It is with great sadness that I note the murder of activist, actor, director Juliano Mer Khamis, the director of the Jenin Freedom Theater. Although there are currently conflicting press reports regarding the circumstances of his killing, Palestinian authorities have reported that he was shot five times by “Palestinian militants.”
Mer Khamis was a remarkable and inspiring man – the son of a Palestinian father and a Jewish mother who devoted his life to giving the young people of the Jenin refugee camp a healing, creative outlet in the midst of unbearably dire cirumstances.
Mer Khamis…has faced threats since forever: From conservatives in the camp who took a strong dislike to the theatre’s liberal repertoire and casting of both men and women, both boys and girls; from nationalists who saw him as an agent of the occupation, a promoter of normalization; and from just about every Israeli who commented on any news piece covering him and his activity.
There will be so much said and written about Juliano in the coming days. Friends and students will laud his tremendous bravery, his contempt for the walls and barriers – especially barriers of fear – that crisscross our country, his sense of stage, his talent. Enemies will pour mud on him, rejoicing in the death of one they see as a half-breed and a turncoat. Comrades will remember a complex and uneasy man, as famous for his rough temper as he was for his devotion to the cause.
I had the honor of visiting the Jenin Freedom Theater this past December with 20 members of my congregation. Although we didn’t get to meet Juliano personally, we can all attest to the inspiring fruits of his life’s work. May it live on forever. And may his memory be for a blessing.
I can think of no great honor to his memory that to watch “Arna’s Children” – an amazing 2003 documentary, co-directed by Mer Khamis, that profiles the history of the Freedom Theater. Please click on the clip above for the first installment. The following eight can be found on YouTube – search: “Arna’s Children.”