The Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society, which was founded in 1981, strives to reduce poverty, increase employment and decrease emigration by working with local artisans around Bethlehem and marketing their works both locally and around the world. The organization represents 35 artisans, who create crosses, nativity scenes and pieces of jewelry from olivewood and mother-of-pearl.
The cooperative helps disadvantaged Palestinians, especially women, earn a fair wage and preserve the rich heritage of their culture’s handiwork. The olivewood carvings date back to the 4th century. These carvings typically represent people and scenes of the Bible, and they reveal intricate details. These goods are sold locally to tourists and Christian pilgrims who make their way to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. The society also markets the products internationally.
While the Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society represents about three dozen artisans, more than 2,000 individuals benefit from the cooperative’s activities. It also sell products produced by select, non-member producers. These works include ceramics, glass, embroidery (from many local women’s groups or individual women), olive soap, stationary (made from recycled paper), candles, wool and recycled glass (made by centers or organizations that work with people with special needs and many other artisans).
The artisans work in the occupied territories on the West Bank of the Jordan River, with cooperatives located in the cities of Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and Bethlehem.
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*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.