Welcome to “The Walled Off Hotel,” a nine-room guesthouse located in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The dystopian inn looks out onto the barrier that separates Israel from Palestine, and its walls are covered with work by iconic anonymous street artist Banksy.
“The aim is to tell the story of the wall from every side and give visitors the opportunity to discover it for themselves,” Banksy said in a statement. The artist hopes his newest art project, a functional hotel, will entice young Israelis to visit the controversial site, even though the journey would entail an illegal journey through Palestinian-controlled land.
“I would like to invite everyone to come here, invite Israeli civilians to come visit us here,” hotel manager Wisam Salsaa said. “We want them to learn more about us, because when they know us it will break down the stereotypes and things will change.”
The hotel itself is also designed to educate visitors and incite dialogue between them ― in typical Banksy fashion, with a dark sense of humor. On one bedroom wall, a mural depicts an Israeli man and a Palestinian man engaged in a pillow fight. Another wall features an array of surveillance cameras lined up like trophies of a hunt.
The hotel website described its piano bar as follows: “Guests can peruse a collection of Banksy artworks that include vandalized oil paintings and statues choking on tear gas fumes. Warm scones and freshly brewed tea are served daily on fine bone china and the Walled Off Salad should not be missed.”
The piano bar is a visual nod to Britain’s colonial legacy on Palestinian territory. The hotel’s opening was coordinated to correspond with the centennial of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which declared the U.K.’s support for Palestine serving as a national home for the Jewish people.
Also included on the hotel premises is a gallery devoted to showing the work of Palestinian artists. Curated by Housni Alkhateeb Shehada, the space is meant to provide artists who often have trouble traveling access to a wider audience.
The hotel will open to guests on March 11, and rooms start at just $30 a night. Not too shabby to be up close and personal with artworks worth millions of dollars. You will, however, be forced to put down a $1,000 deposit up front, to ensure that the valuable artworks are not stolen or vandalized.
“The artwork here has been donated to the community and their struggle,” the artist wrote online, “and any person found attempting to steal from them, or deface hotel property, will be arrested, transported to the police station in Ramallah and prosecuted to the full extent of local law.”