Israeli Arab director and pro-Palestinian activist Julian Mer-Khamis was shot dead by masked gunmen on Monday, April 4 in front of the Freedom Theater he founded in Jenin Refugee Camp in 2006. Even though Mer-Khamis co-founded the theater with Zakariya Zubeidi, a former military leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades in that West Bank city, the institution has been the target of violent threats by militants and the building was set on fire twice in the past years.
Anyone who visits Jenin would have a hard time not to notice the red and brown building of the Freedom Theater settled among the crumbling buildings of the refugee camp that is now home to tens of thousands of refugees. The Freedom Theater was founded in memory of Mer-Khamis’s mother, who created a theater troupe with Palestinian children in the 1980s, and is now a community theater where children and youth are empowered through the arts and crafts of theater to hone creativity for social change.
From an article in the Haaretz:
Some of the criticism focused on the fact that the theater offered co-ed activities, despite prohibition in the Islamic moral code.
Objectors were also outraged when Mer-Khamis staged the play “Animal Farm”, in which the young actors played the part of a pig, which Islam considers an impure animal…
…Michael Handesaltz, senior editor and theater critic for Haaretz, described Mer-Khamis as a “great actor, an extraordinary human being whose life-story is part of the tragic reality of this country”, who in his death became “another tragic victim of life in the Middle East”.
The West Bank city of Jenin is known for the Battle of Jenin or the Jenin Massacre of April 2002. Jenin is the third largest city in the West Bank and home to one of the largest refugee camps in the Occupied Territories.