Banksy hopes his unique lodging in the West Bank will bring visitors and dialogue
If you’re claustrophobic, you may never want to stay in a place called “The Walled Off Hotel,” but if you want to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it may be one of the most unique and interesting ways to do it.
Standing beside the controversial barrier wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories, this new lodging in Bethlehem is a hotel, art gallery, and museum all in one. Owned by street artist Banksy, an England-based graffiti artist, film director, and political activist who prefers anonymity, the 10-room hotel is designed to evoke conversation, exploration, and social and political awareness.
An article in the Guardian describes what the unique hotel is like inside. A lavish presidential suite features water splashing from a bullet-strafed water tank into a hot tub, and in the “budget room,” there are bunk-beds from an abandoned army barracks. All the rooms, which only get 25 minutes of direct sunlight a day, look out onto the tall concrete barrier wall, and a few have the view of an Israeli settlement on a hillside.
“Walls are hot right now, but I was into them long before [Donald] Trump made it cool,” said Banksy in a statement to the Guardian.
Banksy arrived in Bethlehem over 10 years ago and left paintings on the wall which are now a popular tourist attraction themselves. Visitors are now few and far between in the town, given the tighter Israeli controls on travel between Israel and Palestine and the hit the economy has taken there. But Banksy hopes the hotel will help to change that. He calls his new venture a “three-story cure for fanaticism, with limited car parking.”
Hotel staff say they hope the hotel facilitates greater understanding about the realities on the ground in Bethlehem. It’s unclear how many Israelis will actually visit, however, because Israelis are forbidden to go to Bethlehem. Even though the hotel site is officially under Israeli military control (so citizens could technically stay there), all roads to reach it involve illegally venturing through Palestinian-controlled territory.
The guests who do make it will find interesting art work all around the hotel, including some of Banksy’s work. The hotel also houses an art gallery to show the work of Palestinian artists who often find it difficult to reach a wider audience.
The Walled-Off Hotel officially opens on March 20 and despite the challenges guests may face getting there, it’s expected to be a popular destination.
“I would like to invite everyone to come here, invite Israeli civilians to come visit us here,” said manager Wisam Salsaa. “We want them to learn more about us, because when they know us it will break down the stereotypes and things will change.”