Crafty Retiree Proves Herself a Woman of Faith
By Alicia Leonardi
Liz Knott, 82, says she feels most alive when she’s in the Middle East. Since her first pilgrimage there in 1992, the McCormick alumna (Class of 1963) has made 31 trips to Palestine. Knott’s longtime investment in the region earned her recognition from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the form of the 2010 Women of Faith Award, an honor she shared with three other individuals at this summer’s General Assembly in Minneapolis. The theme for this year’s awards is “Women with a Peaceful Heart: Guiding Paths of Peace” and therefore honors women who have helped the church grow in its witness and commitment to peacemaking.
Knott has traveled under the auspices of Pal Craftaid, a non-profit organization she founded that imports embroidery and olive wood products from Palestine. Proceeds support ministries serving needy women, children and families from all faith backgrounds in the region.
Knott developed a deep appreciation for the Palestinian women she met upon her arrival in the Middle East, and was moved by their generosity and hospitality. “Even if they are very poor,” she said, “they offer you what they have - coffee or tea or something to drink.”
When Knott saw that the same people who showed her enough hospitality to make her feel like part of their families were not being adequately cared for by local social systems, she decided to do something about it.
Knott planned for Pal Craftaid to be a short-term ministry and did not anticipate that the conflict in the Middle East would continue for as long as it has. She is upset that the United States has not reduced the amount of aid it gives to Israel because she believes Israelis regularly violate the human rights of their Palestinian neighbors.
“They are not permitted to drive on some of the newer roads, travel regions where they are not residents and must pass through tedious checkpoints which elongate their daily commute. Some are left standing outside their cars for hours and their trunks are searched,” Knott said in regards to these checkpoints.
Since its early days in the Seattle area, operating Pal Craftaid has kept Knott and her longtime roommate Connie DePond quite busy. Between placing orders, pricing items and shipping them to customers, the pair could work as much as 70 hours a week. The organization’s most expensive item is an embroidered wall hanging costing $1,450.
Olivewood items sold by Pal Craftaid are made by a Palestinian family that has been in the woodworking business for four generations. Knott said their products are higher quality than those found in factories frequented by tourists since they are sealed with olive oil instead of shellac.
Now in her mid-80s, Knott serves as director emerita of the program. When she learned that she had been honored with the Women of Faith award, she was rather surprised. Her organization has managed to return $500,000 to their Palestinian neighbors and create an inspiring model for Christian-Muslim partnership - and yet, for Knott, it was nothing more than work she felt compelled to do.
“It seems absurd to be rewarded for something you truly enjoy,” she said. “So I accept on behalf of the Palestinian women of great faith and courage and hope.”