Friday, June 4, 2010

Olive Wood

Most Christian pilgrims/tourists who come to the Holy Land buy some sort of olive wood souvenir. It is quite a competitive industry. Some shops cater to bus groups and offer the guides and drivers who bring the tourists to their shops a commission. Other shops compete for the business of old city walkers with creative invitations to come into their shops. There are also those who vie for the business of Mormon tourists complete with olive wood carvings of the Nauvoo Relief society monuments, BYU cougars, the angel Moroni, the first vision etc.

I generally try to stay out of the fray and not favor any one specific merchant, but for the first time I am going to recommend someone. His name is Odeh Marcous and his shop is called Yara (he was once a co-owner of Adam Souvenirs--but he broke away to start his own shop). He joined the LDS church eight years ago in England. He has since married a wonderful Christian Arab woman and they have three children. For the past eight months their apartment has hosted regular Sunday gatherings for the Saints in Bethlehem. These members are not permitted to travel through the separation wall to Saturday services in Jerusalem so their faithful home teachers and others come to them. Odeh's wife works as a teacher and Odeh has held various jobs with NGOs in Bethlehem.

In an effort to better provide for his family, Odeh opened up this olive wood store a few months ago. We took Marie's parents and sister there and we all were very impressed with the inventory and quality. It too has some unique LDS themed items (Joel and Will both loved the BYU olive wood cougars they bought) that rival the likes of Omar's and Jimmy's in East Jerusalem.

I liked this politically themed nativity in which a large wall keeps the wise men from visiting the holy family. I plan to use it to decorate my BYU office when I return. Marie's dad was also intrigued with it and bought one to go with his wife's collection of over 80 nativities.

If you are coming to the Holy Land please consider making Yara's (named after his daughter) your olive wood shop. Tell them Chad Emmett sent you (there is no commission in it for me--just trying to help a friend) and he will give you a discount. If you are coming with a tour group please tell your tour company and guide that you want to come to this shop. If they contact Odeh he will work out a deal with the guide and bus driver. If you are traveling on your own Odeh would be happy to help with your visit to Bethlehem. He can be reached at His cell phone number is: 972-542-349329


  1. Interesting. Time marches on. I don't remember anything quite similar to this on our two trips to Israel.

  2. I think his shop has been closed for years now but he is still in Bethlehem , God Bless you Odeh, an original Bethlehemite