Gifts from Bethlehem
A Traditional Art and Livelihood for Holy Land Christians
The handicrafts trade evolved as a cultural tradition of Christians in the Holy Land for many centuries. This indigenous form of art has since become an industry of great importance to the local people of the region who rely on it for their livelihood. It also holds significance for Christian pilgrims from all around the world whose journeys to the Holy Land can be memorialized for a lifetime in cherished olive wood or mother of pearl souvenirs. The olive wood carving market is the major source of income for the Bethlehem area. More than 65% of the income of the community in Bethlehem comes from this work.
Olivewood Handcrafted from the Holy Land
However, in recent years the holy crafts trade has suffered many hardships due to social and economic pressures. The result has been a sharp fall in tourism and diminishing numbers of craftsmen who leave their traditional trade and emigrate on account of the difficult conditions in their homeland – the Holy Land handicraft market is facing serious danger, as is the Christian community in the region. Sixty five years ago, Christians represented more than 28% of the total population in the Holy Land; today, they account for less than 1.5% of the residents. The loss of Christian people in the land of Christianity’s birth represents a tragedy of immeasurable proportions for the billions of Christians worldwide.
Representatives of the craftspeople from the Holy Land will be in the vestibule of St. Francis of Assisi Church the weekend of February 5 and 6. Thank you for your vital support for a Christian tradition and in protecting this very important culture and industry.