British activist artist Banksy has launched Walled Off Hotel with the hope of enticing Israeli tourists -- and dialogue -- to the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Banksy says his Walled Off Hotel has "the worst view of any hotel in the world."Worse yet, the hotel's 10 rooms get just 25 minutes of direct sunlight a day.
Nestled against the controversial wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories, Banksy's latest act of brilliance is a hotel, museum, protest site and art gallery all in one. The Guardian writes:
From the disconcertingly lavish presidential suite where water splashes from a bullet-strafed watertank into the hot tub, to the bunk-beds in the budget room scavenged from an abandoned army barracks, the hotel is playful and strongly political.
All the rooms look out on to the concrete slabs of the wall and some have views over it to pill boxes and an Israeli settlement – illegal under international law – on the hillside beyond.
“Walls are hot right now, but I was into them long before [Donald] Trump made it cool,” said Banksy in a statement. Banksy, who remains anonymous, has a decade long commitment to the West Bank. He's seen it deteriorate badly with Israel's ever tighter control of transit between Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Banksy wants guests to leave with more than just a selfie. “(It’s) a three-storey cure for fanaticism, with limited car parking,” he added in the statement.
“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.”
The Walled Off Hotel is located on a site officially under Israeli military control -- so that Israelis can stay there. However, all roads into Bethlehem involve illegal travel through Palestinian-controlled territory.
The hotel, a former pottery workshop, gives a nod to Britain’s role in the region’s history, with a colonial theme reception and tea-room, what the Guardian calls "a disconcerting take on a gentlemen’s club where a self-playing piano provides an eerie soundtrack."
A flickering fire in the grate glows under a pile of concrete rubble, inspiring visions of a bomb site. A "classical bust in a niche is wreathed in clouds of gas snaking out of a tear gas canister". Life-jackets discarded by refugees litter the beaches.
“It’s exactly 100 years since Britain took control of Palestine and started rearranging the furniture – with chaotic results,” Banksy said. “I don’t know why, but it felt like a good time to reflect on what happens when the United Kingdom makes a huge political decision without fully comprehending the consequences.”
Note that the elevator is walled off, too, with the doors jammed half open to showcase concrete breeze blocks, hung with an "out of service" sign. The space holds a small museum with a gallery showing the works of Palestinian artists opening soon
Banksy dismissed worries that security concerns would keep people away. Where there's a wall, there's a will to break through it..