Palestinian producers display handicrafts in Vienna Christmas markets

For the first time in their history, two Viennese Christmas markets welcome Palestinian handicraft from Bethlehem, the Heart of Nativity, at their 2016 edition

The prestigious Viennese Christmas bazaars of Altes AKH (November 12th to December 23th) and SchloßSchönbrunn (November 19th to December 26th) offer the chance to explorethe values and the unique production of the place of origin of ChristmashostingPalestinian craftswomen and craftsmen from Bethlehem Treasures, a Cluster funded under the banner of the development project Creative Mediterranean funded by the European Union and Italian Development Cooperation Agency.



Founded in 2015, Bethlehem TreasuresCluster gathers specialized producers of handicraft, decorations and souvenirs that work in the area of Bethlehem, Palestine, continuing a historical handicraft tradition that dates back to the 16th century. This Cluster was created under the banner of Creative Mediterranean, an extensive cooperation project funded by EU and Italy, and implemented by UNIDO, involving seven countries, from the Atlantic to the Middle East: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia.

Bethlehem Treasures is made up of 30 members – 75% of which are craftswomen entrepreneurs – and a total of active employees of over 200.  Their handicraft specialities includeolive wood, mother of pearl, ceramics and pottery, embroidery, glass, and jewellery. Each of these subsectors has its mostly unique history and distinct inputs, tools, and set of skills that require a long training – up to six years for olive wood chiselling – to be acquired.

In November 2016, Bethlehem Treasuresis taking part for the first time to a European Christmas market showcasing at the prestigious Viennese Christmas bazaars of Altes AKH (November 12th to December 23th)and SchloßSchönbrunn (November 19th to December 26th) a selection of products – including mangers, cribs, and home décor in olive wood, together with mother of pearl decorations and jewels, glass ornaments and handmade olive oil soaps– that embody the authentic “Made in Bethlehem” Christmas spirit and offer the chance to explore the significance and the traditions of this land, together with its values and its contemporary style.


Strictly “Made in Bethlehem”, the work of Bethlehem Treasuresprivileges local, natural materials and work handmade using traditional techniques. A strive for quality characterizes their approach: original and authentic, Bethlehem Treasures’ products embrace sustainability, are design oriented, and are meant to last. Furthermore, Bethlehem Treasures looks at the Palestinian culture and heritage as a primary source of inspiration and is committed to the respect ofits heritage and its development into new, creative forms of production.

Being indicated since the 2nd century as the birthplace of Jesus, the town of Bethlehem is the strongest symbols of Christmas and Christianity, representing the village where the Christ was revered for the first time. The Church of the Nativity – since 2012 in UNESCO’s World Heritage List – is a major cultural and religious spot that preserves a huge artistic patrimony and encloses the original cave – the Grotto of Nativity – where the Holy Infant came into existence.


The collectionsshowcased at SchloßSchönbrunninclude an extensive production of olive wood carvings, such as nativity sets, mangers, cribs, statues, and figurines that embody the long handicraft tradition dating back to the arrival of theFranciscan monksin Bethlehem in the early 16th century. Beside, Christmas ornaments and home décoritems in olive wood– including new pieces designed by Bethlehem Treasures’ Design Hub – will revealagenuine interpretation of Bethlehem’s contemporaryhandicraft.

In Altes AKH, the long-standing production of Bethlehemitemother of pearl will offer a unique insight into this old manufacturing technique and its different applications, from religious items to souvenirs and jewels.Additionally, a line of stained glass decorations and organic olive oil soapswill complement Bethlehem Treasures’ offerwith original Middle EastChristmas gifts.

Both in Altes and Schönbrunn, Bethlehem Treasures’ artisans will be present at the booth at certain days during the markets(schedule will be announced) in order to meet and greet interested visitors and show in person their work and experience.

About Creative Mediterranean

Creative Mediterranean supports the development of clusters in cultural and creative industries in the 7 participating countries, that is to say geographic and strategic concentrations of interconnected companies, institutions and suppliers working in the same field of activity, considered as a mean to promote the development of competitive industries and facilitate local economic development.

The goal of the project is to strengthen craftsmen/craftswomen and SMEs’ creativity and competitiveness, as well as management, business strategies and access to markets of groups of companies.

Through the project, each country is taken into account in its specificity, through the opportunity to make known the result of a wide range of creative and productive realities in the area and in the international market -from Europe to the Gulf countries. Thus, Creative Mediterranean emphasizes the presence, behind every single craftsman or artist, of complex realities of families and communities, of handed down stories and ties. In this framework, local actors play an active role in preserving ancient knowledge and elaborate it for the globalized modernity; they adapt ancestral expertise to modern practices. Therefore, they improve their economic activity as well as employment opportunities and overall situation in the region, making from their creativity a tool of resilience.

Creative Mediterranean is EU-funded project, which also benefits from a financial contribution of the Italian Development Cooperation, is implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

Bethlehem Treasures in Altes AKH and SchloßSchönbrunn 2016, Vienna

Altes AKH

November 12th to December 23th 2016

Monday- Saturday: 2 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Sunday, holidays: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.


November 19th to December 26th 2016

Every day from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Closes earlier on December 24th (4 p.m.), 25th (6 p.m.), and 26th (6 p.m.)

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