Monday, 11 April 2011

Cooperation not guns

Attack invites defence. Opposing sides become caught in vicious circles of attack and retribution.

How we can break the cyle?

Arna Mer defied Israeli convention by marrying a communist, Christian, Arab Palestinian, Saliva Khamis. She could no longer work as a teacher, so she trained as a therapist and founded a centre in the Jenin refugee camp. This contained a theatre, which was destroyed during the second intifada. Her son the Israeli actor and film maker, Juliano Mer-Khamis, recreated the Freedom Theatre and worked with local children there until last week, when he was shot dead by an anonymous gunman:

The theatre worked therapeutically with young people from ages 5 to 21. Part of the aim was to shift away from victim consciousness and foster confidence and broader thinking. Jule challenged all authority including patriarchy and was an advocate for feminism in his work:

Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra to bring together Arab and Israeli young people to play classical music.

When young people are brought up in a society that may promote the idea that people of the other side are less than human and share no common characteristics, striving for a common goal helps to break down these preconceptions and increase understanding. At the very least, bringing young people together, who would normally never meet, is a start.

10th anniversary interview:

Both projects encourage young people to reflect on experience and make conscious choices in future.


The murderer of Juliano Mer Khamis has not been found. The Freedom Theatre in Jenin has been attacked by Israeli security forces.

Here is an Open letter to the Israeli Security Apparatus:

...'After the attack on The Freedom Theatre's office and multimedia centre, during which you arrested our head technician Adnan Naghnaghiye and Bilal Saadi, the chairperson of The Freedom Theatre Board in Jenin; and after you have for two weeks refused Adnan and Bilaal access to a lawyer, treated them inhumanely and denied them their basic human rights, and after the arrest of our acting student Rami Hwayel, we hereby state:

We encourage all efforts to find whoever is responsible for the brutal murder of Juliano Mer Khamis and we are deeply concerned over the fact that the murderer has not yet been found. Nevertheless we reject the inhumane methods that you apply in investigating the murder. The Freedom Theatre has been seriously damaged by your actions which have further implanted fear and trauma not only among our students and employees but also into the very society we aim to empower.

By acting the way that you act you have once again proved to the residents of Jenin refugee camp as well as to the outside world that the only methods you know are the ones involving violence, terror and fear. We in The Freedom Theatre have nothing to conceal redarding the murder of Juliano Mer Khamis......'

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