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Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Remembering Juliano Mer-Khamis

This week, Palestinians especially those from the refugee camp of Jenin in the northern West Bank, are mourning the death of peace-activist and theatre director Juliano Mer-Khamis

Ahram Online, Wednesday 6 Apr 2011
Juliano Mer Khamis
Palestinians hold signs and posters depicting Arab-Israeli actor and director Juliano Mer Khamis during a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah April 5, 2011. [photo: Reuters]
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On 4 April, Juliano Mer-Khamis, 52, was shot five times and killed in a car in front of his ‘Freedom Theatre’, a drama project which he had founded, following his mother’s initiative during the first Palestinian Intifada in 1987 in Jenin.

He was accompanied by his one-year old son who was unharmed, and a nanny who was wounded in the hand.

The work of the Palestinian citizen of Israeli origin had become widely-appreciated over the years among Palestinians. He brought together young men and women, which angered the conservative Islamic elements in Jenin.

According to several news reports in the West Bank and Jerusalem, Juliano Mer Khamis had received threats relating to his work in Jenin.

The Freedom Threatre was attacked with firebombs on several occasions, despite its popularity among local militants.

Mer-Khamis was born in Nazareth to a Jewish mother Arna Mer, who was an activist for the rights of Palestinians, and an Arab-Christian father Saliba Khamis, who was one of the leaders of the Israeli Communist Party in the 1950s.

Referring to himself as “100 per cent Palestinian and 100 per cent Jewish” on Israeli Army radio in 2009, Mer-Khamis is renowned for his film ‘Arna's Children’, which celebrated his mother’s work as an activist, which he continued after her death in 1994.

In 2006, Mer-Khamis created the Freedom Theatre along with Zakaria Zubaeidi, the former military leader of the Jenin Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Jonatan Stanczak a Swedish-Israeli activist, and Dorr Feiler a Swedish-Israeli artist.

His theatre was for the community, providing opportunities for the children and youth of the Jenin refugee camp by developing skills, self-knowledge and confidence and using the creative process as a model for social change.

Mer-Khamis is also known among the Palestinian communities around the world for his international film roles on the fight for Palestinian rights, including his first film role in the 1984 production of the John Le Carre novel The Little Drummer Girl, about Mossad's hunt for a PLO bomber; the film was directed by George Roy Hill and starred Diane Keaton.

Among his many acting roles are Avi Nesher’s film Za’am V’Tehilah in 1985, Tel Aviv Stories in 1992, Zohar in 1993 and Kippur in 2000 to name a few.

Mer-Khamis was nominated for an Ophir award as Best Actor in 2002.

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