22 thoughts on “Juliano Mer-Khamis: The Death of Hope – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. “What was he? Just “Israeli?” Israeli Christian-Jew? Israeli Arab-Jew? Israeli Palestinian-Jew?”

    In his own words, “I am 100% Palestinian and 100% Jewish.”

    His interpretation of ‘Alice’ was brilliant – very unconventional, and very powerful. It wasn’t subversive just because it had a female lead; it’s what he’d done to the story. The play’s Alice is about to be forced into an engagement she doesn’t want. During her journey through Wonderland, the main theme is control – people always trying to pressure her or possess her. She emerges from Wonderland with the realisation that she has the power to make her own choices. The theatre was packed for every single production; I tried to get seats for my entire youth group and couldn’t, because they were sold out so far in advance.

    Julio has left his mark and his work will continue. It’s a terrible loss for Jenin, but he’s planted the seeds now, and there is a saying here that is used often in the non-violent resistance: “You can crush the roses, but you can’t stop the spring.”

  2. Thank you for posting the above. It needed to be said.

    I’d never heard of nor seen Juliano Mer-Khamis until the day he died. And that, sadly, was only because of the manner of his death.
    By all accounts, he seems to have been an exceptional person, someone who will be hard, if not impossible to replace. He got things moving, created new opportunities, new dreams, wasn’t afraid to experiment in surroundings where innovation and novelty are much more the exception rather than the rule.

    It must be admitted that, even in this, our modern 21st century, we still have too many places that are like that.

    I, myself, have made some foray into promoting innovation. Fortunately for me, no organisation or individual has yet to place a contract on my head. It seems my attempts to change the status quo have met with a very limited response. Modifying the norms and customs of the times in which we live (and die) is, perhaps, best left to the likes of Mr. Mer-Khamis and others with his outlook on society.

    Why then am I a little envious of Juliano and his fate? Perhaps because his life (and maybe his death) will have changed things for the better in some mysterious fashion, ways that we may only come to know as the future unfolds.
    Let us all hope so.
    The world can ill afford to lose men such as this.

    1. I, like Mr.John Yorke, (indeed!), believe in the irreplacebility of such beautifuly complex & generously artistic and exquisitely human personality as Juliano Mer-Khamis! May be that he needed be much better aided to keep staying alive there, in the Jenin refugee camp! I think that is a impardonable neglect from the side of those responsibles there, in Jenin, but also from the israeli neglectful officials, so that their irresponsibility in JEOPARDIZING the precious life of Juliano is more than obvious! Never will be another like Juliano Mer-Khamis! Ta’ayush forever…

      1. my correction:”the RESPONSIBILITY in jeopardizing the life”…(the strange neglect of the israeli officials!) Thank you!

    2. If you’ve never heard about Juliano Mer-Khamis, then by all means see “Arna’s Children”, the documentary he made about his mother’s work in Jenin.

      1. Thanks for that information, fiddler.

        I have been watching the documentary on You tube and it is a truly remarkable story; a mother, son and children relationship that can transcend the barriers of so much hatred and suspicion.

        I was able to note that since Juliano’s death, ‘Arna’s Children’ has been viewed by hundreds of those who, perhaps, like myself would never have had occasion to do so.

        Thanks again.

    3. Actually, it was his mom, Arna, who got things moving. The theatre project in Jenin was originally her project, and he kept it going after her death from cancer.

      For some background information, please watch the documentary film “Arna’s Children”, which Juliano directed.

      1. Yes, she seems to have had enough energy and determination to move mountains.
        And moving mountains is just about what it takes to perform the sort of course correction in the way things have been going up till now.

    1. The good news is that we do have people like him on both sides – far more than we realise! 🙂 And everybody else has the potential to be like him, so there’s always hope.

      Have you thought about going to see one of the plays at the theatre? I want to take my youth group soon, perhaps in the summer.

  3. Richard, this is truly one of the most heartbreaking posts you’ve ever offered. How I wish, as antidote to this tragedy, that John Yorke’s words could of certainty be true: “Perhaps because his life (and maybe his death) will have changed things for the better in some mysterious fashion.” Yet the image arising for me in all this is that ending of the anti-war film, “King of Hearts”, where at the very end the British soldier (Alan Bates) throws off his uniform and, totally naked, is reborn as he enters the local insane asylum where the people are normal. Would it were all otherwise.

