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 travelers something more elusive than any luxury destination.
“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.
Banksy’s reputation is likely to keep all rooms fully booked, but he wants guests to leave with more than just a selfie. “(It’s) a three-storey cure for fanaticism, with limited car parking,” he added in the statement.
The hotel opens to guests on 20 March, with bookings via the website. The team hope Israelis, who rarely see the barrier wall up close or visit Palestinian towns, will be among the guests, even though visiting means breaking the law.
“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.”