by Monsignor Brouwers

July 20, 2019

For the past two years, we have enjoyed a touch of Christmas in July ourselves when the Bethlehem Carving Group came in July to offer their fine olivewood carved products for sale. I have invited the Bethlehem Carving Group to set up shop here for the past several years, both for our benefit and theirs. From my years of experience in the Holy Land, I know that this is one of the best companies and their carvings are the finest quality. Their wide variety of religious articles will be lovely addition to your homes and make for excellent gifts, especially for Christmas but also for other occasions. I have given their Holy Family carvings both at Christmas and for wedding and baptismal gifts; the recipients have always appreciated them.

I also know that purchasing these products from the Bethlehem Carving Group supports the Christians who are struggling to eke out a living in the land where Christianity was founded. So, I invite you to do some shopping for Christmas - or any other occasion - when representatives from the Bethlehem Carving Group come with their articles next week.

The olive wood handicraft art began in Bethlehem in the fourth century following the construction of the Church of the Nativity, built over the traditional birthplace of Jesus. The same monks who served the Church of the Nativity taught the handicraft trade of carving olive wood to the local Christian residents. This handicraft was then passed on from one generation to the next and was perfected and mastered, thus continuing the ancient tradition of beautiful and exquisite olive wood carvings in the Holy Land. The Bethlehem Carving Group artists combine the experience and skills of the old traditions with the innovation and creativity of the new generation.

I'm sure you are familiar with the tension-filled situation in Israel and Palestine; it becomes more difficult every year for Christians to survive there. Due to the ongoing tension between the Israeli and Palestinian governments, the Christians are often left without access to good education, medical care and jobs. This is particularly true in Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born and where Millions of Christians usually go on pilgrimage every year. Bethlehem Square is particularly busy with pilgrims at Christmas time. I've had the privilege to be there twice during Christmas and have found it to be so inspiring to be with thousands of fellow Christians at the very spot where the Word became flesh for our salvation.

Bethlehem is located in the West Bank - a territory belonging to Palestine - and, as you surely know, it is surrounded by a tall, 30' wall that severely limits the movement of all Palestinians - including Palestinian Christians - in and out of the city. Unable to secure jobs outside of Bethlehem, the Christians living there have established wood carving facilities in Bethlehem and rely heavily on the income from selling these olive wood carvings for their survival. So, I invite you all to stop by the tables; you might be tempted to buy a few! in doing so, you will get a chance to shop early for Christmas and, at the same time, you will be supporting our fellow Christians living in the land made sacred by our Lord.

July 20, 2019 — Adham Qumseya