Relatives and loved ones of actor, theater director and activist Juliano
Mer-Khamis held events in Israel and the West Bank on Wednesday to mark a year
since he was gunned down outside the theater he opened in Jenin.
late morning in Ramallah, a few dozen people, including local politicians,
rallied outside the Mukata presidential compound and the next-door grave of
Yasser Arafat to protest that no one has been brought to justice by Palestinian
Authority security forces.
Born in Nazareth to Arna Mer, a Jewish mother
and Saliba Khamis, an Arab Christian father, Mer-Khamis spent his life in both
worlds. The conflict within his own identity represented, in some ways, a sort
of microcosm of the conflicting identities between the Jordan River and the
Alongside his close friend Zakariya Zubeida, the Jenin
commander of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade, Mer-Khamis opened the “Freedom
Theater” in 2006. He often spoke about how culture and art could lead to
empowerment and serve as a sort of popular struggle in their own
The theater tackled not only matters relating to the Palestinian
struggle, but also subjects such as gender issues and individual rights that
were highly controversial and led to his receiving no shortage of death
In particular, a performance of Animal Farm held shortly before
his death drew controversy because of the fact that one of the actors depicted a
pig, considered impure in Islam.
On Wednesday night, the al-Midan Theater
in Haifa held an event with musical and theatrical performances in honor of
Mer-Khamis titled “Who Shut Me Up?”
Also on Wednesday, at the Arab-Jewish
theater in Jaffa, a group of his former students from Jenin performed a montage
from plays he directed, including Animal Farm, Alice in Wonderland and Fragments
Taiseer Khatib, who works at the Freedom Theater, said
that the murder slowed down the theater’s productions “mainly because people are
still in shock and unable to believe that Juliano doesn’t exist
Khatib said that the killing represents “a stressful sort of
silencing of the theater in Jenin and of the freedom of art
Speaking ahead of the event, Israeli filmmaker Udi Aloni, who
worked at the Freedom Theater with Mer- Khamis, spoke about the significance of
“First we’re here to mark the anniversary of the murder,
second to be angry that nobody knows who killed him and third is to continue his
vision, to continue the work with his students.”
Aloni said that only
four of the seven students invited from Jenin were able to gain permission from
Israeli authorities to attend the event, and that the other three would try to
take part somehow by phone.
Students and teachers are working hard to
maintain the Freedom Theater, though Aloni admitted that he works mainly with
graduates of the school, so that he doesn’t have to “struggle to keep his legacy
open.” He said he lost his closest friend.
“There is a tendency with
people he touched to try to keep up his vision and it’s in our hands to do so.
I’m not sure we can, but we can try,” Aloni said.
He added that the
message of the night’s performances is “that no one can kill the art, not the
occupation, and not the reactionary forces in Palestinian society either.”