Palestinians in Gaza are working to restore mosaics and the ruins of an old church which dates back to 444 AD.
Built by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II, the church has witnessed 24 Byzantine emperors and 14 Muslim caliphs, and is still witness to many of the people and periods that have passed through Gaza.
Hiyam Al-Bitar, head of the Antiquities Department in the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Gaza, confirmed that the church contained a lot of geometric and floral decorations, human drawings, landscapes, cooking utensils, domesticated and wild animals from Palestine and abroad. It also included images of hunting, rivers and palm trees, but most of these decorations and details were destroyed during the Byzantine Iconoclasm, lasting between 726 AD and 867 AD.
The church is about 800 square metres. In 2010, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in Gaza installed an umbrella to protect the mosaic floors from erosion. With UNRWA recently implemented a restoration programme at the site.
It is long and arduous work, which the team describes as an effort that requires accuracy, especially because the floors area also being restored. However there are items which are too damaged to be restored, such as drawings and biblical texts.
The restoration of the Byzantine Church is managed by UNRWA, under the scientific supervision of the Department of Antiquities and the French Evangelical School in Jerusalem and with support from the British Council in partnership with the Department of Culture, Information and Sports.