Raja Bannoura Workshop, based in Beit Sahour, a village on the east side of Bethlehem, produces hand-carved olive wood products. Bannoura coordinates orders for many olive wood carvers and workshops in Beit Sahour. He collects pruned olive branches and wood, stacks them in his yard, and dries them for six to nine months before cutting the wood for use. Laminating many small rectangular pieces together makes the larger flat pieces for nativities. Using small pieces of wood ensures that olive trees are not cut down for carving purposes.
Raja Bannoura began working with olive wood in his family workshop in Beit Sahour in 1974. Ten Thousand Villages has purchased products from Raja Bannoura since 1978.
The decline in the tourist market over the past several years means that work is slower today, but Raja still involves six other woodcarvers in his work, providing employment three days a week and much needed income to these families.
For Raja, carving olive wood nativities brings deep satisfaction. Raja says, "This is more than a job... this is part of our heritage."