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BETHLEHEM, Occupied Palestinian Territories — Last Friday, Banksy’s new art venture into the Palestinian Occupied Territories was revealed to the local public and the world at large: the Walled Off Hotel. The artist already runs a Banksy Gift Shop in the city of Bethlehem, but the latest project is more ambitious and consists of nine rooms and a suite, with what is billed as “the worst view in the world.”
Beginning on March 11, the Banksy hotel will open in the Holy Land. Visitors will be able to enjoy site-specific art by the British artist while staying at a posh place with all the amenities and services of a luxury accommodation. The hotel is located on Karytas Hospital Street and right by Israeli Checkpoint 300, which is steps away from the Aida Palestinian refugee camp. The site has larger-than-life views of Israel’s West Bank barrier wall, commonly referred to as the Apartheid Wall by local Palestinians. The hotel is also near the five-star Intercontinental Hotel, which is situated in a manner that hides a view of the Aida refugee camp from the main street.
We talked to local Palestinians about the Walled Off Hotel, and in summary, here is what we know about this top-secret project. Those contracted to work on it maintained the secrecy of what they were doing until the announcement was made to coincide with a soft opening and press invitations. Although some people were skeptical that this is project that normalizes the occupation and settler colonialism in Palestine, the majority seems to view the project favorably as advancing awareness of the Palestinian struggle for justice and liberation.
Many locals appear to be in awe of the artwork, including its precise details and overall level of perfection. They believe that there are no Israeli investors participating in the Banksy Group, the consortium that funded the project in partnership with a Palestinian by the name of Sam Slsaa’ from Beit Sahour, who is acting as the project’s representative.
The building itself is on lease. All employees, including the manager, are Palestinians from the Bethlehem District. Staff pay is comparable to local standards. And as far as anyone knows, no portion of generated revenues from this project will go to support the local population or the struggle against Israeli occupation.
Although the hotel opens to the public on Saturday, March 11, the local impression is that those staying in the hotel will only be affluent foreigners from abroad. This is reinforced by the project’s website, which suggests that a $1,000 security deposit is required to stay in a room, though no specific rates are listed — except for a room referred to as “Bunker,” which is “outfitted with surplus items from an Israeli military barracks” and available for $30/night.
In this post are pictures by MTL taken inside and around the Walled Off Hotel, including of Israel’s West Bank barrier. Also nearby — and underground — is Rachel’s Tomb, which is off limits for Palestinians.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified the hotel as “five-star.”