Every room overlooks the West Bank separation wall, the lobby features a Greek statue choking on teargas, and faux-security cameras dot the corridors. Welcome to “The Walled Off Hotel,” the new Bethlehem-based project from British street artist and enfant terrible Banksy.
BETHLEHEM — It takes an unusual hotel proprietor to advertise their establishment as “the hotel with the worst view in the world.” But then Bansky, the British street artist renowned for his satirical and political graffiti, isn’t your average hotelier. With his name already well-established in Israel-Palestine thanks to his famous creations on the West Bank separation wall and in Gaza, Banksy has now opened “The Walled Off Hotel” (a pun on “Waldorf”) in Bethlehem, right next to the wall.
The hotel, which will only start receiving guests in two months’ time, was open on Friday to a select list of news outlets: CNN, the BBC, The Guardian, a few international news agencies — and Local Call and +972 Magazine. Banksy’s strap-line for his new venture is not inaccurate: from the dining room, as well as from each of the 10 guest rooms, there is a one view alone: the grey concrete slabs of the separation fence.
“It’s kind of a mix between the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Alice in Wonderland, and the house from ‘The Addams Family,’” muses Maayan Dak, a leftwing activist and my companion on the tour. And indeed, Banksy’s hotel — a business, art show and protest project rolled into one — does have the feel of a haunted house, at once terrible and magical.
Visitors to the hotel are welcomed at the entrance by a monkey-porter, one of whose suitcases has fallen open, its contents spilling onto the street opposite the separation wall. The lobby is decorated with works of art, all distortions of classic pieces: Turner-style paintings of the sea with lifebelts from refugees in the Mediterranean thrown in; a Greek-style statue choking on tear gas; a small portrait of Jesus with a the red dot of a sniper rifle sight on his forehead; a Vermeer-style farmhouse being bulldozed by a D-9 Caterpillar, and more.
Alongside all this, and throughout the hotel, typical Banksy motifs are on display: the rat, a protester throwing a bunch of flowers instead of a Molotov cocktail, slingshots, security cameras.
The hotel manager and a large team of staff, all Bethlehem residents, received visitors in the lobby. The...Read More