Banksy, the anonymous British graffiti artist, truly knows how to turn lemons into lemonade. The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem is his latest masterpiece — a hauntingly beautiful work of art and functioning hotel with the “worst view in the world.” It faces the Israeli separation wall and makes a powerful statement about the occupation in the West Bank.
“The aim is to tell the story of the wall from every side and give visitors the opportunity to discover it for themselves. Operated by the local community, we offer a warm welcome to everyone from all sides of the conflict and across the world,” explains the hotel’s website.
But take one look at the bullet-riddled water tank installation, David-esque statue choking on tear gas, or mural of an Israeli soldier and Palestinian man caught in a pillow fight, and you’ll realize that The Walled Off Hotel is Banksy’s most elaborate protest to the Israeli occupation yet. His famous political street art is sprinkled throughout Bethlehem, but nothing compares to the jarring yet stylish decor inside the guesthouse, complete with a gallery, piano bar, and bookstore stocked with wall-related literature.
The Walled Off Hotel even has a dark sense of humor. Its name is a sarcastic nod to the posh Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and it brags about its gloomy backdrop online as, “floor to ceiling views of graffiti-strewn concrete from almost every room. And for the exhibitionists amongst you — many are within range of the army watchtower.”
The wall and the Israeli occupation has hurt tourism in the area, but like Banksy’s street art, the hotel intends to become another attraction.
“In 2008 we did not have much tourists coming into Bethlehem, but there were more Banksy tourists coming to Bethlehem than any other type of tourist,” Wissam Salsah, hotel manager of The Walled Off Hotel, told Al Jazeera. “Actually, there were more Banksy tourists than Nativity Church tourists.”
Guests can stay at one of the ten rooms at The Walled Off Hotel for $30 — $1,000 USD per night, beginning this week.