By Jack Moore | Newsweek | March 17, 2017
The infamous but anonymous graffiti artist Banksy is looking for wise men and women to trek to the West Bank city of Bethlehem but to a very different resting place—his new hotel.
The ‘Walled Off Hotel,’ a nine-bedroom boutique establishment, is fashioned to host tourists and to give the community in the city—famous as the purported birthplace of Jesus—an economic boost, where Israeli restrictions hamper financial opportunity.
Bansky reportedly told Britain’s Channel 4 News: “Walls are hot right now, but I was into them long before Trump made it cool.”
Banksy hotel People stand outside the Walled Off hotel, which was opened by street artist Banksy, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem March 3, 2017.
The artist from the English city of Bristol is touting the hotel as offering the “worst view in the world,” with the windows opening to reveal the grey concrete of the 8-meter high wall.
It includes exhibitions for Palestinian artists, Banksy works and colonial decoration, with a depiction of the signing of the Balfour Declaration, the British letter signed in 1917 that signalled the creation of the state of Israel. It includes artwork typical of Banksy, provocative and political, including a picture of Jesus with a laser sight on his forehead.
According to The Guardian, Banksy plans to start accepting guests at the hotel at the end of the month, taking bookings online. The project initially opened to the international media Friday. He reportedly wants guests from both sides of the conflict to stay at the hotel and experience Bethlehem in a bid for more dialogue about restrictions in the territory.
This is the graffiti artist’s first major project since he created a temporary theme park in the English town of Weston-super-Mare in 2015. But it is not the first Palestinian-related tourism project the artist has created.
In 2015, he released a faux tourism video of the Gaza Strip to highlight the conditions in the coastal enclave following the seven-week conflict between the Israeli military and Palestinian militant factions, which left more than 2,200 Palestinians and over 70 Israelis, mostly soldiers, dead.
In the video, the artist writes: “Gaza is often described as ‘the world’s largest open-air prison’ because no-one is allowed to enter or leave. But that seems a bit unfair to prisons—they don’t have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost every day.”
He also daubed his artworks on the separation wall in Bethlehem on a previous visit, the most famous being a balaclava-laden man throwing a bunch of flowers.
Palestinian and Israeli rights groups have criticized the barrier for imposing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, as well as its construction through Palestinian communities, dividing tracts of West Bank land previously inhabited by Palestinians in what they say amounts to a land grab.
The Israeli government claims it constructed the barrier to prevent Palestinian suicide bombings, and point to figures that show a significant decrease in such attacks since its construction began in 2003.
Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the body that oversees Israeli policy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, declined to comment.