Holy Land Handicrafts

The handicrafts trade in the Holy Land has evolved as a cultural tradition of the Palestinian people over many centuries and has become an industry of significance to the local economy. 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.

The ancient crafts of olive wood and Mother-of-Pearl started in Bethlehem hundreds of years ago when Franciscan monks trained the local population in carving crosses, crucifixes, and reproductions of the Nativity scene of Jesus birth in Bethlehem and the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. The demand for souvenirs from the Holy Land can be traced to the early centuries of Christianity and the tradition of relic hunters. For centuries, early Christians believed in the spiritual powers of relics, the most sought after being The Holy Grail-the name of a legendary sacred vessel identified with the chalice of the Eucharist-and The True Cross, the actual cross on which Christ was crucified, believed to have been lost when carried into battle during one of the Crusades. Historical documents and writings of Christian pilgrims over the centuries tell of the beauty of the olive wood souvenirs.