Shopping in the Holyland

Non-governmental organizations and religious groups have been encouraging the revival of traditional crafts, both to keep the culture alive and to help low-income people make money.  Self-help groups and women’s organizations are active in these projects, since men’s jobs are often only temporary or low-paying. It is called “Fair Trade”.

You should go to a Fair Trade store especially for beautiful embroidery to bring home. Pillow covers are easy to pack and bring home. After stuffing they make great presents. Tourist shops give money back to travel guides who bring customers, so they often do not pay the craftspeople what they are worth.  

Another possible thing to bring home is a stole for a clergyperson or a cover for the altar or communion table in your church. A plate and chalice is also a good gift, but be aware that the ceramic designs are often Armenian rather than Palestinian. Prices are fixed and printed on signs in these stores. They are not a place to bargain. 


Sunbula's fair trade stores in Jerusalem

Some Fair Trade shops in the West Bank are: 

Sunbula (formerly Craftaid) – St. Andrew’s Hospice, Jerusalem

Arab Orthodox Women’s Shop - Freres St. inside New Gate, Jerusalem

Surif Women’s Cooperative (Mennonite Central Committee) – 79 Nablus Rd., Jerusalem

Anat Palestinian Folk and Crafts Center - Beit Sahour near municipality building

The Cave gift shop – St. Paul Street, Bethlehem

Other private shops are very honest and produce excellent goods.  Ask around.

Stairs in the Souk
Stairs in the Souk

The word “Souk” is used for an Arab shop or the area of several shops where you are expected to bargain for the price.. It is a great experience when you “win”.  You can get marvelous fruits and vegetables in the souk. Be sure to wash all produce you buy before eating.

Haggling is also necessary for concrete items in the souk. I haggled one day for red cloth to use in a Pentecost service. I went back to buy the cloth and the owner demanded a different price. He said “Today is my holy day so you should pay what I ask.”  I said, “This is for worship on my holy day so you should keep your bargain.” I bought it at my price but I learned not to haggle in advance.

Some Fair Trade Stores in Israel

Fair Trade Store in Nazareth
Fair trade store in Nazareth

The International Center for Mary in Nazareth carries locally made products including embroiderty from Zababdeh

Sindyanna of Galilee in Kufr Kana (includes a warehouse and factory)

Canaan Fair Trade in Burquin

General advice from one who has lived there

  • Learn the religion of store owners. On weekly holy days and on holidays stores are usually closed
  • Be wary of stores that close for lunch hour. The owner doesn’t always come back.
  • “It is coming in tomorrow” means “I don’t have it and I don’t know when I’ll have it again, if ever.”
  • Buy it when you find it.  Brands and items come and go. Be sure the directions are in English and for the model you bought. If you really like it, buy two because you will never see it again.