Bethlehem, the biblical birthplace of Jesus, is a city in the Occupied Palestinian Territories besieged behind Israel’s massive, 25-feet-high wall, military watchtowers, and checkpoints.
To highlight this reality, British street artist Banksy created a “modified nativity set” titled the “Scar of Bethlehem.”
The new artwork reinterprets the biblical manger scene as occurring against the backdrop of the modern concrete barrier, which appears punctured with a blast that created the shape of a star.
The concrete wall piece is graffitied with the words “love” and “peace” in English and French. Three wrapped Christmas presents are positioned in front of the sculpture as part of the installation.
“It is a great way to bring up the story of Bethlehem, the Christmas story, in a different way — to make people think more,” said Wissam Salsaa, the Walled Off Hotel’s manager, in an interview with the BBC.
“Banksy is trying to be a voice for those that cannot speak,” he added.
Banksy has in the past created a number of works on the separation wall itself. At his hotel’s gift shop, miniature wall souvenirs are offered for sale (available only at the store).
The Walled Off Hotel describes the anonymous artist’s souvenirs on its website, writing, “Just in case you weren’t sure what Banksy thinks about the wall (not a fan) his latest range of ‘souvenir collectables’ anticipate the day the concrete menace has been defeated and feral youth scribble on its skeletal remains.”
In 2004, the International Court of Justice declared the Israeli barrier illegal. The court concluded that Israel could not rely on a right of self-defense to justify the barrier, and said it was not convinced the specific route chosen for the wall was necessary for security reasons. Palestinians claim that Israel has built the wall to serve one primary purpose: grabbing land.