A month before our Israel trip, Israel and Hamas had a small skirmish that left us wondering if we should cancel our trip to the troubled area. We were scheduled to go over the Christmas holiday, and had been looking forward to it for months. We decided to continue on with our trip, and we were both glad we did.
After visiting both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, we wanted to visit Bethlehem, which is actually in Palestine. We took a public bus to the border crossing, and once on the other side, we hired a cab driver to show us around for the day. He took us to the usual historic sights such as the Church of the Nativity (the place of Jesus’ birth), and Shepherd’s Fields (where the shepherds saw the star guiding them). He also asked us if we would like to see some street art.
Banksy Street Art!
Of course we did! Probably the most famous street art in Bethlehem was painted by Banksy, when he visited in the mid-2000s. However, there are many more amazing depictions that have been added since. It is definitely worth a visit, and actually, the street art images remained in my mind longer than the churches and museums.
This image, titled “Girl and a Soldier”, is one of the most famous Banksy pieces. The girl, in her ponytail and schoolgirl dress, can be seen frisking a soldier, who is wearing a helmet, fatigues, and flak vest. An M16 shotgun is painted near them. The painting has invited many different interpretations and analyses of the situation between Israel and Palestine.
Another painting that is sure to strike a chord is the painting of the dove, carrying an olive branch, wearing a flak vest and a target painted on it’s chest. It is called the “Armored Dove of Peace” and is believed to be a Banksy piece, although other street artists have also been credited. The irony of this piece is that the concrete walls behind the painting are riddled with bullet holes, some of them hidden by the “Welcome to Palestine” poster.
Sometimes titled “Rage the flower thrower”, or “Love is in the air”, this piece features a man, face covered, preparing to launch a weapon at a combatant. However, the irony in this piece is that the “weapon” is a bunch of wildflowers. The man is painted in black and white; the only color in the art is the flowers themselves.
Street Art Messages
This piece originally read “Revolution have started hear and will continue until….”, but pieces of it can no longer be seen. Like other street art pieces, the creator has mainly used black and white to show the grim realities of war, except for a splash of green and red in the flag,which is of course the colors of the Palestinian flag.
We took a photo of this stretch of the wall, because it was a much-needed reminder of “love”. Near the “LOVE” in block letters, artists have added “No walls”, “This Lie Cannot Live”, and “Burn the Wall”, forceful reminders that the people living inside those walls wish there was another way.
The “Angel Sprinkling Hearts” piece can be found near the Ararat Hotel. As of November 2017, this piece is hard to find, as the building next to it is under construction, but the piece is still there! On any given day there are tourists scouting for these pieces, so just follow the crowd, or ask a local taxi driver.
Although the Banky street art has gotten quite commercialized in recent years, it is still worth a trip to Bethlehem to see not only the religious history, but the political street art. You can easily walk most of the Separation Wall (it’s about 4 km to see several pieces of street art), or you can go with a local taxi driver. They will likely be able to direct you to even more pieces, and share a little bit about their life in this strange divided country.
Guest writer: My name is Deah, and I love to travel. I wanted to travel the world so I found a job I could do while traveling: I became an international teacher in 2003. While teaching abroad for nine years, I lived in Haiti, Nicaragua, and then Africa. In 2014, my husband and I took a year off work, rented out our house, and traveled all of SE Asia.
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