Bethlehem Olive Wood Hand Carvings
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Olive wood has always been an intrinsic part of The Holy land. King Solomon’s temple was adorned with intricate olive wood designs. The natural brightness of its colors and the variety of grains make the olive wood a unique and most exquisite wood. It is never stained. Christian families like the Bannouras began crafting their genuine grade-A artwork out of olive-wood in Bethlehem more than 300 years ago. But the craft was brought to the Christians by religious from the Greek Orthodox Church more than 1700 years ago. Three centuries earlier Saint Joseph taught our Lord Jesus Christ carpentry skills. As Joseph taught his Son faithfulness to the trade, so too has the Bannoura family remained faithful to their God and to this rich cultural heritage. They take great pride in this distinct and unique art form.
But I, like an olive tree in the house of God, trust in God's faithful love forever. - Psalms 52:8.
The olive wood crafts have been inherited over several generations of Bethlehem’s population. Many Christian Palestinians living in the West Bank make their living selling Christian olive wood souvenirs.
Tourists often feel insecure about traveling to Bethlehem because of the negative media portrayal regarding the constantly changing political climate since the 2000 uprising.
The Bethlehem Handicrafts cooperative was founded to bring Bethlehem to United States to support this community. Their greatest harvest is the joy brought to diverse Christian communities throughout the world, communities which support many fellow brothers and sisters through their generous purchases. Indeed, these sales bring economic life to Christian artisans throughout the Holy Land.
This cooperative of artisans shape Holy-land wood into diverse carvings from young tree prunings or from fruitless elder growths. This essential process creates a healthier growth and leads to environmental stability. "Bethlehem olive wood" reveals itself in various religious, historical, and artistic crafts often shaped from unproductive trees. No olive tree has been damaged or destroyed during the pruning and harvesting of the olive wood.
The grainy texture of this unique hard wood is found in those same dry fields where those first shepherds heralded the New-born King. Old trees dating back before Christ in the West Bank region of Palestine hold darker grains of this most resilient wood. The more water-starved the tree the darker the wood and more dense the tree rings. Thus, no two pieces are the same even when carved from the same tree.
The Bannoura family has forged and refined their own tools for their workshop to sculpt this hard wood into distinct categories: Holy Family statues, rosaries, nativity sets, Jesus figures, crosses, crucifixes, statues of Virgin Mary, kitchen utensils, necklaces, key chains, animals, and Christmas ornaments. Bethlehem Handicrafts ages the wood for more than two years, storing it in hermetically sealed rooms to slow the desiccation process, thus creating a more refined grain, preventing cracking and illuminating its natural beauty. Their highly skilled and trained artisans know the age of the woods by the volume of its grain and color, subsequently creating more distinguished sculptures.
The Cooperative’s genuine grade-A olive-wood products represent many sweat-labor hours of love by Christian families in the ancient city of Bethlehem. Indeed, we are happy to customize our products to your needs and desires. Your input is greatly appreciated and challenges the cooperative to improve its techniques and designs hoping to more fully satisfy you, the customer.
Bethlehem Christian families believe that when peace returns to the Middle East, a strong emergence of tourism will follow. Until then, please be as supportive as you can so that these artisans may continue to provide these unique Holy Land products to you. In this way, the Christian community will thrive and prospers. Bethlehem Handicrafts cooperative will continue to create their assorted olive-wood crafts with your support.
Learn more about the Bannoura Family.