In this ostensible season of joy, Banksy, that elusive master of street art, recently devised two tender but searing pieces to remind fellow humans to do justice and love mercy, even in improbable places. In Birmingham, amidst rising rates of homelessness in the U.K. - over 300,000 people, almost half of them children - he offered rough sleepers the big-hearted chance to soar in their dreams by painting two reindeer pulling a bench where many of the city's homeless bed down. (Soon after, in a classic Banksy-ish move, another anonymous artist turned the reindeers' noses red.) Banksy also posted a brief video of a man named Ryan calmly preparing for sleep on the bench to the plaintive tune of "I'll Be Home For Christmas." "God bless Birmingham," Banksy wrote, noting that in the 20 minutes they filmed Ryan, passers-by, unasked, gave him a hot drink, two chocolate bars and a lighter.
In Palestine, such acts of kindness are few and far between. Hence, the second Banksy: Inside his caustic but popular Walled-Off Hotel, hard by the Apartheid Wall and boasting "the worst view in the world," he created the Scar of Bethlehem, a "modified" nativity scene. It features Mary, Joseph, Jesus and a few animals; over them looms the Wall, with an massive, angry, star-shaped bullet hole replacing the traditional Star of Bethlehem - though the wall also bears the words "Love" and "Paix" scrawled behind them. "We see there is a scar," notes the hotel manager. “Banksy is trying to remind the world that the people of Bethlehem, where Christmas was started, are not celebrating Christmas like the rest of the world.” Nor, it must be said, are so many others living grievously less than celebratory lives. For the kids, from Banksy and the rest of us: Joy to the world, all of it.
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Earlier Banksy commentary on the rich and poor.