Actor Juliano Mer-Khamis shot dead in West Bank
‘He had his arms wide open to his enemies’ says actress who worked with him at Jenin’s Freedom Theatre
The prominent Israeli-Arab actor, director and activist, Juliano Mer-Khamis, has been shot dead whilst in in the West Bank city of Jenin. He was waiting in a car outside the Jenin Freedom Theatre, of which he was the director, when masked Palestinian men opened fire on him. He was hit by five bullets and did not survive.
Jenin's governor, Kadura Musa, was quick to denounce the killing, emphasising that he "strongly condemns the murder of Mer-Khamis, who showed solidarity with the Palestinian people".
Juliano's father was a Christian Arab, whilst his mother was Jewish Israeli Arma Mer-Khamis, a political and human rights activist. Juliano made an award-winning film about her work to help Palestinian children during the First Intifada, work he was to continue by setting up the Freedom Theatre in 2006.
Juliano, who was 52, lived between the Israeli town of Haifa and Jenin. His theatre was well known for its controversial shows, which placed women on stage alongside men, and sometimes featured mild nudity.
Jenin is a relatively conservative city and, as a result, the theatre was occasionally subjected to heavy criticism. In April 2009, someone tried to set fire to the building, though only the front door was damaged.
Juliano was said to have received death threats. Two years ago a flyer was distributed in Jenin which warned: "If words don't help we will have to speak in bullets".
Jo Tjabli, an actress who volunteered at the theatre, said that while she had never seen any evidence of hostility towards the project, she had heard about it. "Juliano put a lot of effort into both holding his ground and having his arms wide open to his enemies at the same time," she said to The First Post.
"There was an immense bravery about the enterprise. All of the students and staff were aware of that. Part of its job under Juliano's directorship was not to shy away from controversy."
Eerily, in an interview with Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot last year, Juliano said: "It makes them crazy that a man who is half-Jewish is at the head of one of the most important projects in the Palestinian West Bank and it is just hypocritical racism.
"I have never been as Jewish as I am right now in Jenin. After all this work at the camp it would be extremely unfortunate to die of a Palestinian bullet." ·
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