The Rev. Elizabeth “Liz” Knott founded Pal Craftaid in 1993 after participating in a peacemaking trip to Israel/Palestine sponsored by the Global Ministries and Peacemaking Units of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She admits that, prior to the trip, she equated Palestinians and other Arabs with terrorism and she was scared to go. But the experience opened her eyes to the realities that confront Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
At that time, Liz thought that helping Palestinian craftspeople find markets for olive wood sculptures and traditional needlepoint would be a short-term project, as prospects for peace between Israel and Palestine were good. She enlisted the help of Connie DePond, a good friend, to join her in a ministry, which they called Pal Craftaid. They established relationships with artisans and co-ops and began importing their wares to the United States for sale.
As prospects for peace declined, Liz and Connie stepped up their energies to import more crafts and to find opportunities for sales events. Volunteers were recruited to be regional representatives and to keep inventory in their homes and churches. Friends and colleagues held sales in congregations, primarily in the fall and during Advent. The work kept expanding as Liz and Connie began establishing more relationships with Palestinian organizations – primarily schools and social welfare agencies – who receive the profits from the craft sales to help operate their programs.
More than $500,000 has been returned to the economy of Palestine through agencies such as the Atfaluna Society for the Deaf in Gaza City, the Rawdat El Zahur School in East Jerusalem, and Aid to the Aging, an arm of the Arab Orthodox Society. Monthly stipends go to individual families hard hit by the economy and several students have received help with college expenses in the United States. Numerous women’s co-ops and an olive wood business are able to pay artisans fair wages despite a floundering economy. Liz and Connie have made nearly 30 visits to the Occupied Territories, the West Bank and Gaza, each time deepening relationships with partner agencies and artisans, as well as creating new ties. Liz says, “I have been blessed, nourished and astonished by the faith of the Palestinian Christian community, who feel abandoned by their western brothers and sisters in Christ.”
In the spring of 2008, Liz, then 80, appointed a Board of Directors which is now responsible for moving Pal Craftaid into the future, although both founders remain directors emeriti and remain active with the ministry. Pal Craftaid recently obtained its own 501(c)(3) status.
As the ministry of Pal Craftaid grew, so did the numbers of artisans and the agencies with which the ministry shares its profits from sales. Pal Craftaid projects and agencies primarily serve women and children, and most are tied to a Christian church.