Bethlehem Swifts: A Message of Peace and Love
This is the story of conserving birds in the most sacred place for Christians, the Nativity Church. For many centuries the church served as a perfect nesting site for migratory birds called swifts. Countless swifts have been using the cracks in the ancient wall of the church to nest, and they would return to it on almost the same day every year. These birds are very special. They eat, drink and mate while flying, and a pair of them eat 10,000 insects per day. Unfortunately, all these cracks the swifts used for nesting were completely sealed in the last renovation in the church.
As a replacement, the Hanns Seidel Foundation, with its Palestinian partners, initiated a project in 2019 which installed 73 nesting boxes, just 500 meters away from the holy place, on a wall of a nearby school called Terra Sancta. Through the project, the students of the school and the scouts are involved in trainings about nature conservation. Each year they make a welcome ceremony for the returning swifts, and they maintain the nesting site.
The project succeeded and became an educational site for other students from all over Palestine to come and learn about it. The site will further grow as a bird watching point, and as an attractive ecotourism destination for domestic or inbound tourism. This also contributes to local economic development in Bethlehem.
The stakeholders are involved. Everyone gained knowledge about the importance of developing ecotourism sites, both economically and environmentally. In 2020, the first biodiversity exhibition in Palestine was implemented in the Nativity Church Square by the Terra Sancta school in order to raise environmental awareness of the community. This was done in cooperation with the Environment Quality Authority, all under the patronage of the Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh.
Watch the attached video, available in English and Arabic.
Brochure: Available in Arabic