The Holy Land Handicrafts Cooperative in Bethlehem is a co-op of 35 workshops that provides fair-trade wages and stable employment for those in economically unstable circumstances. Creating and selling unique olive wood products enables families to stay in their homeland, earn a living, and provide opportunities for their children. They strive to alleviate local poverty and unemployment, decrease emigration, and sustain local handicraft workmanship traditions by effectively marketing their products, obtaining raw materials at a reasonable cost, and developing technical and managerial capabilities.
Fair pay hours provided
Women provided employment
“The payment for this Young Living order was the only income that we have had after last year’s global shutdowns, which forced us to stop working. We understand, more than ever, the value of being able to work and provide. We are happy that our employees and their families are supported as well.”
Her husband recently passed away and left the workshop, and its employees to her care. Layla expresses her gratitude for being able to open their doors and provide work for her employees. Layla and her husband began their work in olive wood in 1974 with few tools and a small space. Layla has worked diligently over the years to grow her shop which has in turn employed twenty other artisans. Layla says of this order, “I love to see the olive wood tool and artisans working again. I feel that my husband is present, seeing that his mission is still alive.” Layla is now running the workshop with her son, Odey.
One of the women from the group who made these cutting boards is known in her town as “Evon, mother of peace.” She carries a powerful peace about her despite having lived through a mother’s worst fear.
During civil unrest in the 1990s, Evon’s 16-year-old son was shot while she was cooking with him in the kitchen. Losing her only son was almost more than she could bear. But she moved forward, determined to give her six daughters the best life she could. She built an olivewood workshop behind her house to generate enough income to send each daughter to a university.
Her olivewood workshop now provides employment to several women in her community and has ensured quality education for each of her six daughters.
Evon says that even more important than sending them to school, has been instilling in them the importance of forgiving the group that killed her son and do all they can to get as much education as possible so the next generation can further peace in their region.
Despite all the challenges she has faced in life, her hard work and determination paved a better life for her children and even grandchildren. Nagla got married very young and despite growing up in a male dominated society, she always believed that women could also work and help provide for the family. When Nagla lived in Jordan with her husband, she wasn’t able to work.
“It wasn’t easy at all for women to leave the house to go looking for work.”
When her children were old enough to go to school, she decided to return to Bethlehem even though it meant being separated from her husband. She was able to save some of the money her husband sent to her and with her savings she bought a piece of land.