Step inside Banksy's most daring project yet.
Picture this: a hotel room with what’s dubbed as “the worst view in the world,” looking out onto a concrete wall that represents decades of occupation and apartheid. Welcome to Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, where art, politics, and hospitality collide in the most unexpected yet poignant way.
Constructed in complete secrecy, Banksy offered this creative fortress to the Palestinians in 2017, marking 100 years since the Balfour Declaration – the beginning of British colonialism in Palestine and an act that shifted the course of Palestinian history, paving the way for the eventual Israeli occupation. The name, a play on the Waldorf Hotel, hints at its paradoxical nature. As soon as you step inside, you’re plunged into a world where each nook and cranny speaks volumes about the Israeli occupation. The rooms, adorned with over 20 original Banksy pieces and works by Palestinian artists, blend despair and dark humor.
In one room, an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian protester engage in a pillow fight, the feathers cascading onto your bed. Another striking installation displays a cluster of CCTV cameras like taxidermy mounts, symbolizing the intrusive surveillance and loss of privacy endemic to life in occupied territories. Banksy's aim is clear: to draw visitors, especially Israelis, and spark a dialogue about the occupation.
It’s exactly 100 years since Britain took control of Palestine and started rearranging the furniture – with chaotic results.
The hotel also houses a gallery, curated by Dr. Housni Al Khateeb Shehada, showcasing Palestinian artists – a first in Bethlehem. The gallery is a platform for local voices, offering original artworks, prints, and postcards for Banksy fans and street art aficionados. It's more than decoration; it's a lifeline for Palestinian artists often stifled under travel restrictions and military occupation.
There's even a museum on the ground floor, curated with Dr. Gavin Grindon from Essex University, which makes a gripping start with a life-sized, mechanically controlled figure of Arthur Balfour. The museum takes viewers through the history of the occupation of Palestine, from the signing of the Balfour Declaration to the present-day reality of the segregation wall and movement restrictions. It even features Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s Oscar-nominated documentary Five Broken Cameras.
Banksy’s trademark bluntness is omnipresent. His art, set against the hotel's backdrop, is jarringly impactful, demanding visitors to confront the uncomfortable truths of our time. The Walled Off Hotel transcends being a mere gallery of Banksy's works; it is an immersive journey into the harsh, unvarnished truth of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. As Banksy put it in 2017, “It’s exactly 100 years since Britain took control of Palestine and started rearranging the furniture – with chaotic results.”
This hotel isn't just about providing a room with a view. It's about offering a window into a reality that many know only through news headlines. It’s a thought-provoking, unsettling, and utterly unique experience – a stark reminder of the power of art to confront, to question, and to open our eyes to the world around us.