To the east of the Church of the Nativity is a small road that gently goes down to the fields of Boaz. It was here that the Shepherds were told by the Angel Gabriel that the Prince of Peace had been born unto the world, in a field along the path that the Three Wise Men had taken both into Bethlehem and out of it, until they were warned by Gabriel of Herod’s wicked plot and told to return to their lands through another direction.
It is also here that the modern Christian community of Beit Sahour exists; the largest Christian village in the Holy Land. From desert valley of Wadi Musa near Petra, Arab Christian clans came to settle in the caves and fields as they herded their flocks, planted their olive trees and slowly built their homes out of hand-hewn stone. Over time, many of these families learned a new trade – olive wood carving - as Christian pilgrims came to the Holy Land in greater numbers and desired items to remember their pilgrimage with. These skills have been improved upon and passed down from father to son for many generations, with each family specializing in a different technique, style and signature mark.
Our family – the Bannoura clan – is one of these families. We have been handcrafting olive wood figurines for a very long time, and we hope to continue this trade, even as some of our family have moved to the United States and built their lives there. We keep our Christian faith as we keep our olive wood artisan traditions, and are proud to be considered to be part of the living Christian heritage of the Holy Land.