If you’re ever in Bethlehem, don’t miss the Walled Off Hotel, even if just for a cup of coffee. It was the most memorable visit of the entire week.
Bankrolled by the artist Banksy, this is not only one of the finest hotels and best coffee shops in Bethlehem, but a bold political statement.
The Separation Barrier towers above it, just a few paces away. It’s a modern day Berlin Wall in that it is meant to keep people in, not out (although Israel would classify it as a necessary means of security).
And in the shadow of that wall, filled with fascinating political statements, metaphors, and artwork, is a business that represents the hope of the Palestinian people of a brighter tomorrow.
As you step in the lobby, you’ll immediately appreciate the bohemian theme.
But look closer at the Banksy artwork:
After your coffee or tea (which is excellent and served on beautiful china), head to the museum.
It tells the story of the Arab-Israeli conflict in a very digestible way, breaking down a complex issue into a simpler one. Oh, there is bias. But the bias is not driven purely by emotion, but by genuine pain and a history of struggle.
We should have brought our bags. I had wanted to spend a night here, but it showed sold out on the website (the hotel only has five rooms, each uniquely designed and featuring original artwork). But in chatting with the lovely Amanda at the front desk, there was an extra room available. What a shame I did not take our bags…but next time.
If you’re interested in some original artwork or making your own, you can visit Wall Mart next door, also part of the Walled Off Hotel property.
The hotel lobby is almost as significant a political statement as the walls outside. It’s a must if you want to understand the conflict better and better empathize with the Palestinian people.
This is issue is so much more complex than we can realistically address here. I don’t dismiss the beautiful aspirations of the Israeli people for a peaceful and stable homeland after so much persecution. I admire what an economic powerhouse and stable liberal democracy Israel has become (present election fiasco exempted). There is no easy solution. It would be like asking the U.S. to give back land to Native American tribes. It’s simply not an option.
Perhaps there is no solution at all for the Arab-Israeli conflict.
And yet my heart weeps for the Palestinian people. To be trapped. To be stateless. Such wasted human capital when social mobility is so curtailed. Most just want safety, security, and land…that’s hardly a gross generalization. Most don’t want to be subjects, but equal citizens.
So while “can’t we all just get along?” may be hopelessly naive at this point, it pained me personally–as an outsider–to see a wall dividing people with similar goals, dreams, and aspirations.
Thanks to reader Melissa for recommending we stop here.