Passing through the Israeli military checkpoint from Jerusalem into Bethlehem, the lights of the infamous Walled Off Hotel pierce the darkness, illuminating the way to the entrance where the doorman and a life-size plastic monkey-bellboy stand.
A socio-political project by world-famous guerilla street artist Banksy, The Walled Off Hotel hit headlines when it opened in 2017. Located in Bethlehem, Palestine, it offers the ‘worst view in the world’ with windows overlooking the controversial wall that separates the West Bank from Israel. Great displays of alternative art and literature are rife at the hotel which offers a host of innovative facilities with its own museum, piano bar, gallery and bookshop.
For Israelis, the wall protects them from Palestinian attackers trying to enter Israel. For Palestinians, the wall is a concrete, 430-mile, 25-feet high separation barrier demarcating what they see as apartheid. The wall was built in 2002 after a series of Palestinian suicide bombings in Jerusalem, during which 1,100 Israelis, 880 of whom were civilians, were killed. Banksy’s Walled Off installation is a fully-functioning hotel intended to raise awareness of the controversies surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Guests may well come away from this comfortable, memorably-designed hotel knowing more about the conflicts in the region.
Inside the quirky installation, the antique British decor and classic Arabic music create a comfortable atmosphere – a sharp contrast to elusive graffiti artist Banksy’s grim, avant-garde art. In one corner, several surveillance cameras and rudimentary weapons are mounted as animals’ heads would be in a hunting lodge. In another corner,
A secret door disguised as a bookcase leads upstairs to the guest rooms. The entry-level room, which costs 50 € per night, is a military-style bunker, which sleeps up to eight and is decorated with antique maps and potted plants. The other rooms are private suites and range from 170 € to 800€ per night.
Despite Banksy’s stated intention of showing the tough reality of Palestinian life, the hotel is rather luxurious, and includes complimentary breakfast as well as traditional afternoon tea and biscuits all day. The upstairs gallery displays Palestinian modern art. Banksy prints and souvenirs are for sale in the gift shop next to the museum.
More will come for the A-list piano bar, which will play compositions by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Hans Zimmer, and Massive Attack. Elton John played the hotel’s opening party on Sunday, March 5, 2017.
Next door to the Walled Off Hotel is “Wall Mart,” which allows guests to buy spray paint as well as rent ladders and any other materials necessary to deface the wall with art. Art is one of the ways in which Palestinians, and the international community alike, can show their disdain for the Israeli occupation.
Banksy’s welcome letter reminds guests to conserve water and to turn the lights off upon leaving the rooms, since Palestinian water and electricity supplies are limited by the Israeli government. The elevator has experienced technical difficulties, so it’s recommended to pack lightly.