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Thousands expected for commemoration of slain director

April 5, 2011 12:05 P.M. (Updated: April 6, 2011 12:20 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Jenin Freedom Theater director Juliano Mer-Khamis will be buried on Wednesday, in Kibbutz Ramot Menashe, following three funeral processions in Haifa, Jenin and Ramallah on Tuesday morning.

Hours after the artist was gunned down in his car outside of the theater in the Jenin refugee camp, some 50 Palestinian artists and actors gathered in Ramallah's central square to protest against the killing. They held up signs saying Mer-Khamis's murder was "a loss for Palestine."

Theater students released a statement on Tuesday morning, saying "Juliano, your mother’s children have passed away, your mother Arna has passed away and so did you - but your children are going to stay, following your path on the way to the freedom battle, and we will go on with your revolution’s promise, the Jasmine revolution.

"The Revolutionary message will not pass away. It will come storming the yellow sands and the mountains covered by almond trees, blowing the jasmine revolution out of the freedom fighter’s hands, from here, from the Freedom Theater’s stage, where men were and are made to be free and engaged in the cultural revolutionary battle for Freedom.

"In thousands of silences only one violin is playing, and in thousands of silences only one voice is raising up, it’s the freedom fighters’ voices, to whom you taught how to carry the cultural gun on their shoulders."

The statement was signed, "Juliano's Children."

Mer-Khamis was the son of Arna Mer, an Israeli Jewish activist who founded the first theater in the camp, the Stones Theater, which opened during the First Intifada in the late 1980s, and closed during the Second Intifada. In 2006, Mer-Khamis, whose father was a Palestinian from Nazareth, opened the Freedom Theater after filming the documentary, Arna's Children, which cataloged his mother's struggle to open and maintain the project.

Condemnations continue, killing called 'cowardly'

"Through their cowardly act they have robbed us of a leading light in Palestinian theatre, an advocate of peace, and a true friend to all people of good will," a spokesman from the British Foreign and Commonwealth office said.

"Juliano was a good friend of the Consulate and an inspiration for people well beyond the Palestinian territories. He was a brave man who stood for tolerance and free expression. Those responsible for his death could not be more different than him."

The spokesman added: "We sincerely hope that those responsible will be caught and held accountable for this heinous act."

A group of popular committees organizing weekly protests against Israel's separation wall issued a statement "expressing our deep sadness" over the death, calling the act "part of the escalation exercised by the Israeli occupation," and blaming the tense political situation.

"It is what permits such horrific acts," the statement said, adding that the groups "hold the Israeli occupation responsible" for the death.

"We are not against Jews in the world. We are against the occupation and our goal to live in freedom and dignity like the rest of the world."

The committees said that they believed the "killing of Juliano only serves Israeli interests."

Palestinian investigators were instructed by West Bank Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to work around the clock to locate the gunmen. Initial reports were unclear as to whether one or two armed individuals carried out the attack.

Freedom Theater officials said Mer-Khamis was in his car with his son and the child's nanny when he was stopped, and shot through the windshield.

"We are shocked and saddened by Juliano Mer-Khamis' murder, not only was he a unique and talented actor and director, he was also a symbol of coexistence and peace," a spokesman for UN Mideast peace envoy Robert Serry said.

"Our thoughts are with his family and all those he touched through his life," spokesman Richard Miron said, adding that Serry had met with Mer-Khamis during one of his visits to Jenin and the theater.

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