The use of olive wood dates back thousands of years. The idea of manufacturing tourist products first appeared with the arrival of pilgrims from abroad who frequently came to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem. According to tradition, skillful fifteenth century artists from Italy brought their skills to Bethlehem, where the men quickly learned and excelled in the art.
The art of carving is a very detailed and difficult process. After the olive wood is gathered, carvers cut the wood into smaller pieces. This is done so all the carvers have more control over the wood when they begin carving. The carving process requires several stages. In the primary stage, the wood is carved in an abstract form. Once an abstract form has been created, gifted craftsmen carve details such as the face and the body.
After the carvers have finished carving, they will smooth the object with sand paper to take off the rough surfaces and edges. Once the work has been sand-papered, it is sprayed with special lacquer to protect the wood and keep it shiny. The olive is a beautiful tree, unique because of the many different grains in the wood. The lacquer used helps makes the grains more shiny and apparent.