Teacher and Program Director at the Freedom Theatre
Max Budovitch: Can you just describe your background with the Theatre and who you are?
Micaela: I’m working the Freedom Theatre for three years and a half, now and I came to the Theatre as a volunteer. Juliano asked me to stay, and I stayed and stayed and stayed and I met my husband at the Freedom Theatre, Nabeel. We directed together, the Animal Farm, the first play from the acting school project, which we started together with Juliano. And we worked on all the plays of Animal Farm with our students and Juliano. We were also part of Fragments of Palestine…Alice in Wonderland. I became the international organization part of the acting school project, besides being a teacher in the movement and a theater teacher. And yeah, that’s basically my background with the Theatre.
MB: What is your position at the Theatre now—what do you do at the Theatre now?
M: My position at the Theatre is the same. Each one does his work for now. We decided that each will go back to his work for now and we, you know, little by little we have an emergency situation at the moment. The Theatre, besides having to deal with these sensitive issues, also family issues because we are all a family in the Theatre. And with Juliano’s family too. So we have a lot of issues to solve so we have an emergency committee. But each one is doing his work. We are going back to work on Sunday. We’re working every day, but we officially go back to our activities as they were on Sunday and from there we will continue, somehow. Everyone is taking Juliano’s work, and his wife, also, despite everything that she has to deal with in her life. We are very lucky to have help from all the friends and all the associations that we were associated with from the beginning of the Theatre until now. And new people that come and want to help. Today we did a symbolic funeral for Juliano and it was amazing to see that downstairs people were grieving and when they came up to the upper floors they were doing their work and we saw the energy of Juliano in each one of them. I think we are dealing good with it.
MB: Was the Theatre ever threatened before? It seems like this tragedy was some kind of act of aggression. Was the Theatre ever threatened before? Were you guys at all afraid?
M: Yeah we got a lot of threats, we even got the Theatre burned during the time that we were doing Animal Farm….we had normal threats from…we don’t really know from who. Before like, “don’t walk in the camp at this time, if you walk in the camp something will happen to you.” But at the time—this time, we weren’t expecting nothing, no. We didn’t get any particular threats. We were very happy. We were coming out of a very successful play that we built together, Alice in Wonderland. Juliano was gone to work in a play in Ramallah—to work on a play with me, and he had just come back to Jenin that day.
MB: What kinds of threats were these? Were they political threats, are people displeased with the kind of work that the Theatre is doing, politically?
M: well, this is our…I don’t know. It’s not weird, it’s unknown. You could say…political threats come disguised as social background threats. We get threatened and we don’t know why. Trying to scare, trying to damage our activities, our struggle, our philosophy, and we never stop.
MB: The Freedom Theatre is of course a form of peaceful of resistance, I’d say, if you disagree with me, please let me know, but I’d say it’s a form of peaceful –
M: No, I don’t disagree with you, it’s an active form of peaceful resistance, in fact.
MB: With Juliano’s death, has this resistance been weakened or strengthened? How will you recover the resistance?
M: But of course, it is much more strong, you know, we try to, we were very lucky to meet someone like Juliano who is an example of energy and struggle for all of us. He was a leader that we all followed. From his work we must take the best of the best. Every time they put us down we will go stronger. You know, in fact, Juliano always told us about fighting for freedom, fighting for freedom, what do you mean about freedom? Freedom starts with your own freedom, your individual freedom. What you see now is individuals like, trying to fight, trying by themselves now that they don’t see such a strong character, leader. To see how the individuals manage to free themselves. You know we’ve been fighting in a small community like the Freedom Theatre community, here in Jenin. Yeah.
MB: I have to assume that the criminal who killed Juliano perhaps was from a group of people who disapprove of the Theatre or would like to stop your activities. How can you respond to such a violent kind of threat on your activities?
M: We don’t know. As I tell you, everyone is wondering in the world, and we are the first people to wonder who it was. Why it happened. Everyone has a lot of ideas of course. But our…what we know, we don’t know who did it, and why. We know what they did. They made an attack, a direct attack to culture and freedom. Our response will be to continue with our work. We don’t fall for this kind of event. Also, Juliano didn’t pay with his life for nothing. So, we have no other way. No other thing to do.
MB: Juliano was half Israeli, half Palestinian, do you feel that –
M: No, no, he wasn’ t. No, it’s wrong. He wasn’t.
MB: What was he?
M: He was 100% Jew and 100% Palestinian. And also 100% Juliano [laughs].
MB: How did the two communities, the Palestinian community and the Israeli community see this tragedy? How are people reacting—is it the same on both sides?
M: You know it’s one reaction in their own way. Both in grief. I was in Haifa with his wife and his ex wife and I was in the cemetery and I was in the checkpoint at Jalama and I’m in the Freedom Theatre today. You know, there is a common grief for both communities. With all its nuances.
MB: But would you say that he meant different things to the Palestinian community and the Israeli community, or was he simply Juliano?
M: Well, to the people who knew him well, he was Juliano, there is no other way to be. The people who, you know, it’s the community that knew him in different ways. For the Jewish community, he was Juliano Mer, an actor who spent many years as a very good actor and now director and filmmaker. For Jenin he is Arna’s son and also the guy who came after some years after the invasion of the Camp who came back. Of course he means different things for different communities.
MB: Going into the future, it has always seemed that the world’s eyes, and certainly the eyes of Palestinians and Israelis are on Jenin as an important city in the conflict. Do you have specific plans to demonstrate that the Theatre is still on track and the resistance in Jenin and the Jenin Refugee Camp is still alive?
M: As I told you, we are going back to work very fast. Very fast for a situation in grief. We have plans. First we have all the projects that Juliano left in our hands. All his ideas for future plans in the Theatre program. We also have new things coming on because now attention was called to the Theatre also. Many people communicated to us that they would very much like to be part of our struggle and we will take advantage of it, of course. Now there is a big need to be sensitive to the change. Not only the internal change—not having our director and our leader—but also the community around us….We do not know why it happened, so we are also being sensitive to that.
MB: Alright, Micaela, thank you so much for speaking with me.