The Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society represents Palestinian artisans working in the occupied territories on the West Bank of the Jordan River. The Holy Land Cooperative was founded in 1981 by olive wood and mother-of-pearl artisans as a response to the deteriorating Palestinian handcrafts industry and to preserve the centuries-old craft and design traditions of the area.
Focusing on opening international markets to counter the decline of local sales, the work of the Holy Land Cooperative alleviates poverty, increases employment, and strengthens the local community while preserving Palestinian handicraft traditions. The 36 members of the cooperative and additional 50 non-member workshops who work with the cooperative are located in the cities of Beit Sahour, Beit Jala, and Bethlehem.
The tradition of olive wood and mother-of-pearl carving has deep roots in the Bethlehem region. For generations, artisans have made carvings for Christian pilgrims visiting holy sites in the West Bank and Israel and the area is dotted with family workshops. The separation wall between Israel and the West Bank has taken a toll on artisans, due to the restrictions on the movement of people and goods and the sharp decline in tourism.
Meet an artisan who works with Holy Land (printable PDF):