A few steps from the Basilica of the Nativity, the Dar al-Majus Community Home of Pro Terra Sancta has been operational for almost three months. It is a tall white stone building, in perfect harmony with the surrounding architecture of Bethlehem. Dar al-Majus literally means “House of the Magi”, and it is here, as it did two thousand years ago, that our Association wants to bring precious gifts to the Bethlehem community. Inside, in fact, the structure houses the offices and numerous activities developed according to an educational path to beauty that is given to us by the proximity to the Basilica of the Nativity. Today we tell you about two realities that belong to the second area, the entrepreneurial and professional one. We will do so in the words of Nadya Hazboun, fashion and jewellery designer here in Bethlehem and professor of Design at the local universities of Hebron and Birzeit.
The Betwomen project
Nadya Hazboun began working with pro Terra Sancta during the Covid-19 pandemic with the idea of developing a project to support the women of Bethlehem. The project is called Betwomen and was born after many workers had to stop or sell their businesses because of the pandemic. As in many other parts of the world, the spread of the virus has halted the flow of visitors and pilgrims who have been filling the streets and the large square around the Basilica for decades.
Shopkeepers, guides, taxi drivers, restaurateurs, artisans lost their jobs overnight. Most Bethlehemites, in fact, live off tourism, which is the most important source of income here. Since most women devote themselves to looking after the house and children, and since their husband’s work is the only source of income, entire families have suddenly found themselves in a serious economic crisis..
It is in this moment of bewilderment that Pro Terra Sancta decides to propose an ambitious and innovative project. It is indeed the Betwomen project, which provides vocational training courses to a group of housewives, all lacking job skills and largely uneducated.
Not just a workplace
Nadya Hazboun put all her passion into the project from the outset and started running design and sewing courses with the help of another fashion designer friend of hers.
“The first products designed and sewn by the Betwomen,” says Nadya, “were actually the masks for Covid-19!At that time, masks with ad hoc designs were produced and we also adapted, producing masks with typical Bethlehem design prints which were then distributed to the various organisations involved in the fight against the virus’.
We then moved on to the creation of objects for the kitchen, such as aprons for adults and children, potholders and oven mitts, cutlery, and other utensils. Before long, the project was a great success. “”The women,” he says, “found not only a place for vocational training but also an important companion. Seeing themselves at work, they discovered personal skills that were previously unknown, and from housewives they saw themselves as entrepreneurs”. The idea also appealed to the Bethlehem community! Even though the men have resumed their activities a few months ago, the women do not intend to leave the sewing workshop.
The solidarity Bazaar
The second reality that Professor Nadya Hazboun exposes us to is the ambitious project set up in June: the solidarity Bazaar. On the ground floor of the Dar al-Majus building, visitors come across a small, well-kept shop with many products on display on tables and shelves. “This is not just a souvenir shop,” says Nadya, who is also responsible for the Solidarity Bazaar, “but a project that has an important social impact.
Magnets, cushions, key rings, icons, mirrors, stationery, traditional Palestinian and brightly coloured jewellery. Nadya’s idea, developed thanks to Pro Terra Sancta, is to help small companies and individual workers to expand their business with a view to collaboration with the Bethlemite community.
Special attention is given to organisations working with children and people with physical and mental disabilities. The items in the Bazaar are unique, profitable and of quality. There is also no shortage of Betwomen’s products.
Art as a form of liberation
It is a Bazaar with social impact. Not only do they want to create or increase the income of the supplier, but they also strive to enhance the artistic and handicraft skills of the inhabitants of Bethlehem. “Art itself,” Nadya concludes, “is a source of income, a form of liberation, creation, entertainment. That is why we say that here we kill two birds with one stone. This is the idea of the Bazaar”.
In the large and complex Palestinian context, Pro Terra Sancta successfully promotes the work of the Bethlehem community, particularly valuing women and young people in search of a dignified life. The vocational training courses combined with the unique works of art are an example of the unusual coexistence of work and beauty in the shadow of the Nativity.
Come and discover all this at the Dar al-Majus Community Home in Bethlehem!
We are waiting for you!