The Walled Off Hotel of Banksy and the Wall of West Bank in Palestine

The Walled Off Hotel of Banksy is such an eccentric hotel that it has become a tourist destination. I always tell hoteliers that tourists are going to visit the destination, not their hotel, but in this case it is the opposite. The hotel is part of the destination and is located in front of the Israeli security wall at West Bank in the town of Bethlehem in Palestine.

As a travel agent, I have to go to inspect hotels before offering them to my clients. Most hotels are similar in appearance and service, especially large chains. It is very rare to find a really unique hotel such as Banksy’s creation.

The history of the wall in West Bank Palestine

If you visit the Middle East you should try to understand the conflict between Israel and Palestine. In summary, Israel took control of West Bank in 1967 after the 6-day war. Jordan had prior control of the area. This territory is now considered Palestine Occupied by Israel.

2.8 million Palestinians live in this area. In order to leave their country they have to go through Israeli security. The West Bank wall was created in 2000 as an initiative of the Israeli government to control suicide bombings and acts of terrorism by Palestinians in their country.

The wall is 708 kilometers (440 miles) and is considered a violation of international law. 150 countries condemned the wall at the United Nations General Assembly. Only 6 voted in favor, including the United States and 10 abstained.

Palestinians regard the wall as a violation of their right to mobility and call it a racial segregation or a wall of apartheid. As a sign of protest, the Palestinians decided to start painting the wall with graffiti. The messages were traditionally done to raise awareness about the conflict.

Banksy’s famous graffiti

Banksy visited Palestine between 2005-2007. Here he create some of his most iconic pieces. He made nine pieces on the wall in Bethlehem. These pieces became viral on the internet.

Banksy is one of the most famous graffiti artists worldwide, but nobody knows who he is. You only know that he lives in London.

The graffiti served to attract international attention, but not everyone was happy with the fact. A lady from Palestine told him, “We don’t want this wall to be beautiful, we hate it. Go to your house”.

Banksy’s opinion on the wall of Palestine

“How illegal is it to vandalize a wall if the wall itself has been deemed unlawful by the International Court of Justice? The Israeli government is building a wall surrounding the occupied Palestinian territories. It stands three times the height of the Berlin wall and will eventually run for over 700km – the distance from London to Zurich. The International Court of Justice last year ruled the wall and its associated regime is illegal. It essentially turns Palestine into the world’s largest open-air prison.”

-Banksy en el 2005

New art on the wall of West Bank in Bethlehem

I visited the area in November 2017. I didn’t see them all of Banksy’s arts. It seems they might have painted on the wall. Banksy’s messages were aimed at raising awareness of the situation and asking for peace. What is true is that after the graffiti the violence in the area has dropped.

Just before going it seems that the Australian artist known as Lushsux (his identity is unknown as well) did a survey on social media to see what he painted. The new arts have nothing to do with the Palestinian conflict with Israel. They are attacks on Trump who has also been an advocate of the idea of creating walls, like the one he wants to do between the United States and Mexico.

One of Trump’s arts has the president of the United States using a kippa while he touches the wall and says “I’m going to build you a brother.” In another Hillary Clinton says “what happened?” And Trump, answers “I happened.”

The wall is becoming like an urban art gallery rather than a symbol of protest.

Next to The Walled Off Hotel there is a shop that is ironically called “Wall Mart” with a large sign that says “paint the wall, it is not “not” legal”. In the store they have stencils with designs, spray paint and even have stairs.

I saw some very blond children who looked European painting the wall with spray paint while their mother looked at them. I would have liked to paint something but since we were short of time I did not have the opportunity.

The Walled Off Hotel of Banksy has the worst view of Palestine

A part of the West Bank wall that is 26 feet high is right in front of The Walled Off Hotel. The hotel welcomes you with a chimpanzee dressed in red with suitcases as if it were a bellman. A large sign says the name of the hotel on a window covered by bars. In itself the hotel is as if it were a prison because everything is closed and dark.

I think Banksy’s idea was to make one feel a little uncomfortable and he achieved that result. Right after the lobby there is a restaurant that claims to have the best humus. In Bethlehem you can find magnets and posters that say “make hummus not war”.
If you sit down to eat you can see above you security cameras mounted on plates where usually the rich put deer heads. There are also sling shots. The restaurant is supposed to represent British life and serves tea every afternoon in fine porcelain. The piano is the center of the room and plays music by itself. On the piano there are angels with oxygen masks like the ones they use on airplanes.

There is a bookstore with all the books on the wall of Palestine. You can buy the books or rent them leaving a small deposit if you are staying at the hotel. There is also a museum that tells the biography of the wall.

Apart from Banksy’s works, The Walled Off Hotel has an art gallery with works by the most famous Palestinian artists. There is an attached space that shows works by emerging artists and you can buy works of art, prints and postcards.

Sleep with valuable works of art

I did not have the opportunity to stay, nor to visit the rooms of The Walled Off Hotel. Therefore the information in this part of the article I had to search on the hotel website.

The rooms range from $60 to $965 a night for the presidential suite. Some 700 tourists visit per day and of those 200 are Palestinians. The most basic room is hostel style with Israelite barracks. All decoration is real and includes a closet, safe and shared bathroom.

The hotel has two categories of rooms called “Artist” and “Scenic.” The artist rooms were made by artists including Banksy, Sami Musa and Dominique Petrin. While the scenic rooms have views of the wall and the watchtower of the army. The presidential suite is “equipped with everything a corrupt head of state would need” including a four-person bathtub, bookstore, tiki bar, home theater and rooftop garden.

One of the most controversial murals of the hotel is an Israeli soldier having a pillow fight with a Palestinian protester.

If you stay in any room, not including the barracks, you must leave a $1,000 deposit on your credit card. This is due to the fact that you are going to sleep with valuable works of art. The hotel inspects the room when you check out to verify that people have not damaged or stolen anything.

The Walled Off Hotel is not a joke

If you visit the website of The Walled Off Hotel and go to the questions section you will be surprised to see that the first question is “is this a joke?” The hotel is not a joke, it is real.

What is not known is how long it will last open. At the moment the website only accepts reservations until February 1, 2018. This hotel in West Bank opened on March 20, 2017.

2017 marks the 100 years since England took control of Palestine and began “a century of confusion and conflict.” Most tourists do not stay in a hotel in Bethlehem, since they go for the day and stay in a hotel in Jerusalem.The idea was to make a property sufficiently striking so that people wanted to spend the night in this country.

What to do in Bethlehem, Palestine?

It is very easy to go by bus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. There are companies that do the tour if you want to go with an organized program, but you can go on your own and do a tour with a taxi to take you to the sites. This was what we did and it was very economical. At the same time we help the economy of Palestine.

Bethlehem has become a tourist destination for all its religious sites. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a town south of Jerusalem that is part of West Bank.

Tourists will see all the religious places, including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Grotto of the Milk and the Field of the Shepherds.

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