Listen to the podcast interview with Wisam Salsa, manager of the Walled Off Hotel
The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem by Banksy in Bethlehem
Bethlehem is a Palestinian town east of Jerusalem. Most tourists visit Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity. Bethlehem is the birth place of Jesus. In order to reach Bethlehem you have to cross and Israeli military checkpoint. Israel started building a wall around Bethlehem in 2002. Besides the wall that separates Palestinians in Bethlehem from the city of Jerusalem there is another wall. This wall carves out Rachel’s tomb, a holy site for all three monotheistic religions, from Bethlehem. A special road that is sided by two walls gives access to the tomb and a parking lot. There is also an Israeli military base and some Israeli watch towers.
When Banksy first came to Palestine in 2005 he used his technique of stencils to spray paint graffitis on the Wall. Banksy’s work always has a message. Although the public does not know who Banksy is, a man, a woman or maybe a team, Wisam Salsa, the manager of the Hotel, is very familiar with Banksy and his work. (I will keep writing him and his because that’s what everybody does)
The Banksy Hotel with the worst view in the world
Banksy returned to Palestine again in 2007 and in 2014 he found his way through the tunnels into the Gaza strip to present his art work on the walls of destroyed houses. He wanted the international community to see what Israel did in the Gaza Strip. He wants people to see the injustice that is done.
Then he decided that people should come and see with their own eyes and he wanted to facilitate that. So he worked with Wisam Salsa to establish a Hotel. And it became the Hotel with the worst view. The Banksy hotel is directly next to the Wall. From the rooms upstairs you can see the Wall and the watch tower. Not a pretty view. But it is the reality for many Palestinians. Their lives are directly affected by the Wall. And that is what Banksy wants to show people.
The name ‘Walled Off’ Hotel is a hint to the prestigious Waldorf Hotel and fits perfectly with its location next to the eight meters high concrete segregation wall.
The Museum in the Banksy Hotel
The museum gives some insight into the history of Palestine and it focuses on the effect of the military occupation on daily life. There are several rooms with themes that focus on the Wall, the settlements, the army invasions that happen at night, the weapons they used against Palestinians but also the resistance of Palestinians AND Israeli activists.
Promoting local Palestinian artists at Banksy Hotel
In the lobby and in the rooms you can find art work by Banksy. Besides the art that Banksy has produced, you can also find paintings and other art objects by Palestinian artists. The art work in the art gallery on the first floor is for sale. The new bar has a collection that is owned by the Banksy Hotel and that is not for sale.
Banksy graffiti in Bethlehem
Currently there are four graffiti works by Banksy in Bethlehem. Close to the hotel on the Wall we can see two angels pulling on either side of a wall panel, exactly there where a small gap between the panels can be seen. In short walking distance there are two other graffitis, one is near the Palestinian Heritage Center where Maha Sacca has a large collection of Palestinian traditional embroideries. On the wall next to her shop is the armored dove. And across from Jacir Palace Hotel we can see the young girl frisking the soldier. The fourth graffiti by Banksy is in the town of Beit Sahour on a gas station not far from the Sheperds fields. It shows a protestor throwing flowers.
Visit Banksy Hotel in Bethlehem
You can always visit the Walled Off Hotel. They open their doors for visitors at 10 AM and you can visit until 8 PM. The entrance fee to the Museum is 20 shekel per person.
You can make reservations for the hotel on their website or through booking.com