and windows, affecting the church's walls and mosaics.
He also said that an appeal was sent to three churches: The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Armenians Orthodox Patriarchate and the Custody of the Holy Land, as these churches have full authority over the Nativity Church.
The state of Palestine has contributed 2 million dollars and the Palestinian private sector contributed 750,000 dollars. Other countries also offered funds for the project, including Hungary, Russia, Greece, The Vatican and France. The project is expected to cost around 17 million Euros.
Afif Tweimeh, Project Manager for the Restoration of Nativity Church, said that this project was first proposed as an international bid to get the best offers for the restoration.
About the project, Tweimeh said, "In the first phase, we will first prevent damage from the leakage and then other parts of the church will be restored throughout the project." He continued, "Some parts of the ceiling will be replaced and other parts will be restored based on the design that was previously outfitted by the Consultative Group, in cooperation with a partner group in Italy."
The restoration work is being done at night when the church is empty, in an attempt to avoid disrupting visitors and for the sake of their safety.
Issa Morra, Structural Engineer, said that the first phase of the project, restoration of the roof and windows, is the most important.
According to Morra, the scaffoldings were brought from Italy, for the safety of the workers. He said, "Our biggest challenge will be completing the work in one year, while ensuring that the church can continue to receive pilgrims, tourists and worshipers without any obstacles."
He pointed out that most of the material used for the restoration of the roof has been imported from abroad, mostly from Italy, because they undergo certain technical standards, and due to the fact that the wooden construction materials are not available in Palestine.
Italian Marccelo Piattini, the Technical Manager of the project, said that the wood that was used 500 years ago to construct the roof of the Nativity church was brought from Italy, and, in his opinion, it is better to use the same material from Italy for the roof's current restoration.
Italians and Palestinians are working together on this project, he added.
This project is an important step taken by the Palestinian Authority, in collaboration with European countries, to preserve one of the most historical and religious sites in the world. Restoration of the church's windows and roof will be followed by work on the interior, including the mosaics, columns, floor and walls. This project will ensure that the Nativity Church will always have an open door for worshipers, tourists and pilgrims from around the world.