The Holy Land Handicraft Co-operative Society was established in Bethlehem in 1981 as a means of countering the deterioration of the local handicrafts industry. The Israeli occupation was leading to a decline in tourism and increasing economic hardship in the area, and had begun to threaten the handicraft industry in Bethlehem. The HLHCS developed a co-operative response, bringing its members together to pool resources to more effectively address the problems faced by local craftspeople.
The HLHCS aims to preserve the centuries-old traditional craft and design traditions of Palestine, for the benefit of today’s handicraft artisans and future generations of Palestinians. Its mission is to alleviate local poverty, decrease unemployment, increase incomes, decrease emigration, and sustain the Palestinian handicraft industry.
Fair Trade principles represent the cornerstones of the Co-operative’s philosophy and values, which include: creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers; transparency and accountability; promoting producer independence; payment of a fair price; gender equality; good working conditions and sustainable environmental practices.
Approximately 900 individuals benefit from the Co-operative’s activities. In addition to marketing handicrafts produced by its members, it also sells products produced by select non-member producers, such as local disabled groups and women’s groups.