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Juliano Mer-Khamis

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Title: Juliano Mer-Khamis  
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Subject: 2011 in the Palestinian territories, Clara Khoury, Arab citizens of Israel, 2011 in Israel, Would You Have Sex with an Arab?
Collection: 1958 Births, 2011 Deaths, Arab Citizens of Israel, Deaths by Firearm in the West Bank, Eastern Orthodox Christians from Israel, Greek Orthodox Christians, Israeli Activists, Israeli Arab Christians, Israeli Arab Jews, Israeli Film Directors, Israeli Male Film Actors, Israeli Male Stage Actors, Israeli Male Television Actors, Israeli Murder Victims, Jews in the State of Palestine, Murdered Filmmakers, Palestinian Film Actors, Palestinian Male Actors, Palestinian Stage Actors, People from Jenin, People from Nazareth, People Murdered in the Palestinian Territories, People of Levantine-Eastern Orthodox Christian Descent, People of Levantine-Greek Orthodox Christian Descent
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Juliano Mer-Khamis

Juliano Mer-Khamis
Juliano Mer-Khamis, 2009
Born Juliano Khamis
(1958-05-29)29 May 1958
Nazareth, Israel
Died 4 April 2011(2011-04-04) (aged 52)
Jenin, West Bank
Cause of death
Resting place
Kibbutz Ramot Menashe, Israel[1]
Occupation Actor, director, activist
Years active 1984–2011
Spouse(s) Jenny Nyman (?-2011; his death; 3 children)

Juliano Mer-Khamis (Hebrew: ג'וליאנו מֵר ח'מיס; Arabic: جوليانو مير خميس‎; born Juliano Khamis; ‎29 May 1958 – 4 April 2011)[2] was an Israeli/Palestinian actor, director, filmmaker, and political activist of Jewish and native Palestinian Greek Orthodox Christian parentage.[3] On 4 April 2011, he was assassinated by a masked gunman in the Palestinian city of Jenin, where he established the The Freedom Theatre.


  • Biography 1
  • Film and acting career 2
    • The Freedom Theatre 2.1
  • Assassination 3
  • Filmography 4
  • Television and video 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Juliano Khamis (later Mer-Khamis) was born in Nazareth, the son of Arna Mer-Khamis, a former Palmach combatant who had turned communist on experiencing disenchantment with Zionism after participating in operations to drive the Bedouin out of the Negev,[4] and Saliba Khamis, an Israeli Arab of Greek Orthodox Palestinian Christian descent who was an intellectual as well as one of the leaders of the Israeli Communist Party in the 1950s. He had two brothers, Spartacus and Abir.[5] His maternal grandfather was Gideon Mer, a scientist who pioneered the study of malaria during the British Mandate.[6] His father abandoned their household when he was 10 years old. He attended school in Haifa.[4] In his youth, he adopted his maternal surname, Mer, and served in the Israeli Defense Forces as a combat soldier in the Paratroopers Brigade,[7] and was stationed in Jenin, where his job was to carry a weapons bag. If an old Arab woman or child was killed by accident, a weapon would be left on the corpse. On one occasion while his squad was engaged in firing practice, a shoulder missile aimed at a donkey missed, killing instead a 12 year old girl sitting astride it. Juliano left a compensatory load of explosives on the donkey in accordance with practice.[4] At one point he refused to obey his commanding officer's order to frisk an elderly man, punching the former instead, and spent several months in prison. His release was won by the direct intervention of Isser Harel, who was his mother's cousin.[4] In 1987 he spent a year in the Philippines, consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms and talking to monkeys. It was there that he felt, according to a later declaration, that he had shaken off all identities. On his return, he lived as a beachcomber in Tel Aviv, on olives, labneh and garlic, and protested against Israel's response to the first intifada by stripping himself and walking about covered in fake blood. Mishmish Or, an Israeli Jew of Turkish paternal and Egyptian maternal descent, picked him up off the sidewalks and gave him shelter. He eventually had a daughter, Milay, with her. In the meantime his mother Arna set up a children's center to teach over 1500 children in the Jenin camp and asked her son to join her there to teach drama therapy.[4]

