Holy Land - HCEF
The Christians of the Holy Land have preserved a long tradition of beautiful olivewood carvings and other handcrafted works. This livelihood has been a major source of economic support for the Christian community in the Bethlehem region. However, due to the restrictions imposed on their homeland by military occupation, many shops have had to close. To help counter this debilitating trend, HCEF’s Holy Land Gifts program markets these crafts in the United States. Over the years, this program has been crucial to the livelihoods of Christian crafters’ families.
Beautiful souvenirs made from the native olive tree provide Christian pilgrims with cherished memorials of their holy pilgrimage. Olive wood artisans use only the pruned and discarded pieces of young olive trees and sprouts from the old, unproductive trees.
Olive trees are indigenous to the Holy Land and are treasured because the oil from their fruit has been used for religious rites since before the time of Jesus. They bear a sign of hope and renewed life. Jesus himself frequented the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. He prayed in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36) near an olive tree that still exists today.
Every October the people of the Holy Land pick the fruit of the olive trees and prune the branches. These pruned branches dry for several years and then are turned into beautiful Christian testaments of faith. The local Christians also create gifts from Mother of Pearl using techniques they developed since the 17th century.