What Makes The Gift Shop Special?
The Holy Land Gift Shop is not your ordinary gift shop. The unique and quality products sold there support a dual mission. This mission consists not only of supporting the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, in Washington, D.C., but also their work in the Holy Land. The most important part of this work abroad is the support of Christian Artisans and their families that every purchase at the gift shop provides.
The Christians still living in the Holy Land are often referred to as “living stones” because without the people, the holy sites would just be museums. We want these living stones to remain in the holy land, however, right now the environment is very difficult for them because they are a minority. In addition, the unemployment rate is very high due to the inability to easily travel in the Holy Land for work. The Holy Land Gift Shop’s ability to purchase and sell their beautifully handcrafted items allows these Christians to earn a living with dignity; not charity.
Tourism in the Holy Land and Christian Artisans
Christmas tourism, typically a profitable time for the Holy Land Artisans, was particularly difficult this year. A downturn in tourism, even a small percent, greatly affects the lives of the Christians and their families living in the Holy Land. Bassem Giacaman, whose handcrafted olive wood items are featured in the Holy Land Gift Shop, describes how his business fared during this Advent/Christmas tourism season.
“Last year was not good, but at least December 24th, 25th, and January 1st, brought in some sales. This year was sadly 10 times worse. I keep praying for God to help those of us trying to make a living in the Holy Land.” One of Bassem’s challenges is having enough income to purchase materials to sustain his olive wood business and still pay a fair wage to his employees, including their annual holiday pay.
Bassem’s words of gratitude for the Holy Land Gift Shop’s patronage powerfully illustrates the dire situation of the Christians in the Holy Land. He concluded his interview with this heartfelt thank you, “I am full of thanks for the purchases the Holy Land Gift Shop has made from me. They keep my business open and allow me to pay my employees. These are words from my heart. Thank you, thank you so much.”
The Holy Land Gift Shop’s Important Mission
Fernando Pereiro manages the Holy Land Gift Shop. “It is a very rewarding thing to do as a Christian to be able to connect them with the people outside the Holy Land. This is a very rewarding job for me because I see that can help consistently and do something that I think will grow. We’re taking solid steps to bring the Franciscan mission to the people across the U.S.”
Fernando says that when people learn the mission of the Holy Land Gift Shop, hearts are moved to help. “Many times when we explain the mission to shoppers and they understand the mission, then they want to support the Christians in the Holy Land. Maybe customers first come into the shop looking for deals, but now they shop because they know they are making a difference. They not only buy a great product, they become part of our mission.”
The Welcome Gift of a Donation
Aside from making a purchase, the Holy Land Gift Shop has a donation box at the check-out counter, which many shoppers use to contribute. “As soon as I explain about the product they are purchasing, they get excited about doing more. Before they were asking for discounts and now they are adding money in the donation box,” explains Fernando.
The Gift Shop is connecting people to the Holy Land through its gifted Christian Artisans while also providing an opportunity to be a part of keeping these living stones in their native land. That mission is an easy one for many to share; when shown a need, caring and concerned people want to find a way to make a difference.