When the Al-Aqsa intifada broke out, two of his former students, Yusuf Sweitat and Nidal al-Jabali, became suicide bombers in October 2001 at Hadera. Two weeks earlier, a girl whom Sweitat had salvaged from a school classroom that had just been bombed by the IDF died as he carried her to the hospital.[4] Hearing the news, Juliano returned to Jenin a month after the Battle of Jenin had begun. His host was a former student, Ala’a Sabbagh, then aged 22, leader of Jenin's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and he spent several months on patrol with men on Israel's hit list, and in hideouts, with Sabbagh and Zacharia Zubeidi, whose mother had been killed in April 2002 by an Israeli sniper who perhaps mistook her for her son Tata, who was also subsequently shot dead an hour later. He made a film of the period, Arna's Children, released in 2004.[4]

Outside of the theater he devoted himself to allaying everyday problems: driving pregnant women to Israeli hospitals, or Jenin's children to Haifa's beaches, or providing medicines and food.[4]

In a 2009 interview with Israel Army Radio, Mer-Khamis said of his background: "I am 100 percent Palestinian and 100 percent Jewish."[8]

Mer-Khamis was married to Jenny Nyman, a Finnish activist he met in Haifa in May 2006. They had a son, Jay, and were expecting the birth of twins at the time of his death.[9]

The theater he founded thrives, under the general management of the Swedish Israeli Jonathan Stanczyk, with actor Nabil al-Raee as artistic director.[4]

Film and acting career

Mer-Khamis's first film, Diane Keaton, which dealt with the Israeli-Arab conflict. He starred in Avi Nesher's film, Za'am V'Tehilah (1985). Later he appeared in such Israeli films as 51 Bar (1985), Wedding in Galilee (1987), Tel Aviv Stories (1992), Zohar (1993), Under the Domim Tree (1994), and Overture 1812 (1997). He appeared in several films by Amos Gitai: Kedma, Esther (1986) and Kippur (2000).[10]

In 2002, Mer-Khamis was nominated for the Ophir award for Best Actor for his role in Kedma.[11] One of the last films in which he appeared was the Palestinian film Salt of this Sea (2008), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

He performed on stage with Beit Lessin Theater and Habima Theatre. In 2003, he produced and directed his first documentary film, Arna's Children, together with Danniel Danniel. The film is about his mother's work to establish a children's theatre group in Jenin during the 1980s. Seven years after the death of his mother, and following the battle in Jenin in 2002, Mer-Khamis returned to Jenin to meet and interview the children who participated in the theater, and found out that some became militants and were killed.

In 2006, following a wave of international support which was followed by his film, Mer-Khamis opened a community theater for children and adults in Jenin, called The Freedom Theatre.

The Freedom Theatre

Juliano Mer-Khamis lying in state at the al-Midan Theatre, Haifa. The Arabic script on his picture reads shaheed al-ḥuriya, which means "Martyr for Freedom."

In 2006, Mer-Khamis established the Freedom Theatre along with Zakaria Zubeidi, a former military leader of the Jenin Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Jonatan Stanczak, a Swedish-Israeli activist, and Dror Feiler, a Swedish-Israeli artist. The Freedom Theatre is a community theatre that provides opportunities for the children and youth of the Jenin Refugee Camp by developing skills, self-knowledge and confidence and using the creative process as a model for social change.[12]


Mer-Khamis was shot by masked gunmen in leaving the theater he had founded in Jenin. He had just started to drive away in his Citroen, with his baby son Jay on his lap, when a masked gunman emerged from a nearby alley and asked him to stop. The baysitter with them advised him to drive on, but he stopped, and was shot five times.[13][4] He was rushed to the Jenin Hospital, where he was pronounced dead after his arrival.[14] PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad condemned the killing, saying that "We cannot stand silent in the face of this ugly crime, it constitutes a grave violation that goes beyond all principles and human values and it contravenes with the customs and ethics of co-existence."[15]

