Israelis, Palestinians mourn slain Jewish-Arab actor

15:02, April 06, 2011      

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Juliano Mer-Khamis, the 52-year- old Israeli-Arab actor and peace activist who was shot dead in the West Bank on Monday, was laid to rest Tuesday at Kibbutz Ramot Menashe in northern Israel, where he was born and raised.

The death of the actor has shocked both local theatrical circles, as well as supporters of his attempts at dialogue via the arts.

The son of a Jewish and Arab couple, Mer-Khamis was highly- regarded in both the Israeli and Palestinian theater and abroad, as a prominent actor, and figure embodying the ideals of coexistence.

Mer-Khamis lived midway between the northern Israeli city of Haifa and Palestinian town of Jenin, where his mother, Arna Mer founded the "Freedom Theater."

Palestinians had threatened him several times because of the nature of his political plays, whose content religiously conservative sectors in the West Bank considered immoral. Local extremists had warned him about his plays, in which men and women acted together, which is prohibited in Islamic law. Mer Khamis had also staged the play "Animal Farm" in which the actors played the part of pigs, considered an impure animal in Islam.

Palestinian objectors torched the theater several times. But Mer-Khamis reopened it in 2006, and had since steadily staged plays for young Palestinians, and was preparing Lewis Carrol's " Alice in Wonderland" when he was killed.

Suspected Palestinian extremists gunned down Mer-Khamis outside his theater, and Palestinian National Authority (PNA) officials said Monday that they have detained several Hamas suspects in the shooting.

Both the Israeli army and PNA are investigating the circumstances of the case.

Michael Handesaltz, theater critic for local daily Ha'aretz, mourned Mer-Khamis' death on Monday, saying that he was "a great actor and an extraordinary human being, whose life story is part of this country's tragic reality."

Mer-Khamis is survived by his wife, who is pregnant with twins, and was with him at the time of the shooting, according to The Jerusalem Post newspaper.

Source: Xinhua
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