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A historic renovation of the Church of the Nativity is lifting spirits in the biblical town of Bethlehem ahead of Christmas, offering visitors a look at ancient mosaics and columns that have been restored to their original glory for the first time in 600 years.The renovation started in 2013, a year after UNESCO declared the church a world heritage site, and is expected to be completed by the end of next year.Although it also needs renovation, the churches have not yet reached an agreement on the crypt.The renovated church has become a popular destination.A 2017 census in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem counted just under 47,000 Palestinian Christians, or about 1 percent of a Palestinian population of close to 4.8 million.Twenty years earlier, Christians still made up more than 1.7 percent of the Palestinian population, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
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