The Israeli arts community is today mourning the actor, filmmaker, theater director and political activist, Juliano Mer Khamis who was murdered outside of the Freedom Theater, a community theater that he established in Jenin.
Mer Khamis, born in Nazareth, is the son of a Jewish mother and a Palestinian Christian father. He served in the IDF and appeared in numerous Israeli feature films.
His mother, the moving force that brought a children's theater project to Jenin, was documented in the film, directed by Mer Khamis, called Arna's Children. The film provides an extraordinary in-depth look at the boys who participated in the theater group – their dreams, their experiences, and what becomes of them. These boys are Arna’s children. Watch the film on youtube.
In the film, Arna is a Jewish woman with a keffiyeh, a woman who organizes protest marches, a woman who has lost her hair from chemotherapy. She served in the Palmach, then joined the Communist party, where she met her Palestinian husband. In the early 1990s, she received an alternative Nobel Prize from the Swedish parliament and used the $50,000 prize to build some rooms to house a theater group for children in the Jenin refugee camp.
When Arna died, the theater was closed. Years later, her son, Mer Khamis opened the Freedom Theater in an attempt to bring artistic expression, appreciation of the theater, and political awareness to the youngsters of Jenin. See the video clip of Mer Khamis talking about the Freedom Theater.I am shocked that Mer Khamis was murdered – someone who was working for artistic expression, someone whose very life and body expressed a bridge between Palestinians and Israelis. May his life and work inspire us all.