It was always as much as an intervention as it was a hotel. When Banksy opened the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem in Palestine in the West Bank in 2017, it was met by both amazement and a bit of shock. In what, in a way, like, "Wait, he opened an actual hotel in the West Bank? By the wall? How did he get that done?" And of course there was the simple: "I want to go. Can I go? Is it safe? I need to go." But there were also more vital questions and anwsers that the hotel offered: what is the history of this region? What is the West's role in this history? The year 2017 was important as it marked the 100 years since the "British took control of Palestine and helped kick start a century of confusion and conflict." And of course in true Banksy fashion, he noted, "At the time of writing there are no special events being planned to mark the occasion." This was a real hotel, with real world implications in a region occupied by Israel with wartime conditions dominating the consciousness of the people there. For Banksy and Walled Off Hotel manager, Wisam Salsaa, this was the opportunity to tell the story of a people, a region and a culture. 

After our Israel-Palestine episode at the end of 2023, Radio Juxtapoz wanted to return to the stories of the region but also highlight those who help give Palestinian artists a voice and platform. Wisam, for his years as a tour guide in Bethlehem and now the manager of the Walled Off Hotel (which, of course, is currently closed), helped make Banksy's vision for the hotel come to life and continued to operate it through the following years. In this episode, Jux editor Evan Pricco speaks to Wisam about the creation of the Walled Off, the artistic culture in the West Bank, how street art brought international attention to the region and how Banky changed the way many in the West began to think about its role in the history of Palestine. 

You can follow the Walled Off Hotel at @walledoffhotel

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The Radio Juxtapoz podcast is hosted by FIFTH WALL TV's Doug Gillen and Juxtapoz editor, Evan Pricco. Episode 140 was recorded in May 2024. Follow us on ⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠@radiojuxtapoz⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