Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem has closed amid Israel’s ongoing assaults on Palestine, which have killed more than 20,000 people in Gaza and hundreds in the Occupied West Bank where the hotel is located. The three-star establishment houses Banksy artworks in its rooms and lobby and directly faces the illegal wall that has facilitated what many organizations describe as a system of apartheid in the region since its construction over two decades ago. Banksy has painted several works denouncing Israeli violence on the over 443-mile-long barrier, and the Walled Off Hotel boasts the self-proclaimed “worst view in the world.”

“Due to major developments in the region we have with regret chosen to close the hotel for the time being,” the hotel said in an Instagram statement. “We will post updates here as the situation evolves.”

Bethlehem, the biblical birthplace of Jesus situated six miles south of Jerusalem, has long served as a pilgrimage destination. Tourists must pass through an Israeli military checkpoint to get to the city; Palestinians need a special permit to leave. Israel has continuously constructed settlements in the West Bank, and even before the October 7 Hamas attack that killed 1,200 Israeli civilians and soldiers, this year had proven the deadliest in history for the occupied territory, with at least 483 Palestinians killed there.

Among other amenities, the highly rated Walled Off Hotel includes a British colonial-themed lobby bar with “an air of undeserved authority,” according to its website, that serves tea and scones beneath hanging depictions of cherubs with oxygen masks. A Classical-style sculpture choking on teargas looks over the scene. The hotel’s gallery features the work of local artists, and a museum and bookstore are dedicated to the history of the barrier steps away from the museum’s front doors.

The Walled Off Hotel opened in 2017, the 100-year anniversary of Britain’s Balfour Declaration that stated the nation’s intention to create a homeland for Jewish people in Palestine. Banksy held a satirical “apology” tea party for Palestinians timed with the United Kingdom’s formal celebration of its century-old proclamation.

Among other artworks, Banksy created a 2019 sculpture for the hotel titled “Scar of Bethlehem,” a nativity scene below a segment of concrete wall perforated with what looks like a star-shaped remnant of an explosion. A decade earlier, Banksy painted a rat holding a slingshot on an abandoned Israeli military outpost close to the nearby barrier. The work was reported in a Tel Aviv art gallery last summer, and the Palestinian Tourism Ministry denounced the transport as a “theft of the property of the Palestinian people.”

The Walled Off Hotel has not responded to Hyperallergic’s inquiry into the status of the establishment’s art collection, its staff, or its plans for reopening. Banksy’s representative organization Pest Control has not replied to a request for comment.

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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