The Common Good

Holy Land Holidays

Thanks to the folks at Alternatives for Simple Living, I've been refocusing how I celebrate the Christmas holidays. One of the changes I've been trying to implement is to rethink my gift-giving habits. For those looking for meaningful presents with a direct connection to the Middle East, here are a few ideas I gleaned from my recent travels.

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"Al-Kahf": The Cave Arts & Crafts Center, based in Bethlehem, seeks to conserve traditional Palestinian handcrafts by providing continuous technical and design training in the fields of ceramics, glass, jewelry, mosaic, textile, paper-making, painting, and sculpting. Purchases of their art revive traditional handcrafts, while providing economic and cultural livelihood for Palestinian women. Their featured item for 2008 is a Bethlehem stained glass ornament.

Among the projects Catholic Relief Services (CRS) supports include the Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative, which encompasses artisans in and around Bethlehem. These carvings of crosses, manger scenes, and other items are crafted from olive wood harvested from trees grown from this region. Items purchased from this fair trade site can enable families to get a fairer wage and pass on this dying art to subsequent generations. In addition, CRS has a project catalog where donors can buy a share in a larger project like a well. Also, they are part of the Fair Trade cooperative "SERVV/A Greater Gift," where people can buy fair trade items from around the world.

To give a gift that will literally help rebuild the Middle East, consider lending a hand to Habitat for Humanity Jordan by making a donation online. To designate contributions to Jordan, include code 02419.

On a side note, should someone give you an accessory that you don't need, rather than re-gifting this item, consider donating it to Sweet Notions. This social enterprise pulls together accessories and then resells them to support new missions, social justice, and human rights initiatives. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Becky Garrison conveyed bits of her travels to the Holy Land in The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail.

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