Khader is a Palestinian artist from Bethlehem who specializes in a craft that is more than 100 years old. Khader says that the beginnings of wood sculpture and crafting were very modest. Everything was done manually by hand, requiring a great deal of skill, patience, time, and creativity. Today, advanced technology and machinery have facilitated the work of artists and created more potential in regard to business and productivity.
The craft evolved from its original manual form to more sophisticated methods, transforming it from a hobby into an authentic part of Palestinian heritage and a source of income for families. According to Khader, nearly every Palestinian household in his region was impacted by or connected to the olive wood craft in some way!
Khader was originally drawn to this craft due to his home in the areas of pilgrimage in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, a city of great religious significance for both Christians and Muslims alike. Khader started his work at the age of 11. He would return from his studies at school each day to work in his sister’s husband’s olive wood factory. Accordingly, he has distinguished himself in his field from a young age. Since his beginnings as a young trainee, Khader has had clients who require that he alone fulfill their orders.
The occupation of Palestine played a major role in the weakening of Khader’s business potential. In 2015 he moved to Jordan and joined the Association of Traditional Craftsmen. There, he saw that the crafting of olive wood was almost non-existent as a fine workmanship and he decided to practice this craft.
Khader faced many societal and cultural challenges, as many local people do not appreciate this kind of art and craft. In Khader’s experience, foreigners and tourists are its main consumers. Because of this disparity, he believes that his task as a craftsman is to preserve this form of art and prevent its extinction.
Khader believes that one of the most important parts of his mission as an artist is religious tolerance and spreading the acceptance of “the other” among people. Since he personally works in the manufacturing of pieces associated with the Christian religion, although he is not Christian himself, this is one of the most important messages that he carries as a representative of this distinctive craft.