A life dedicated to creative non-violent resistance against the Israeli occupation of Palestine was cut short when Juliano Mer-Khamis was shot dead by unknown masked gunman in the West Bank town of Jenin on April 4.
Mer-Khamis was an Israeli citizen, born to a Jewish mother and a Palestinian Christian father.
In 2009, Mer-Khamis told Israeli army radio: “I am 100% Palestinian and 100% Jewish.”
At the time of his death, Mer-Khamis was just 52-years-old. He was a father and a husband.
He was also a political activist committed to peaceful opposition to the ongoing military occupation oppressing the Palestinian people. It was this that led him to co-found The Freedom Theatre.
The theatre was built to continue the legacy of his mother, Arna Mer. She was a peace activist who created The Stone Theatre in 1987 in the aftermath of the first Palestinian intifada (“uprising”) as a safe space for children to enter into a world of creative and cultural escape.
The theatre was destroyed during the second intifada. In 2004, The Freedom Theatre was built.
Mer-Khamis built the theatre to again create a space for Palestinians to find creative ways to counter violent attacks. It aimed to continue the cultural project begun by his mother, bringing empowerment to young people in a part of the world marred by constant conflict in the form of a military occupation.
An editorial on ScrollPost.com said: “To kill a person like Juliano is like killing peace itself.”
Staff at the Freedom Theatre have vowed to continue their work.
In a statement soon after his death, staff and students at the theatre said: “Just as The Freedom Theatre was built on the inspiration and legacy of Arna, his mother, so will its future work be built on the legacy of Juliano.
“It will carry on his message to promote freedom — not only for a nation but for each human being.
“We are mourning, but we will continue our resistance through art, continue our struggle, continue to do our better than best.”
The theatre operates as the cultural-heart of the Jenin refugee camp, home to predominantly young population of 16,000 Palestinian refugees.
Mer-Khamis believed that the Palestinian people had to learn how to resist oppression without resorting to the techniques used against them.
“This is the transition that the Palestinian people are going now through, that the weapon is not going to free us,” he said in a June 6, 2008 interview broadcast on GRITtv.
“We can not confront this huge machine of the Israelis and the Americans.
“But we believe that poetry, identity, values ... can destroy wars, values can end up freeing ourself from within our society.
“The Freedom Theatre I think took a stand which is a little bit radical and not very common in Palestine — that to free ourself from the Israeli occupation, first we have to free ourselves.
“We can not free ourselves from the enemy if we are not going to free our weak section of society from within.”