Yesterday was a sad day. At 6 pm I was catching up with a friend on the phone. After we went through the routine-questions, she informed me that a famous Israeli actor and peace activist had just been murdered. I rushed to the computer to type in his name: Juliano Mer Khamis. His page had already been updated on Wikipedia: born 29 May 1958, dead 4 April 2011. He was only 52.
He was the son of a Jewish mother and a Christian Arab father. Born in Nazareth, he served in the Israeli army. Later on, he grew increasingly resentful of the Israeli occupation and became overtly pro-Palestinian. He then turned to art therapy, founding a drama group in the West Bank city of Jenin. Eventually, with the collaboration of Palestinian and foreign help, he was able to open the “Freedom Theater”, which is also the place where he was murdered yesterday (www.thefreedomtheater.org).
Although his murderers are still unidentified, it is known that his work, provocative and unconventional, generated discontent among members of the local Islamic community. In fact, the place had already been set on fire on 2009 and Juliano received several death threats for his “subversive activities”, such as bringing together boys and girls to act. He was also very much criticized for staging a play where children played the role of pigs (from the novel “Animal Farm”).
It is interesting that Juliano drew inspiration for his theatrical work from his mother, Arna. She was a political activist and she chose theater as a means of cultural combat: in 1987 she established a children theater in the same refugee camp. Her and Juliano’s work is documented in the documentary “Arna’s Children”, a very moving portrait of the harsh reality of the camp.
Here is an interesting interview:
You can watch this and other videos where Juliano speaks about the Freedom Theater on Youtube: