The Freedom Theatre is a theatre and cultural centre in Jenin refugee camp, occupied Palestine. We stage professional theatre productions, hold theatre workshops in the refugee camp, Jenin town and villages, offer training in acting, pedagogy and photography, and publish books, exhibitions and short films.
Since we opened our doors in 2006, we have made theatre and visual art available to every young person in Jenin refugee camp. Our work has made Jenin refugee camp known in Palestine and internationally for innovative, thought-provoking theatre and media productions. We have created a generation of artists and leaders, who one day will be at the forefront of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Although The Freedom Theatre’s focus is on theatre and visual arts, we do not take a neutral position on the issue of Israeli apartheid, colonisation and military occupation. Nor do we turn a blind eye to the internal violations of human rights, in particular the rights of women and children.
For the oppressed, the arts have always been a powerful tool for liberation. For us Palestinians, artistic expression is an integrated part of our quest for justice, equality and freedom.
The Freedom Theatre’s vision is a cultural resistance movement at the core of a free and critical Palestinian society. Through cultural resistance, The Freedom Theatre aims to raise a new generation that is able to challenge all forms of oppression.
So what is cultural resistance? It starts with play. Play is not reserved for children; it is the basic desire to experiment and test reality, which is a prerequisite for creativity and imagination. Everything we do in The Freedom Theatre contains an element of play. Through play, we can deconstruct an oppressive reality and make it comprehensible, which is the first step towards changing it. Just as we cannot imagine more colours than what our eyes have seen, we cannot imagine a reality beyond our own experiences and frames of reference. Then, we can dream and create change together.
The Freedom Theatre draws its inspiration from a unique project, Care and Learning, which used theatre and art to address the chronic fear, depression and trauma experienced by children in Jenin Refugee Camp. Set up during the first Intifada the project was run by Arna Mer Khamis, a revolutionary who devoted her life to campaigning for freedom and human rights, together with women in the refugee camp.
The fierce and energetic humanity of this woman, who was born to a Jewish family and who had chosen to live and work among the Palestinians, inspired the children with possibilities for an alternative reality. Arna was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, in 1993 for her «…passionate commitment to the defence and education of the children of Palestine». With the award money she built a children’s theatre, the Stone Theatre, which was later destroyed in the Israeli invasion of the refugee camp in 2002.
The Intifada, for us and for our children, is a struggle for freedom. We call our children project “Learning and Freedom”. These are not just words. They are the basis of our struggle. There is no freedom without knowledge. There is no peace without freedom. Peace and freedom are bound together. Bound together!
rna’s work is documented in the internationally awarded film Arna’s Children, which gives some fascinating background to The Freedom Theatre. The film is directed by Juliano Mer Khamis, Arna’s son who in 2006 co-founded The Freedom Theatre. Juliano was the General Director of the theatre until 2011, when he was brutally assassinated by an unknown enemy of culture and freedom.
Thanks to the support from friends around the world, the staff and board members managed to keep the theatre going and growing ever stronger. Just as The Freedom Theatre was built on the inspiration and legacy of Arna, Juliano’s mother, so will its future work be built on the legacy of Juliano. It will carry on his message to promote freedom – not only for the Palestinian people but for all human beings.
We are mourning, but we will continue our resistance through art, continue our struggle, continue to do our better than best. As Juliano would say: The Revolution must go on!
You don’t have to heal the children in Jenin. We are not trying to heal their violence. We try to challenge it into more productive ways. And more productive ways are not an alternative to resistance. What we are doing in the theatre is not trying to be a replacement or an alternative to the resistance of the Palestinians in the struggle for liberation, just the opposite. This must be clear. I know it’s not good for fundraising, because I’m not a social worker, I’m not a good Jew going to help the Arabs, and I’m not a philanthropic Palestinian who comes to feed the poor. We are joining, by all means, the struggle for liberation of the Palestinian people, which is our liberation struggle. . . . We’re not healers. We’re not good Christians. We are freedom fighters.
The Freedom Theatre is a Palestinian organisation and as such most of its staff come from the Jenin community. The theatre also engages international staff and volunteers on short and long-term basis.
In addition to the Palestinian organisation, The Freedom Theatre is supported by a foundation that has a separate, international Board.
To reach any of the staff members by email, click on the email icon below:
Or you can call the Office phone: +970(0)4 2503345
In addition to being registered as a non-governmental organisation under the Palestinian Authority, The Freedom Theatre is also registered as a foundation in Sweden.