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Hand Crafted Olive Wood Art in Bethlehem

For thousands of years the Olive Tree has been associated with holistic concepts like love, good health, peace and more. It is a great symbol of Christian tradition. It is said that during the sailing of Noah's Ark, the dove carried an olive branch in its beak signifying that land was found. Even Jesus Christ offered prayers for the welfare of humanity near an olive tree at Jerusalem immediately after the famous Last Supper. It is believed that the holy tree still exists and is visited by pilgrims in Jerusalem even to this day. The sacred olive oil has been used to anoint papal authorities, clergymen, faithful followers of Christianity and Head of States. The tall, stately and evergreen Olive tree owes its origin to the Mediterranean Region where it was growing even before the Birth of Christ, as early as 2500 BC. Olive wood has some special properties - it is ideal for carving; it is easy to work precisely with standard tools. Olive wood is available in different colors and it is resistant to decay. This glorious Olive wood has been converted into artistic master pieces in the olden days by artisans from France and Italy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries AD. These artisans, who traveled to Bethlehem on pilgrimage, taught the local people the art of carving on olive wood. In fact this was a major industry running profitably at that point of time in Europe. In due course the local people mastered the art of carving olive wood and many adopted it as a family business. Even today you will be able to find descendants of the old families of artisans earning their bread and butter from this job. Olive wood can be carved into beautiful master pieces in the form of crosses, crucifixes, statues, boxes and picture frame covers for historical and old books. Furthermore exquisite candle holders, rosaries, urns, flower vases and other Christian ornaments can be carved out of olive wood. Olive wood carving is a labor intensive work. The process is elaborate which can be divided into six stages of operation. The wood is subject to traditional drilling and machining operations to form the rough outline of carving. Then comes the role of a skilled artisan who chisels with great precision to produce the finished product. The art piece is subjected to burr removal and polishing operations. The finished product is given a final coating of olive wax or lacquer to impart natural shine and long life before dispatch. The entire process cycle takes about 45 days. Artisans require special skill to carry out these artistic works. They are trained rigorously for a period of 6 to 7 years to attain perfection in this trade. But for the artisans of Bethlehem you will not be in a position to obtain these world famous olive wood marvels! Also Palestinian Churches thrive on account of these artisans and their creations. In turn the country's economy looks up!

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