  4. I was sitting on the subway on Monday afternoon when I got a SMS about Juliano Mer-Khamis’ death. The walls came falling down on me, and I had to get off to come to my senses.
    I loved this human being, I truly did. And I encourage everyone to read about his life: a metaphore of what’s bringing us all to this blog.

    He has on various occasions talked about his complex identity: He NEVER referred to himself as an Israeli. Always as 100% Palestinian, and 100% Jewish. This has not always been the case.
    As a young man, he volunteered to the IDF (His communist Palestinian father didn’t talk to him for more than a year) and only used his Jewish name “Mer” to be accepted by the Israeli Jewish community. But somehow the fathers of his girl-friends always found out that he was an Arab !

    He’s explained that during his IDF service at a check-point in Jenin, he was asked by his superior to control an old Palestinian and get him out of the car. He refused, came into a fight with his superior, went to prison for a couple of weeks, left the army and realized that “I didn’t belong to the Jewish side”.
    A long personnal journey made him aware of being a Palestinian.
    I’m not trying to take credit but that’s how he defined himself in his last interview where he talked about the theater: “We’re not terrorists”

    Juliano Mer-Khamis lived in Jenin with his wife Jenny (from Finland, pregnant, expecting twins – may God give her strengh) and his small kids. He was shot, sitting in his car after leaving the theater with his 1 year-old son and the baby-sitter next to him. She later has identified the killer.

    Yesterday morning, his coffin was exposed in the al-Maidan theater in Haifa where Juliano Mer-Khamis lived for many years. It was later transferred through the Jalame checkpoint to Jenin where thousands attended the procession, and later in the afternoon he was buried in the kibbutz Ramot Menashe between Haifa and Nazareth (where he was born) next to his mother, Arna.

    Tributes will be paid to Juliano Mer-Khamis in major European cities throughout the next week.

    I really recommend everyone to see his film “Arna’s Children”, in my opinion the best film ever made about the life in Palestine under occupation. It’s a tribute to his mother, Arna Mer, this absolutely divine person who settled down in Jenin to work with the children there. We follow her sick of cancer coming back to continue her work. The film is made over two periods: when Juliano Mer-Khamis comes back years later, many of the kids have died or as Zakaria Zoubeidi – the co-director of the theater – become well-known members of the Al-Aqsa Brigades.
    (two hours, keep it for a rainy day)

    By the way, it was Juliano Mer-Khamis who stood up in the middle of a projection of “Avatar” in California last winter, yelling that the “Blues” were an allegory of the Palestinians 🙂 A few weeks later, the demonstrators in Bilin dressed up as ‘Blues’. Photos on the net.

    I don’t think Hamas is to blame for this murder. There’s enough to blame them already 😉
    Qanini was a former member of al-Aqsa Brigades who spent 5 years in the Israeli prisons, and according to Zakaria Zoubeidi, he was ‘independent’. Hamas is declining all relations with this person:

    According to people in Jenin, some have felt offended by the setting-up of “Animal Farm” where Palestinian kids were dressed up as pigs 🙁 In that case, we can talk about Hamas and their religious/cultural intolerance.

    Juliano Mer-Khamis played in many of Amos Gitaï’s films and last in “Miral”.
    I’m sorry, I was so long, but I so much want everybody to know Juliano Mer-Khamis. I hope people within the ’67-borders will put flowers on his grave.
    It’s maybe not the proper place to mention this, but the kibboutz Ramot Menashe is built on a destroyed Palestinian village.

  5. Imagine; being killed for being a humanist! Religion has killed more people than any other of man’s inventions.

  6. Richard-

    You claimed earlier that hamas doesn’t have anti tank weapons. However just yesterday hamas deliberately fired a cornet anti tank missile at an Israeli school bus mortally wounding a 16 year old boy. So do they have anti tank missiles? (or perhaps this attack was committed by the shabak?)

    1. The crux of the matter is this. On every side there are weapons and even the crudest has the potential for dealing out death and serious injury when the occasion arises.

