BETHLEHEM: Guests began arriving at the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem on Monday, the quirky guesthouse created by British street artist Banksy that stands a few feet away from Israel’s towering security barrier in the occupied West Bank.
The three-storey hotel, its low-lit bar and restaurant decorated like a British colonial clubhouse but with ironic works by the artist covering the walls, was unveiled two weeks ago but has only now opened to overnight stays.
There are 10 rooms, ranging from a budget barracks-style accommodation for backpackers to a presidential suite that can sleep six. None of the rooms has a view — all of them look out on Israel’s five-metre, graffiti-covered concrete wall.
The Bristol-based artist, who has become a global phenomenon over the past decade but whose real identity is a closely guarded secret, has described the guesthouse as having “the worst views of any hotel in the world”.
That has not deterred guests. Manager Wissam Salsa, who kept the project secret for more than a year as building work was completed and local staff were trained, said the hotel was fully booked until June.
The mayor of Bethlehem said that while the town where Jesus was born already attracted a large number of tourists to sites like the Church of the Nativity, the Walled Off added an extra dimension. “[It’s] a very significant addition to the entity of Bethlehem as a touristic city,” said Mayor Vera Baboun.
“Having Banksy putting all his paintings in the hotel, it has significant political messages,” she said, suggesting it would draw attention to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, which began in June 1967, after the six-day Middle East war.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2017