Keeping Christians Rooted in the Holy Land
We value the Christian faith and all human pursuit of the knowledge of God. We pray and hope for a future of peace and religious tolerance in the Holy Land and throughout the world.
The Christian presence in the Holy Land is declining at an alarming rate. Christians used to account for nearly 20% of the population in the Holy Land, but today less than 2% remain. Christians in Bethlehem have dwindled from more than 80% to nearly 10% of the population. The main reason for this decline is economic hardship caused by political instability. Those who remain live mostly in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Nazareth, and they rely on tourism and the sales of their carved olive wood crafts as their primary source of income.
Bethlehem Christians’ mission is to spread the word about minority Christians in the Holy Land and to provide financial support by offering their artistic olive wood carvings for sale at churches, festivals and online. Bethlehem Christians also supports persecuted Christians in other parts of the world.
As travel has become more difficult since the pandemic and then the war, Christians living in the Holy Land are increasingly dependent on exports of their olive wood handicrafts to earn a living. Bethlehem olive wood carvings have been a major source of income for Christians in the Holy Land since the 4th century AD. Since the advent of Christian pilgrimage, Holy Land olive wood carvings have been the most popular memento and gift to bring home.
We work with over 30 olive wood carving artists and also support 3-4 other Christian families who help with inspection, packaging and shipping. The sales we generate help keep these local Christian artists in business and remain rooted in their homeland, the place of Jesus' birth.
The olive tree is a national symbol in Israel - Palestine. The Al Badawi olive tree on the outskirts of Bethlehem is estimated to be the oldest olive tree in the world being carbon dated between 3,000 to 5,000 years old. Besides the Al Badawi olive tree, there are many other ancient olive trees and olive groves in the Holy Land including more than 2,000 year old olive trees at the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem and a 1st century Christian church excavation site at the Greek Orthodox Shepherd's Field in Beit Sahour in the West Bank.
Olive trees and olive oil are repeatedly mentioned in the Bible. Olive tree branches have become a universal symbol of peace. Olive oil is mentioned in both the Old Testament and New Testament to make holy anointing oil for chrismation, ordination into the priesthood, prayers to heal the sick and holy unction.
Olive oil and olives are a major agricultural product in Israel - Palestine, accounting for nearly 50% of cultivated land in some regions. Every two years olive trees need to be pruned so that they bear more and better fruit. The wood from pruning is used to make olive wood carvings from the Holy Land. All Bethlehem Crafts’ olive wood religious items are made from sustainably sourced trimmings of olive trees from cultivated olive groves throughout the Holy Land.