BETHLEHEM, Israel -- Ashraf Jarayseh has been working in an olive wood workshop near Bethlehem since he was a boy. Now, he uses his craft to make wood sculptures in remembrance of Jesus.
"This workshop comes from father to son," Jarayseh said. "There is no school to learn this job. It's also what comes from your inside, from your heart."
Most of Jarayseh carvings represent scenes and characters from the Bible.
"I feel like the Holy Spirit from inside me, and I am happy with Jesus," he said.
Jarayseh's main carvings are nativity scenes. He's produced a number of different styles, but all celebrating the same event -- the birth of Jesus.
The sculptures are all made from the olive wood tree, the biblical symbol of peace.
An important part of the process is preparing the olive wood itself. The olive wood branches are kept in a room for two to three years. The wood dries, slowly preserving its color.
Jarayseh showed CBN News how one piece of wood can become a Christmas scene. First he cuts the wood, then sands it smooth. Next, he cuts by hand small figures representing the characters of the nativity. Finally, he writes a personal greeting.
Jarayseh's carvings have gone all over the world from the United States to Europe and South America. He hopes they're an incentive for people to come see for themselves the land where Jesus was born.
"I hope to see you here in the Holy Land, to see where Jesus was born and where He walked and where He lived here," Jarayseh said.
His carvings make special gifts at Christmas, but Jarayseh wants people to remember the true meaning of the season.
"The real meaning of Christmas is to go to the church and pray for Jesus," he said. "And to be born again. To clean everything inside. To be a new person."