Bethlehem is well known as the birth place of Jesus, and now many craftsmen and artisans call Bethlehem home. Throughout the years, churches in the Holy Land have used art to teach the Biblical message to the people. Over time, art has become the people’s Bible.
The olive wood artists' craft began in Bethlehem in the fourth century, following the construction of The Nativity Church. The Church was built on what is believed to be the traditional birth place of Jesus. At that time, monks taught the local residents how to carve olive wood, and the tradition was passed down until it was refined and perfected.
We are the Bethlehem Bible Artists, a generation of dedicated artists who continue to spread the same timeless message of the Bible using our arts. With humbleness, we are considered among the most skilled carvers in the world and many of our carvings find their way to Museums and houses of faith around the globe.
All the olive wood figurines and arts that we produce are hand carved from the trimmings (pruning) of the Bethlehem olive trees. This is an essential process for healthier growth of the trees and to generate environmental stability. So NO TREE IS DAMAGED OR DESTROYED IN THE PROCESS.
"His branches shall spread, and His beauty shall be as the olive tree"...(Hosea 14:6)
The olive tree is connected to our Christian faith as Jesus prayed under an olive tree on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified, and the cross was made from olive wood as well.
Jesus Christ was arrested on The Mount of Olives in the vicinity of the garden of Gethsemane on that fateful night which changed history forever, and He ascended into Heaven from there after His Resurrection from the tomb. The greatest event of all history will occur on The Mount Of Olives.
The olive tree, as simple as it is, is used as an example throughout the Bible. From a simple example as an olive branch, which was used as a symbol of peace in the story of Noah and the flood. We, in our present age, still use the olive branch as a sign of peace.
Every part of the tree is used. During the hot summer days, the shade provided by the leaves reduces the temperature by about 20 degrees. From the olives, olive oil is produced. When the oil is aged, it is used as fuel for lamps. The wood is then cut for carving material.
During these depressed times, the olive trees are one of the mainstays of the economy. There are over four hundred carvers in the Holy Land that rely on the olive trees as their source of income. The carvers pass down their talents to their children for generations. Usually the items are made by hand, without machines. Often, you will find many people working together in a small room to produce each item. The rooms are without heat and air conditioning and are very primitive. During the latest conflict, Israel bulldozed more than 5000 olive wood trees, causing many people to lose their only means of support.
A tree is pruned with hand saws to keep the branches and olives from absorbing the fumes of the fuel, thus contaminating the taste of the olives. A great amount of care is used while pruning to keep branches still on the tree from coming into contact with each other. It has been determined that the branches that are touching each other produce a smaller amount of olives.
Each and every portion of the tree and branches must cure for up to three years before any carving may occur. When the design is done and the carving is complete, the finished produced is sealed in a special varnish to give each piece a brilliant shine. This not only enhances the appearance but gives each piece a lifelong finish. Cleaning is done by dusting only