’Occupation, Palestinians can´t kill the art´ (JERUSALEM POST) By BEN HARTMAN 04/05/12)
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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.
In the 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 Mediterranean Sea.
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 threats.
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 too.”
Speaking ahead of the event, Israeli filmmaker Udi Aloni, who worked
at the Freedom Theater with Mer- Khamis, spoke about the significance
of the night.
“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
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.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post
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