Bir Zayt, Palestine


Photographer: Hamde Abu Rahma

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

Raid Hananiya, a Christian born in Jerusalem, is the only person making candles by hand in Bir Zayt, a town in Palestine’s West Bank area. Now in his mid-forties, he learned to make candles in his mid-teens, taught by his cousins who ran a candle-making company. In the early 1990s, he started his own candle-making business. Since then, imports of mass-produced candles have led to most other candle-makers in Bir Zayt shutting up shop. Raid only makes candles on Fridays and Sundays. He spends the rest of the week working as a builder to earn enough money to support himself and his family. To keep candle-making alive in Palestine, he is sharing his knowledge with his fifteen-yearold son, Isa. “I’m very focused on teaching him everything about making candles so that he can teach his children one day,” says Raid. “I hope people will start focusing more on these handmade products again. For me it is not just a business. Candles bring light to the darkness, which is exactly what we need in this difficult life.” Raid and Isa sell most of the candles they make to churches in nearby Bethlehem and Ramallah.