Nestled just thirteen feet from the Israeli separation wall stands anonymous British artist Banksy’s largest and most controversial political testament yet, The Walled Off Hotel. The hotel opened earlier this month on the West Bank in Jerusalem and is a temporary and self-financed project of the famous artist.
Its creation marks the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a letter sent from Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, stating that Palestine has become “a national home for the Jewish people”. This document was the cause of considerable controversy and backlash whose eventual outcome lead to the wall that currently divides the nation of Palestine with the state of Israel.
With the wall blocking much of the sunlight, it’s “the worst view of any hotel in the world,” said Banksy, which very much seems to be his point. Whilst the hotel view and its location forces guests to face the harsh reality that the Palestinians have to had to endure, the interior confronts the various political facets of the situation whilst incorporating many of the first world elements of a hotel that we seemingly take for granted.
The three-story hotel offers hostel-like accommodations as well as 9 private rooms and suites ranging anywhere from $30 to $965 a night. The more budget friendly rooms resemble military barracks with iron bunk beds and cold concrete walls. The suites are lavishly adorned and decorated, of course, with Banksy’s signature political art pieces. The rest of the hotel resembles an gentleman’s club from era of colonial Britain, complete with a tea room serving high tea in fine china, a museum dedicated to telling the story of the declaration and the wall, and even a piano bar which served as the focal point for the The Walled Off Hotel’s grand opening celebration which included the special guest Sir Elton John, alongside an art gallery filled with local artists’ work. After Banksy commissioned the project, it became an entirely independent local business, with none of its profits going back to its creator.
The Walled Off Hotel isn’t meant to offer guests the typical “vacation” experience, but rather to expose them to the realities of middle-eastern conflict. Although it’s not the most economically thriving part of town, several restaurants, shops, and bars surround the hotel, which Banksy assures is safe for tourists as well as locals.
Banksy hopes for the Palestinian-staffed hotel to keep its doors open until the end of the centennial year so plan your visit soon for this unquestionably inspiring and thought provoking experience.
To learn more about the West Bank, join Zay Harding as he explores Holy Lands in our Globe Trekker Series Holy Lands Jerusalem: The West Bank
The Walled off Hotel
182 Caritas Street
Written by Savannah Chinelli, intern for Pilot Productions HQ in London