Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Among the old photographs which I kept from all sorts of demonstrations I saw on the wall opposite the computer where I am now writing one which is a bit faded but still very noticeable. It shows Juliano Mer-Khamish and his late mother Arna at a demonstration held in the Lower Town of Haifa. The photographer captured both of them at a moment of a very intense crying out. Juliano is quite young on this photograph, no yet having grown the beard which characterized him in later years. I think I remember this particular demonstration, the chanting and protest and anger, but I can't remember which was the particular act of grave injustice against which we were protesting on that day, and which impelled Giuliano to wear a Yellow Star on his breast and engage in angry shouting confrontations with passers-by.

There were years when a demonstration against the Occupation was incomplete without having Juliano Mer among its participants and organizers.

In recent years he was hardly seen in demonstrations any more. He gave himself totally to the Freedom Theatre which he founded and directed at the Jenin Refugee Camp, the idea that Palestinians can fight against the occupation from the stage of the theater. Not a few Palestinians were drawn in, including some who before only believed in the gun.

Did he come there as an Israeli Jew from his mother's side, who came to express solidarity with the oppressed and occupied? (In fact,.it was Arna who first started going to the Jenin Refugee Camp, starting there a kindergarten in the midst of the First Intifada, for which she later got the Alternative Nobel Prize? Or did he come as a Palestinian from his father's side, a Palestinian with relatively comfortable circumstances who came to help the more blatantly oppressed members of his people? "Both and neither, first and foremost he was a human being," an activist from Haifa who knew him well told me.

Someone, somewhere found the activity of Juliano Mer-Khamish at the Jenin Refugee Camp to be very disturbing. Disturbing enough to send masked assassins to shoot him down. Juliano's marked personality and outspoken message certainly created for him enemies left and right. His co-workers, the young Palestinian actors , the friends of the Freedom Theater of Jenin Refugee Camp will have to carry on without him, strenghtened by the enormous outrage at the terrible news. Also among the Israeli actors Juliano was respected and beloved.