A valuable iconic painting was found during renovations of the Nativity Church in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, a Palestinian official said on Saturday.Ziad al-Bandak, a Palestinian presidential advisor for Christian Affairs, told Ma’an on Saturday that an iconof great religious and historical value made of gold, brass, silver, shells and stoneswas found about two months ago. Photographs of the icon were not yet available.Al-Bandak, who chairs a committee in charge of the renovation process, highlighted that the Nativity Church, built where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born, had not undergone major renovation in centuries.
The renovation project, done in collaboration between Palestinian and foreign archeologists, came to protect and uncover the historic and religious “treasures” still hidden inside the church.“The removal of centuries of dust has left mosaics sparkling in the sunlight filtering through brand new windows,” al-Bandak said. “Structural repairs on the fragile rooftop and windows have been completed and artistic treasures have been returned to their delicate elegance.”He added that a new icon painting was discovered near a window under plaster, and that it had been repaired and made visible. The Nativity Church, one of the major tourist and religious attractions in Bethlehem, has been under renovation since 2013. However, Bethlehem’s tourism has been severely affected by the rise in tensions since October, in which nearly 180 Palestinians and more than 25 Israelis have been killed.
A photo of the Nativity Church taken from the Bethlehem municipality’s website