Displacement & Separation in Bethlehem

Nadia Rahman
7 min readJul 21, 2022


Life in military occupation.

A day tour from Jerusalem brought me to Bethlehem, Palestine, the place where Jesus was born. In Bethlehem, I learned about important aspects of the military occupation — namely the separation wall and its impact, and I visited a refugee camp that has housed Palestinian families for generations since the Nakba.

Visiting Banksy’s Infamous Walled Off Hotel

World famous British artist Banksy created and opened the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem in 2017. The hotel promises “the worst view in the world” as it is positioned right next to the Israeli Separation Wall. You can book a room and spend the night in the hotel. Inside, the art speaks to the tragedy and human toll of the Israeli military occupation of Palestine (both the West Bank and Gaza), and the hotel is home to a museum that takes visitors through the history — from the Balfour Declaration, to the creation of the state of Israel, to the Nakba and all the way to the present day military occupation. Photos of the museum exhibits were not allowed, but visitors are allowed to take photos of the art around the hotel.

Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, Palestine
A sampling off the art installations inside Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, Palestine

Main takeaways from the museum exhibition:

The Balfour Declaration exhibit at Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel.

Visiting the Israeli Separation Wall in the West Bank

“Palestine has been occupied by the Israeli army since 1967. In 2002 the Israeli government began building a wall separating the occupied territories from Israel, much of it illegal under international law. It is controlled by a series of checkpoints and observation towers, stands three times the height of the Berlin wall and will eventually run for over 700km, the distance from London to Zurich…” — Banksy, Wall and Piece

The separation wall in Bethlehem, Palestine

The separation wall was approved in 2002 by the Israeli Cabinet after a string of deadly attacks perpetrated by Palestinian against Israelis in the Second Intifada. Although the barrier was built in the name of security, it became a tool for annexation of Palestinian lands by Israel. 85 percent of the 700 kilometer (400+ mile) barrier runs through the West Bank, not on the Green Line which is the internationally recognized boundary for a Palestinian state.

The “green line” and separation wall around the West Bank.

Similar to how racism shaped the construction of America’s highways, racism and breaking up Palestinian communities shaped this wall. Additionally, the barrier has strangled the economy of the Palestinian territories and blocks many Palestinian farmers from accessing their land. Although the wall was built in the name of security, it is a tool of racism, dispossession, subordination and oppression. Everyday, 50,000 Palestinians “jump” the wall to head to jobs in Israel. The separation wall has been deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice.

Images of the graffiti art on the separation wall in Bethlehem, Palestine.

Living as a Refugee in a Military Occupation for Generations

We visited the Aida refugee camp which was created in 1950, is run by the United Nations, and where generations of families have lived since the Nakba when 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and 530 villages were destroyed to create the state of Israel. Their origins are 35 villages from Jerusalem and the area west of Hebron. It houses approximately 3,150 people on less than one square kilometer of land. It is near two large illegal Israeli settlements and the Separation Wall was built next to it, limiting access to job opportunities in East Jerusalem and Israel — isolating the camp. Additionally, residents of the camp regularly face incursions and violence from Israeli Security Forces per the UN. The camp’s infrastructure is old and in poor condition. Water access, for example: “is now provided to Aida camp for two days every other week, during which residents replenish their water tanks. However, the existing water network has not been upgraded since 1972 and the camp experiences constant water leakages.”

Aida Refugee Camp — Bethlehem, Palestine

Per my guide, many refugee families still have the keys to their family homes they were expelled from or fled during the Nakba. We saw this brought to life in the camp — in murals, overpasses and jewelry and souvenirs sold in small shops. The key has become a present day symbol of the Palestinian right to return to the homes they were displaced from in present-day Israel. In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 194 which has been reaffirmed more than 135 times but never enforced.

“Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours … to do so at the earliest practicable date.” — United Nations Resolution 194

The streets outside of Aida Refugee Camp — Bethlehem, Palestine

Today, there are 5.2 million registered Palestinian refugees around the world per Amnesty International. That count is up to 7 million per Refugees International. Per the United Nations, more than 1.5 million Palestinians live in 58 refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Aida Refugee Camp — Bethlehem, Palestine

“An old man in Gaza held a placard that read: “You take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bombard my country, starve us all, humiliate us all, but I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.” — Noam Chomsky

Aida Refugee Camp — Bethlehem, Palestine

This post is part of a series of posts of my visit to Israel and Palestine in July 2022. The essays cover an overview of my trip + a look at American responsibility; the military occupation in Hebron; my experience with surveillance, policing and profiling in Jerusalem; and why justice means freedom for the Palestinian people.




Nadia Rahman

Communicator, Organizer & Activist. Issues: intersectional feminism, SWANA + Muslim identity, social + racial justice. Very political. www.nadiarahman.com.