Walled Off Hotel
Three films created by Disobedient for the Walled Off Hotel are now open to the public in Palestine, as part of the museum curated by Gavin Grindon of the University of Essex
The Walled Off hotel may sound utilitarian, even bleak. Its owner says it has “the worst view of any hotel in the world”, while its 10 rooms get just 25 minutes of direct sunlight a day.
But, nestled against the controversial barrier wall separating Israel from the Palestinian territories, the West Bank’s answer to the Waldorf offers travellers something more elusive than any luxury destination.
The lodging in Bethlehem is a hotel, museum, protest and gallery all in one, packed with the artworks and angry brilliance of its owner, British street artist Banksy.
From the disconcertingly lavish presidential suite where water splashes from a bullet-strafed watertank into the hot tub, to the bunk-beds in the budget room scavenged from an abandoned army barracks, the hotel is playful and strongly political
All the rooms look out on to the concrete slabs of the wall and some have views over it to pill boxes and an Israeli settlement – illegal under international law – on the hillside beyond.
“Walls are hot right now, but I was into them long before [Donald] Trump made it cool,” said Banksy in a statement. The artist, who fiercely guards his anonymity, first came to Bethlehem more than a decade ago, leaving a series of paintings on the barrier that have become a tourist destination in their own right.
Since then, the town’s pilgrim and sightseeing-based economy has been ravaged by ever-tighter Israeli controls on travel between Israel and the Palestinian territories, so the new hotel is expected to provide a welcome boost in jobs and visitor numbers.
“I would like to invite everyone to come here, invite Israeli civilians to come visit us here,” said manager Wisam Salsaa. “We want them to learn more about us, because when they know us it will break down the stereotypes and things will change.”
Israelis are banned from visiting Bethlehem and its famous sites. And although Banksy has chosen a site officially under Israeli military control – meaning it is legal for Israelis to stay there – all the roads to reach it involve an illegal journey through Palestinian-controlled territory.
A museum explains the wall, the controls on movement and the troubled history of the region, curated together with Essex University professor Gavin Grindon. “If you are not completely baffled, then you don’t understand,” the presenter of a video history signs off.