Olivewood Carvers in Bethlehem Today
"But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God's unfailing love for ever and ever" – Psalm 52:8
Since the days of Noah, the olive branch has been a symbol of peace and goodwill. The olive tree today symbolizes the spirit of the Holy Land farmers and their connection to the land. This connection remains strong despite years of war and political unrest. Unfortunately, in recent years, the instability in the Holy Land has led to the uprooting of olive tree orchards totaling more than 50,000 olive trees. They have been uprooted and destroyed, thus destroying the sole source of income for many farmers.
The handicrafts trade evolved as a cultural tradition of Christians in the Holy Land throughout centuries. This indigenous form of art has since become an industry of great importance to the local people of the Holy Land who completely rely on it for livelihood. In addition, Christian pilgrims from all around the world can further memorialize their holy pilgrimage by acquiring cherished olivewood or mother-of-pearl souvenirs directly from the source itself.
As the olivewood carving market is the major source of income in the Bethlehem area, more than 60% of the income of the Bethlehem community comes from this profession. In recent years, however, this trade has suffered many hardships due to social, economical, and political pressures. The handicraft market is in danger, and so is the Christian community in the Holy Land. This is caused by the sharp fall in tourism and the export market, which is worsened by the diminishing numbers of craftsmen who leave their traditional trade and emigrate due to the difficult living conditions and circumstances in their homeland – the Holy Land.Furthermore, with the recent waves of instability in the Holy Land, many Christians in the Bethlehem area have left their homeland to live in more stable countries while many others are considering the possibility of emigrating soon. Our Olivewood Promotion Program of marketing their work to communities outside the Holy Land is critical in keeping the skilled craftsmen and their families in their homeland.