“The coming third Palestinian intifada will take the form of cultural resistance to the Israeli occupation” Juliano Mer Khamis
Israeli commandos, roughly 50 Israeli Special Forces troops, raided the Jenin Freedom Theatre in the Jenin Refugee Camp in the Palestinian West Bank early Wednesday, arresting two men associated with it and damaging the building, a witness said.
The Freedom Theater in Jenin, in the northern West Bank, had been an oasis of so-called cultural resistance for decades, although it was in the news for a darker reason in April, when its director, Juliano Mer Khamis, was shot to death by masked gunmen just outside it.
An army spokeswoman would confirm only that two men were arrested near the theater but gave no details on why the arrests took place or whether they were related to Mr. Mer Khamis’s killing, which remains unsolved.
The witness, Jacob Gough, who has been managing the theater on an interim basis, said he was called there around 3 a.m. Wednesday and saw several dozen Israeli soldiers throwing rocks at the windows and then arresting Adnan Naghnaghiye, a technician and site director for the theater.
Other troops went nearby to the house of Bilal Saadi, the chairman of the theater’s board, and arrested him after destroying the windows of his house, Mr. Gough added.
“I have been at the theater for three years and I have never seen anything like this,” he said by telephone from Jenin. “We’ve never had this kind of treatment.”
The soldiers, he said, ordered the two men to remove their trousers and lift their shirts. When he asked what was happening, Mr. Gough said, he was told to be quiet in harsh terms and at gunpoint.
He said the arrested men were taken to separate prisons and a lawyer had been hired to work on their cases.
Mr. Mer Khamis, 52, was a renowned actor and director who was born to an Israeli Jewish mother and a Palestinian Christian father. An Israeli citizen, he had lived for seven years in Jenin. His mother, anti-Zionist and a peace activist, founded the theater. A film Mr. Mer Khamis made about her work, “Arna’s Children,” received wide international praise and awarded the Best Documentary Feature prize at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival.
Eulegy for Juliano Mer Khamis
Juliano Mer Khamis was a fearless artist, and a fearless human being. Arna’s Children and The Freedom Theater are only the two most visible parts of his legacy, a legacy that bespeaks the role artistic creation can play even amidst the most horrible depths of injustice and suffering.
“The Freedom Theatre will provide the children of the camp a tranquil environment to express themselves ”he wrote, describing the vision of the theater in 2006.
To imagine the possibility of opening up a space of tranquility, of expression, and thus of possibility, in Jenin Refugee Camp, whose name has become synonymous with the most vicious and destructive brutality of the Israeli occupation, might be seen as madness.
Its very existence is a testament to the power of the artistic tradition that Juliano embodied with such beauty and power.
Dr Ashraf Ezzat is a medical doctor by profession. In his spare time he writes about ancient Egyptian history, Ancient Near Eastern history, comparative religion and politics especially the Arab- Israeli conflict. He is founder and board member of the bibliotheca Alexandrina friends society. For more articles by Dr. Ashraf Ezzat visit his website