In an interview in 2008, Juliano had foreseen the circumstances of his murder, predicting jokingly that he would be killed by a 'fucked-up Palestinian’ for ‘corrupting the youth of Islam’.[4] After being identified by the baby-sitter in three separate line-ups, Palestinian police charged Mujahed Qaniri, from Jenin's refugee camp, with having carried out the murder. There are varying accounts of Qamiri's affiliation, some describe him as a former member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades who defected to Hamas, but a Hamas spokesman has denied any involvement, describing this as a purely criminal incident.[13][16]

On 19 April 2011, Adnan Dameery, spokesperson for the Palestinian Security Forces, reported DNA tests had exonerated a detained suspect and that the murderer was still at large.[17]


Year Film Role Notes
1984 The Little Drummer Girl Julio
1985 Not Quite Paradise Hassan (terrorist)
1985 Za'am V'Tehilah
1985 51 Bar Thomas
1986 Esther Haman
1987 Wedding in Galilee (Urs al-Jalil) Officer
1989 Berlin-Yerushalaim Menahme
1993 Sipurei Tel-Aviv (Tel Aviv Stories) Jeno
1993 Zohar Morris
1993 Deadly Heroes Ramon
1994 Nothing to Lose Antonio Valdez
1994 Under the Domim Tree (Etz Hadomim Tafus) Ariel
1994 Yom Yom Jules
1995 Night Terrors (film) Mahmoud (as Juliano Mer)
1997 Overture 1812
2000 The Last Patrol Jesus Carrero
2000 Kippur The Captain
2002 Kedma Moussa
2003 Arna's Children Himself Won FIPRESCI Prize
2004 God's Sandbox (Tahara) Nagim Nominated for Best Actor
2008 Salt of this Sea Hiking leader Palestinian submission for Oscar in "Best Foreign Language Film" category
2009 Hadutha Saghira Israeli soldier
2010 Miral Shaikh Saabah

Television and video

Year Title Role Notes
1995 Hostages Ali Series
1992 Sweating Bullets Melito Series – played in "Don't Say Nothing Bad About My Baby" episode
1995 The Revolutionary Centurion Video
1996 The Revolutionary II Centurion Video
1998 Florentine Remi Series
2001 1000 Calories Eitan Katz TV movie
2006 Dijihad! Omar TV movie


  1. ^ "Juliano Mer-Khamis laid to rest at Kibbutz Ramot Menashe".  
  2. ^ "ynet השחקן והיוצר ג'וליאנו מר נרצח ביריות בג'נין – חדשות". 20 June 1995. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Adam Schatz,The Life and Death of Juliano Mer-Khamis, at London Review of Books, vol.35, No.22, 21 November 2013 pp.3-11.
  5. ^ Birenberg, Yoav (6 April 2011). "Juliano Mer's final curtain call".  
  6. ^ Feferman, Bob. "Actor Juliano Mer-Khamis gunned down in Jenin,". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "Weddings on the Front Line". Macleans. 
  8. ^ Dahlah, Saif. "Jewish-Arab director shot dead in northern West Bank". Agence France Presse. Retrieved 4 April 2011. 
  9. ^ "Juliano Mer's final curtain call". 20 June 1995. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  10. ^ Anderman, Nirit (16 February 2011). "Mideast can't bear bridge-building figures like Juliano Mer-Khamis". Haaretz. Israel. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  11. ^ "Actor Juliano Mer-Khamis gunned down in Jenin", Jerusalem Post
  12. ^ The Economist, "Juliano Mer-Khamis", 16 April 2011, pg. 92
  13. ^ a b "PA forces nab Hamas suspect in Mer-Khamis murder". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 5 April 2011. 
  14. ^ Feferman, Bob. "Actor Juliano Mer-Khamis gunned down in ... JPost – National News". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  15. ^ "Israeli-Arab actor shot dead in West Bank". 4 April 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  16. ^ "Jenin militant charged over theatre director murder".  
  17. ^ Killer Of Israeli-Palestinian Director Still At Large. International Middle East Media Center. 19 April 2011. Last accessed 27 Dec 2011

External links

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