The street artist known as Banksy is using a primely placed piece of real estate to display some new art with the goal of sparking some new conversations.
The Walled Off Hotel, nestled in the West Bank city of Bethlehem directly beside the concrete barrier that separates the territory from Israel, will be open for business March 11.
Touted as the “hotel with the worst view in the world,” each room overlooks the wall (which is either necessary security or a symbol of apartheid, depending on who is speaking) and each window is eye-to-eye with the Israeli watchtowers.
The hotel is located in Area C of the occupied West Bank, which means that Israelis are welcome to stay there, although all roads to get there pass through Palestinian territory, which would mean at least some part of the journey would be illegal.
“I’m hoping that Israelis will come and visit us here,” said Wissam Salsah, the hotel’s manager. “It’s a great opportunity for them to see this wonderful art and see the impact of the wall on the Palestinians.”
The hotel was built in secrecy for 14 months, and while Banksy is the main designer for the former pottery workshop building, two other artists were given spaces to design in the 10-room hotel.
The whole of the aesthetic, while each room is set up differently, models after a British colonial gentlemen’s club, a nod to the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, the 1917 statement by the British government for a Jewish homeland.
"It's exactly one hundred years since Britain took control of Palestine and started re-arranging the furniture—with chaotic results," said Banksy in a press release. “I don't know why, but it felt like a good time to reflect on what happens when the United Kingdom makes a huge political decision without fully comprehending the consequences.”
Although not many prices are listed, one of the rooms (which is designed as a military barracks) is priced at $30 a night. It’s assumed, however, that most of the visitors will be affluent foreigners who are attracted to Banksy’s work. The hotel does require a $1,000 security deposit.
A small museum is also in the hotel, which was designed to educate people about why the hotel is located so close to a graffiti-strewn concrete block and the meaning behind it, while attempting to remain neutral.
One room includes a painting of an Israeli border policeman and a Palestinian in a pillow fight. Another is furnished with a zebra-print couch with red stuffing coming out of a cushion all with the backdrop of proud cheetahs on the wall in the background.
It’s those off-kilter artistic yet political statements that managemet hopes will bring tourist dollars to the area.
“We hope that we’re going to support a tourism that already exists in Bethlehem, known as Banksy tourism,” Salsah said. “I hope we’re going to generate millions of dollars for the economy of Bethlehem.”