      No one in this world comes into it carrying a weapon; rather too many of us, however, seem to depart with one in close proximity, especially when that departure is unusually abrupt.
      But, as we all know, guns or whatever their equivalent, do not kill people. People kill people. And they do so for a number of reasons. Some are good reasons, most are bad.

      And, for sixty and more years, this conflict has been kept in being because of those reasons. Why? Because those reasons, good and bad, are so easily interchangeable within communities that find themselves in this position. One has its reasons; the other has more or less the same. And the reasons continue to increase. If no new reason arises that is sufficiently dominant, dominant to the exclusion of all the others, then the situation must remain as it is and will always do so; an out-of-control balancing act, so erratic that it is painful to watch. And even more painful to endure.

      That new reason, if it does exist, must be found. Of course, it may be that we can never find it; over sixty years of searching may very well indicate such a possibility.

      Then we may simply have to call it into existence ourselves. How difficult would that be, I wonder?

      More difficult than letting things stay much as they are, without any serious hope for change or resolution?

  7. A terrible tragedy. Just a couple of weeks ago I watched “Arna’s Children”, following a link from a comment in this blog. My thoughts and prayers are with the wife and the little children, both born and yet to be born. May we all rise to the same level of truth, courage and creativity.

  8. I just watched “Arna’s Children” again. What a powerful film. To me it shows the human side of the Palestinian fighters and suicide bombers, of whom we normally know nothing and only hear reports of their crimes and violence. They are often portrayed as savages, bloodthirsty beasts, etc. The film shows that they are human beings, like me and you, who find themselves in circumstances in which they feel they have to fight for their life, rights, freedom and dignity against a powerful army and state by whatever means they have.

    Look at those kids as they are acting, playing and fooling around. It could be any kids anywhere in the world, funny, spontaneous, mischievous, direct, sincere, eager to express themselves. Look at them years later. They seem not to have lost their humanity under the inhuman circumstances of war: they laugh, cry, mourn, and they fight. I don’t know if they hate Jews, but they do hate the army, the occupation and most of all their prison-like conditions.

    I often think what would I do if I were in their shoes? And there is no easy answer. Fighting seems like a brave and right thing to do. But what Juliano Mer-Khamis did is, in the end, much more courageous and right: we should fight injustice, humiliation and oppression by refusing to succumb to them, by developing inner strength, critical thinking, understanding, be it through arts or dialogue or nonviolent protest.

    I also watched the videos from The Freedom Theatre (http://www.youtube.com/user/thefreedomtheatre) . I am truly impressed by these youngsters and what they do. This is probably the greatest tribute to Juliano’s life. Hopefully the theater will go on now that Juliano is no longer there.

    If only more Jews and Israelis would watch the film and the Freedom Theatre performances. Maybe they’d see that these kids are not much different from their own kids, longing for freedom, recognition, expression and fun.

    1. @ Leonid)
      You’re so right. I really think it’s the best film ever made on Palestine. I’m going to see it tomorrow night during a rally in memory of Juliano Mer-Khamis, and though I’ve already seen it at least three times in the past, I look forward to seeing it with people who knew him and his mother personally.

      There’s an interview with Juliano Mer-Khamis on ‘electronicintifada’ where he explains why his mother is buried in the kibbutz of Ramot Menashe:
      He explains the difficulties of burying his mother because she refused to have a religious burial. Juliano Mer-Khamis was obliged to keep her coffin in his house for three days, he threatened to bury her in his back garden, before receiving a phone call from the kibbutz Ramot Menashe who proposed to bury her on their (former palestinian) land.

      The Palestinians had already proposed to bury Arna Mer in the “Cemetary of the Martyrs” in Jenin, but a local leader explained: “It’s an honor to have Arna here with us, a great honor, the only thing is maybe in about 50 years time, some Jewish archaeologist will come here and say ‘there are some Jewish bones here’ and they’re going to confiscate the land of Jenin …Even if they find Jewish bones of a dog, they take the place… Every place they take, they find the bones of a Jew, and that’s how they justify the ownership of the land, by finding bones …”
      I do deeply regret, though, that Juliano Mer-Khamis, and his mother Arna, aren’t buried in Jenine, THEIR town.

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