Like the olive tree, Bethlehem craft persists through generations


26 June 2023

Layla Bannoura and her son, Adi

Carving olive wood helps strengthen the tree and provides a livelihood for women like Layla to meet her many responsibilities.

Due to the growth of COVID-19, since 5 March 2020, Bethlehem has been completely blocked for tourists. This comes with terrible consequences. Tourism and selling our crafts represent 85% of our income, and many workshops have completely closed.

Being part of the World Fair Trade organization helped us to keep receiving orders. This has revived our area and people, reopening doors to their employees and owners. Layla Bannoura, one of the artisans who are working with these orders, is so excited to be able to fulfil her husband’s wishes. Prior to his death in 2019, Raja Bannoura asked him to keep the shop open for their employees to continue working, with a better quality of life. Everyone thought that after Raja died, Layla couldn’t do that anymore. Raja worked with these crafts in 1974 with his sister, brother, and father in a very humble, small workshop with very poor woodworking tools. And it grew to provide employment for 20 other artisans. Raja’s petition and his obligations to employees provide Layla with the strength to continue. “I love seeing olive tools and craftsmen work again, I feel that my husband is there, seeing that his mission is still alive,” said Layla.

Layla encourages her son Adi to be in charge of the workshop with her. Adi was working with his dad as a woodcarver and now with his mom is in charge of the workshop. Recently, he is also involved with HLHCS board as a treasurer

The olive tree is a local raw material from which our olive wood crafts are made. After the picking season, the pruned and discarded parts of young olive trees are used to be carved by the hands of artisans. These weak parts are taken from the trees to strengthen them and to refresh the branches of the trees to live and produce more. The sprouts from the trunks of old unproductive trees are used too for the same purpose. This makes the olive tree survive and be productive and fresh for many years in the Bethlehem area. There are olive trees alive since the age of Jesus Christ. Our artisans use all the wood starting from the big pieces, then what is left from small pieces like pendants, ornaments and etc. the waste is used for the fireplace

At his workshop in the Holy Land, an artist like Raja made his name passing on the ethical work to his family, helping to preserve the traditions of Palestinian crafting.  Layla is an example of a Palestinian woman, who keeps traditions alive, helps with peace-building and always responds to the responsibilities of their family. This adds additional burdens on income and responsibility for family decisions.

Layla is an example of understanding how important women are to society.

About Holy Land Cooperative

As the first organization in the Arab world to qualify for and benefit from WFTO membership, we aim to be a part of creating awareness that leads to action with regard to Fair Trade. Our vision is a world in which justice and sustainable development are at the heart of trade structures and practices so that everyone can maintain a decent and dignified livelihood. The Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society has a dream of peace in the Holy Land, and we believe that Fair Trade is a tool to reach our aspirations! Visit

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  • Basma Barham says:

    Thanks for sharing about us, is impotant that people know about our practices and the importance of Women in our comunity