Artist Banksy opens Bethlehem hotel

Above a bed in The Walled Off Hotel, an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian protester fight with pillows.
Above a bed in The Walled Off Hotel, an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian protester fight with pillows.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BETHLEHEM (West Bank)• Secretive British street artist Banksy opened a hotel next to Israel's controversial separation wall in Bethlehem last Friday, his latest artwork in the Palestinian territories.

The Walled Off Hotel is only 4m from the wall which cuts through the occupied West Bank and all the rooms face it.

"It has the worst view of any hotel in the world," Banksy said in a statement. The man himself was not in attendance, though dozens of his new works adorn the walls.

A spokesman said it was his largest new collection in years.

Hotel manager Wissam Salsaa said the rooms will be rented out from March 20 starting at US$30 (S$42) a night for a bed in the bunkroom. The nine rooms have a deliberate faded luxury, with typical Banksy touches.

Above one bed an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian protester fight with pillows, while a TV set supposedly showing CNN is cracked and turned inwards. In a hall, a painting of a beautiful landscape is trapped behind a grate. In the presidential suite, a working jacuzzi is fed from a leaking water tank similar to those that adorn the roofs of many Palestinian homes.

There is also a gallery selling Palestinian art and a museum highlighting the history of the region and Western interference in it. At a push of a button, a moving statue of former British prime minister Arthur Balfour signs the decree which promised Jews a homeland in the land at that time called Palestine.

Seven of the bedrooms were designed by Banksy himself.

The wall is one of the most striking symbols of Israel's 50-year occupation and has become a major focus for demonstrations and artwork. Israel refers to it as the security barrier and insists it is crucial for keeping out would-be attackers.

Banksy has maintained his anonymity despite numerous theories and attempts to reveal his identity. Details of exactly how he worked on the year-long hotel project are closely protected.

Mr Husam Zomlot, a special advisor to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, said they had no idea about the hotel until it opened.

While most Palestinian cities in the West Bank are forbidden for Israelis to visit, the hotel owners say the part of Bethlehem where the hotel is located is under Israeli control.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2017, with the headline 'Artist Banksy opens Bethlehem hotel'. Print Edition | Subscribe