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Banksy's 'Scar of Bethlehem' nativity unveiled in West Bank hotel

UK-based street artist Banksy's artwork named "Scar of Bethlehem" depicting nativity scene with Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus in front of the Israeli separation wall is displayed at "The Walled Off" hotel in Bethlehem, West Bank on December 22, 2019 [Issam Rimawi / Anadolu Agency]
UK-based street artist Banksy's artwork named "Scar of Bethlehem" depicting nativity scene with Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus in front of the Israeli separation wall is displayed at "The Walled Off" hotel in Bethlehem, West Bank on December 22, 2019 [Issam Rimawi / Anadolu Agency]

British street artist Banksy has brought a sombre Christmas spirit to a hotel he founded in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, with a nativity scene evoking the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Dubbed “Scar of Bethlehem”, the display features a miniature Jesus, Mary and Joseph under a rendition of Israel’s concrete West Bank barrier punctured by bullet holes, the largest of which resembles a star over the manger.

It is located in The Walled Off Hotel, which abuts the real barrier, and which the secretive Banksy opened in 2017.

“Christmas (is) known (for) the Star of Bethlehem, that led people to the birthplace of Jesus,” said hotel manager Wisam Salsa, adding:

You see there is a scar, there is a hole on the wall that marks the wall and the life in Bethlehem how it is today.

UK-based street artist Banksy's artwork named "Scar of Bethlehem" depicting nativity scene with Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus in front of the Israeli separation wall is displayed at "The Walled Off" hotel in Bethlehem, West Bank on December 22, 2019 [Issam Rimawi / Anadolu Agency]

UK-based street artist Banksy’s artwork named “Scar of Bethlehem” depicting nativity scene with Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus in front of the Israeli separation wall is displayed at “The Walled Off” hotel in Bethlehem, West Bank on December 22, 2019 [Issam Rimawi / Anadolu Agency]

Israel says the barrier that cuts through the West Bank is a bulwark against Palestinian suicide bombers. Palestinians see it as a symbol of oppression in Israeli-occupied land they want for a state.

Read: Israel bars Gaza’s Christians from visiting Bethlehem and Jerusalem at Christmas

Arnaud Lucien, a tourist from France, saw hope in the art.

“It’s a scene, a biblical scene which is turned political,” he said. “And the message is very interesting because the message of peace is done for Palestinians and Israelis, and I think it’s a very nice piece of art.”

In the centre of Bethlehem, which is revered as the birthplace of Jesus, pilgrims and tourists from all over the world were flocking to Manger Square in the build-up to Christmas on December 25.

Many posed for photographs in front of a large crib and Christmas tree erected in front of the Church of the Nativity, eating candy floss and buying red and white hats from a Palestinian dressed as Santa Claus.

Christians make up around 1% of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Read: Palestinian ‘Santas’ barred from Jerusalem for Christmas

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