Tis the Season… To Interview Bethlehem's Jew-Bashing Woodcarver
Tis the season for glad tidings…
Unless you’re a deranged Jew-bashing woodcarver in Bethlehem.
This year the Baby Jesus in the manger is surrounded by the “Apartheid Wall”…
An updated manger scene sold by Jack Giacaman in the Holy Land Arts Museum replaces the stable with an olivewood version of the Israeli wall between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. (Kansas City Star– 2007)
A caged bird, Jack Giacaman longs to be free from the brutal Israeli occupation.
At least, that’s what he’s said for the past 8 years anyway.
Back in 1999 Giacaman had this to say about the dire situation in Bethlehem:
Jack Giacaman, 28, agrees. From his high school class of 30 at the St. Lasalle’s Brothers School, he is one of only two students who’ve not left for economic and educational opportunities in the West.
His family runs a small shop just off Manger Square.
Giacaman says Bethlehem’s economic situation is dire. It is compounded by Israeli military checkpoints that sever connections to East Jerusalem and Ramallah.
“We live in a cage,” he says. “Those who can afford to, break out.”
2000- Jack Giacamen blamed the Jews for the bad economy.
Presbyterian News Service reported:
The seriousness is felt first-hand by managers like Jack Giacaman, 28, a third-generation operator of two factories where olive wood and seashells are carved into religious figures and symbols, such as crosses and creches. He said he had to lay off 10 full-time workers and has taken out a bank loan to employ 18 carvers two days a week to produce artifacts he can’t export. Christmas and Easter buying accounts for the bulk of his business.
Giacaman, an accountant by trade, is moonlighting — balancing the books at the municipal hospital — to make his living.
“Bethlehem is totally dead … People are buying only for their basic needs and food,” he said. “They’re unable to pay the telephone bills, the electric bills. Sometimes there is a shortage of gas … and we’re not allowed to enter the city (Jerusalem).”
Giacaman said about 500 families Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala have been forced from their homes and become refugees.
2001- An angry Giacaman complains some more:
JACK GIACAMAN (Holy Land Arts Museum Factory Owner): The people are not happy, you know. Most of them are — even you can see they didn’t put a Christmas tree like every year. They didn’t celebrate. They don’t — they are not happy.
Jack Giacaman, 32, carves olive-wood Nativity figures. His family’s shop is one of the few still open after three years of Israeli- Palestinian conflict. (Unhappy in 2003)
2003 – Tis the season to complain about the Jews:
Last year, the shop had so few visitors that the Giacamans locked up early on Christmas day and ate their first Christmas dinner at home in decades. For a family that has been carving and selling Bethlehem’s famous olive-wood figurines for four generations, it was no cause for celebration.
Today, theirs is one of the few wood carvers’ shops still open in a city economically and psychologically devastated by more than three years of conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. With most of their neighbors’ stores shuttered and only a handful of browsers during what was once the busiest week of the year, it has been difficult to summon Christmas cheer in the place revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus.
…The majority of Bethlehem’s residents have been trapped in the city by Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks since the uprising began.
2004- Another bad year for business.
The National Catholic Reporter:
In Bethlehem, they saw huge parking lots empty of tour buses and drank mint tea with shop owners who hadn’t had a customer in a month. Jack Giacaman, a Palestinian Christian, pointed out the olive grove his family had owned for centuries, explaining that it is no longer theirs because it is on the other side of the Wall. When the women visited the olivewood factory, the square was empty. At noon, they heard the call to prayer, and looked out on a sea of men and boys, bowing down.
In Jerusalem, they visited the Western (formerly Wailing) Wall, their fingers probing the soft ancient stone for crevices in which to fold their prayers. The day after they visited was Friday, the Muslim holy day, and at the nearby Southern Wall, which is part of a mosque, kids were throwing stones and Israeli soldiers started shooting back at them.
Gone is the olive wood manger shielding the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In its place, looming over the angelic family, are an Israeli watchtower and three towering sections of an adjoining wall.
The modern-day creche, said Holy Land Arts Museum manager Jack Giacaman, is a reminder that this holy Christian city remains largely isolated from the outside world by Israel’s 25-foot-tall concrete walls, part of Israel’s separation barrier. “Bethlehem is like a small prison,” he said. “Everywhere you look, there are walls.”
And just think… After 8 years of rotten luck he’s still open for business.