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The menu is on the Wall

Palestinian restaurateur Joseph Hazboon has made the most of the fearsome West Bank wall and printed his menu on it bulletproof colours.

by: Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh: Reuters | 21 Oct 2008

When Israel ran a towering concrete "security barrier" past the window of the Hazboon family's Bethlehem property a few years ago, it seemed liked the kiss of death commercially.

But Hazboon, 35, hit on the idea of transforming what was now a highly undesirable location into a lucrative attraction.

He renamed the place "The Wall Lounge" and, judging by the results, the setting is surprisingly popular with tourists.

It seems to give them a satisfying taste of the political realities of the modern Holy Land, in addition to the religious antiquity they come to experience in the town of Bethlehem, which is revered by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus.

"The idea just came to me, like a vision," said Hazboon as he busily served lunch to a roomful of mostly foreign customers.

Hazboon has 15 years in the restaurant business. He said he had pondered leaving Bethlehem for the United States, where his mother lives, but decided instead to give the Wall Lounge a go.

Lunchtime at the Lounge finds clients pointing through the window to pick out scampi or filet mignon dishes from the menu displayed in large print on the 4-meter high concrete slabs that form the wall just across the street.

Like the Berlin Wall, which Ronald Reagan famously demanded be torn down, the Israeli barrier has attracted artists, poets, spray-paint taggers and jokers, whose colourful works take some of the menace out of its hard gray concrete slabs.

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