(ZENIT News – Holy Land Foundation / Bethlehem, 16.01.2024).- Basma is a young Christian Palestinian woman from Bethlehem. She suffers from a syndrome, a little known disease, which has deformed her face and body. But she creates beautiful objects with her hands, which speak to us of Christmas, of Bethlehem, of the Holy Family, of the Child-God. . .
Basma began to work with terracotta when she was a girl, and she hasn’t stopped since then. She creates and paints delicate and harmonious shapes. “Her eyes, hollowed by the syndrome, shine with passion and creativity,” says the Web page of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land.
An Enterprising Woman: It’s not Frequent in Palestine
In Palestinian society neither women nor the disabled have much room for manoeuvre. However, before Gaza’s war, she was able, with constancy, to consolidate her crafts business.
“It’s not normal for women to work here in Bethlehem. Or better said, it has only become something normal in the recent difficult times, from the economic point of view,” she commented. Being in the main a Muslim society, it’s difficult for a girl to make herself heard. In Christian environments women have much more space.
“I’ve had a passion for terracotta since I was a girl. I don’t remember how it was born, it has simply always been with me. The most important was the love and support of my family that always made me feel accepted and enabled me to study this discipline,” she explained.
Basma speaks Italian very well; she studied it in Bethlehem’s school and visited Italy several times to learn craft techniques. “In the beginning I had no clients but, little by little, people began to take notice of me. A point of inflexion was the Pro-Terra Sancta Bazaar, which began to buy my products and resell them in its online store,” she adds.
Support Artisans in a Bethlehem Bereft of Pilgrims
Many Bethlehem Christians live of the crafts they sell to pilgrims. But the Gaza war has halted the flow of pilgrims and craft businesses run the risk of sinking completely.
Through initiatives of the Pro-Terra Sancta Association, the Franciscan Custody tries to support craftsmen with it Fair Trade Bazaar, one of the few stores in Bethlehem, which also has a shop online to support some of the city’s tradesfolk.
Pro-Terra Sancta also supports a day center founded in 2009, which takes in disabled young people and offers them work in a well-protected environment, making small artisan objects of wool or working as waiters at the L’Arche guesthouse. The young people discover that their time and their lives have value. However, first with the pandemic and then the war, sales and services went down and it’s hard to cover their expenses.
Pro-Terra Sancta also tries to give visibility to the products inside the solidary bazaar Dar Al-Majus (the hostel of the Three Wise Men, which welcomes many pilgrims in peace times), and also with donations of people who want to be generous with Jesus’ countrymen, the Christians that live where He came into the world.
To begin to help Bethlehem Christians with Pro Terra Sancta, click here.