Helping those in the Holy Land

Anne Marie Amacher
Second-graders from St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport show a one-decade rosary and a Holy Land Military Rosary, along with a case, from Father Bill Kneemiller. Pictured are, from left, Evie Buchter, Lincoln Leazenby, Kirby Walker, Emily Allardyce and Celia Crouse.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Father Bill Knee­mil­ler maintains his commitment to help around 50 families in the Holy Land through the Holy Land Military Rosary, an organization that also benefits U.S. troops worldwide.

While deployed in Afghanistan as a chaplain in the U.S. Army in 2010, Father Kneemiller purchased a rosary with an olive wood crucifix from the Holy Land. “I believe, to this day, that everyone should carry a little piece of the Holy Land with them.”

In 2016, he started the Holy Land Military Rosary organization, which purchases olive wood crucifixes from families who make them in the Holy Land. People in the Diocese of Davenport (and before COVID, in Haiti) attach the crucifixes to rosaries they make for U.S. military personnel around the world.


Father Kneemiller said families in the Holy Land are struggling financially because they derive about 80 percent of their income from tourism. The pandemic has reduced tourism drastically in the Holy Land, even after tourist visits resumed.

His main contact, Ghassan Alsahouri of Little Bethlehem, represents the Holy Land citizens who produce olive wood crucifixes. He told Father Kneemiller that, with few tourists, the “situation has left Catholics nearly destitute. One of their few sources of income is the sale of olive wood crucifixes and olive wood products.” Many of the people are “in dire straits and some are starving.” In response, Father Kneemiller plans to buy $15,000 worth of crucifixes and crosses to help sustain the community. The U.S. troops also will benefit by receiving the rosaries made with the crucifixes.

Two years ago, supporters of the Holy Land Military Rosary organization purchased 10,000 olive wood crucifixes and other, smaller crosses for the one-decade rosary that Father Kneemiller and his volunteers make. Alsahouri expressed deep gratitude for that funding.

Volunteers, including non-Catholics, make the rosaries from parachute cords and beads purchased in bulk. A partnership with the Augustine Institute makes it possible to ship the rosaries to military contacts at no cost to the Holy Land Military Rosary nonprofit organization.

Father Kneemiller introduced the Holy Land Decade Rosary last year. It features an olive wood cross that has a carved image, such as a dove or another symbol. St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport purchased one-decade rosaries for the second-graders.

Anyone interested in donating to the Holy Land Military Rosary organization for the purchase of crucifixes or to buy a one-decade rosary for $1 may contact Father Kneemiller at kneemillerw@ or call (563) 321-0124. All sales of the one-decade rosary go to the Holy Land Military Rosary organization to benefit families in the Holy Land.

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1 thought on “Helping those in the Holy Land

  1. I make full rosaries with cord only. Nonone seems to want them. What am I to do to get them to all who need them?

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