It is well known that the olive branch symbolizes Peace; this also applies to the wood. Olive wood trees can live to be thousands of years old, and are harvested not only for olives but also for their wood. Branches are handled with care and must dry for one to two years before carving begins, even longer on the larger pieces.
The carving of olive wood and Mother of Pearl is a Christian tradition around the Bethlehem area, with the majority in Beit Sahour. You may not have heard of this small town, but Beit Sahour is the sight of the Shepherds Field, where Angels descended on shepherds tending their flock and told them of the birth of Christ.
Born in Beit Sahour, Khaled Hannoona started carving olive wood at the age of fifteen. Working with other carvers, he learned all aspects of handling olive wood and was soon recognized as one of the top artisans for his artistic talent. Five years later he was able to purchase equipment and open his own shop.
Each finished piece may be the results of several attempts. This is especially true for the larger pieces, where six or more pieces may need to be started before one can be completed, because imperfections inside the wood do not appear until considerable work has been done.