For years activists have called attention to the plight of the Palestinians through protests, teach-ins, and seminars. The nonprofit group Celebrate Presence takes a different tack by educating not with words, but with art. The organization started with friendships made during a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation to Beit Sahour, and several Palestinians living in the United States run the business. It partners with artisans in the West Bank, Gaza, and refugee camps to provide economic opportunities, which are hard to come by due to the intifada and decreased tourism.
Celebrate Presence's mission is to inspire empathy by making accessible the rich cultural heritage of a people often pigeonholed by violence. On its Web site and in its Maryland store, Celebrate Presence offers hand-crafted jewelry, glassware, embroidery, and olivewood Christian icons and creches with the hope that beautiful, traditional art will create not only better lives for Palestinians but understanding and action in the rest of the world.