British street art provocateur Banksy, known for his subversive and politically-charged works, has opened a new hotel a stone’s throw away from Israel’s controversial security fence in the city of Bethlehem — believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.
The “Walled Off” Hotel is situated only four meters away from the wall which cuts through the occupied West Bank, separating Israel from the Palestinian territories.
“Walls are hot right now, but I was into them long before [Donald] Trump made it cool,” Banksy told Channel 4 News on Friday.
Part hotel, part art gallery and political statement, The Walled Off features nine carefully decorated rooms — think concrete chic meets dystopian neo-colonial kitsch — all adorned with the artist’s latest works, most of which deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Directly overlooking the slabs of the separation wall, the rooms proudly boasts “the worst view of any hotel in the world,” Banksy said in a statement.
A wall painting above one of the beds depicts an Israeli border policeman and an Palestinian protester having a pillow fight. In the lavish presidential suite, a jacuzzi is fed from a leaking water tank. The main elevator, too, is walled off, an “out of service” sign hanging in between its wedged doors.
The Walled Off also features a museum which explains the meaning of the wall, and highlights the troubled of history of the region and the role there of Western intervention.
In Israel’s half-decade long occupation, the controversial “wall” has come to be a powerful symbol of the bloody conflict, and a major focus for art production and protests.
The Walled Off project is the latest in a series of works in the Palestinian territories.
In February 2015, Banksy — who has famously managed to keep his anonymity since he first started stenciling in his native city of Bristol — allegedly sneaked into the Gaza Strip through one of its notorious Palestinian smuggling tunnel and painted three works on the walls of Gaza homes destroyed in Israeli air strikes.
Back in 2007, he painted a number of artworks in Bethlehem, including one of a young girl frisking an Israeli soldier pinned up against a wall, and another of a dove of peace wearing a flak jacket. And two years before that, he sprayed nine stenciled images at different locations along the 27 foot wall.
His works around the world have often become often tourist attractions.
In 2015, Banksy opened a temporary ‘bemusement’ theme park, aptly titled ‘Dismaland’ in the British seaport town of Weston-Super-Mare, which brought in over 150,000 visitors from all over the world.