Bethlehem - as a Christian what springs to mind, what does it mean to you?
- The birthplace of Jesus
- A tourist destination that would be a nice place to visit one day
- Ancient cities and Holy places?
Whatever your thoughts, how many of us give any consideration to the Christians who actually reside in the Holy Land, the descendants of Christians who have lived in the region for over 2,000 years? Not so long ago Christians accounted for over 20% of the population of the Holy Land. Today they number less than 2%. It is quite possible that in the not too distant future the only Christians to be found in the Holy Land will be Clergy and foreign tourists.
The daily lives of many Christians in Palestine consist of: sub standard housing, inadequate medical services, poor educational facilities and lack of employment opportunities.
Due to the uncertain political climate over the last few years, the number of tourists visiting the region has dropped significantly causing hundreds of Christian craft workshops to close and leaving many Christian artisans unemployed. Jobs are scarce in the region especially for Christians in the 'West Bank'. We at Obethlehem are working to help alleviate this situation by opening a Co-operative Craft Centre in the predominantly Christian town of Beit Jala, Palestine. We are also embarking upon a marketing campaign for Christian crafts and are helping to market them abroad as well as importing them into the Western World.
Our mission is to help the impoverished Christian artisans of the Holy Land market their beautiful hand carved olive wood carvings, embroidery and other handmade products. We represent numerous Christian families in the Bethlehem District (which includes Beit Jala Bethlehem, and Beit Sahur).
The Bethlehem area is home to one of the few remaining Christian populations in the Holy Land. This ancient Christian community traces its roots to the time of Christ. It is from here that Christianity spread throughout the world, yet today the Christian population in the Holy Land is dwindling.
The olive tree is considered sacred by the Christians of the Holy Land because of its many biblical associations and its life-giving properties. Palestinian Christians respect these trees and never cut them down. Olive trees can live to be many centuries old. Only the branches that come from the natural pruning process are used for carving.
The area around Bethlehem has been known for centuries for its distinguished carvers of olive wood. It is an art handed down from father to son. For years the Christian community made a very respectable living selling their carvings to the vast numbers of tourists and pilgrims who flocked to the Holy Land. Today the situation is dramatically different. The Palestinian economy is in shambles, the holy sites are empty, and there are few tourists to buy the beautiful carvings produced by local Christian families. Unemployment is once again on the rise. The artisans of the area desperately need to market their products. Our mission is to help them do just that while providing our customers the opportunity to own a beautiful hand crafted product from the Holy Land.
The Palestinian Christians of the Holy Land desperately need your help in this difficult time. Each piece of olive wood sold provides not only income and employment, but also dignity and hope to impoverished Christian families.
Presentation Opportunities for Congregations
We are available to present programs for churches and other groups regarding the Israeli/Palestinian situation and the hopes of finding a just peace. We will also display and sell the beautiful handcrafts and many other items produced by the Christian artisans of the Holy Land. FOR INFORMATION OR TO SCHEDULE A PRESENTATION AND SALE OF HANDCRAFTS CONTACT:
Phone: Canada - (647)692-6134; United States - (714)408-1991; Bethlehem - +97022751315
The Christians of the Holy Land desperately need to know that they have not been forgotten by their fellow Christians here in the West. They need not only our affirmation but our help. It is my hope that we will provide both employment and income to those in desperate need and in doing so help educate others as to the plight of Christians in the Middle East.