Seven months after the murder of its director, the Palestinian Jenin Freedom Theatre will make its U.S. debut tonight at Columbia University’s Miller Theater.
The Freedom Theatre was founded by Juliano Mer-Khamis — a movie actor from Nazareth with a Christian Palestinian father and an Israeli Jewish mother — as an outlet for the youth of the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank. With a reputation for taking on knotty Palestinian social issues while confronting the Israeli occupation, the Freedom Theatre has raised the hackles of conservative Palestinians in Jenin and beyond even as it received international praise from peace activists.
Mer-Khamis was shot and killed last April 4 by a masked assailant outside of the theater. Mujahed Qaniri, a Palestinian, was charged with the murder. Unmoored by the killing of the group’s founder, several of the student actors moved to Ramallah, the de facto capital of the West Bank, where they continued acting under the direction of Mer-Khamis’ friend, the Israeli Jewish writer and filmmaker Udi Aloni.