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Paul Calvert
World News

Palestinian craftsmen take on Chinese in battle for Christmas

by Antony Bushfield

Palestinian shop owners in Bethlehem say a number of stalls have appeared selling cheaper and poorer quality goods that have been shipped in from China.

Christmas is the busiest time of the year for the Holy Land and with more than half of all tourists being Christians the traders are appealing for faithful to be careful what they buy.

"This is a plastic Jesus baby made in China and this is a ceramic one made in Bethlehem, and these are the olive wood rosaries that I make and the Chinese ones," said Bassem Giacaman, proudly showing what he said was the superior craftsmanship of the locally-made goods.

Paul Calvert

He warned that many items for sales in the souvenir shops, including the West Bank town's trademark rosary beads, are imported from abroad, mainly China.

Shopkeepers say that while their wares may be more expensive, the quality is much better and they give an important boost to the struggling economy.

"I've got nothing that is made overseas except for one thing, that's the magnets. It's something that sells cheap and people want them," added Giacaman, owner of the Blessings Gift Shop and The Olive Wood Factory. "Everything else is made locally so I can keep the local economy working."

While there are no official statistics, local officials and businessmen estimate that nearly half of the products, perhaps more, are imported.

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