Partner of the Freedom Theatre
Max Budovitch: You’re in Jenin right now, is that correct?
Jonatan Stanczak: Yes.
MB: Did you fly there from Sweden or have you been there for a while?
JS: No I came two days ago after hearing about what happened—I took the first flight over here.
MB: And what are you doing in Jenin now?
JS: Now I am sharing the grievance and the loss. I’m taking part of the discussion and talks about how to continue and sitting together—sitting together with people talking. Talking about what was, what can be.
MB: As you walk the streets and talk with your colleagues, what are people thinking about this tragedy, what do people say?
JS: people in the Theatre are devastated by what has happened. People are somehow lost and at the same time very focused on what needs to be done and want to continue.
MB: When you say that you are planning for the future, what do people want to do?
JS: First and foremost to continue what could be considered that Juliano was part of starting the Freedom Theatre, continue the heritage and legacy of Arna. People are ready to continue the legacy of Juliano—that is, resistance through art, the concept of freedom, both at the individual and collective levels—the concept of revolution through art. Being part of the Jasmine revolution—the ideas of the Jasmine revolution. Turning the pyramid of hierarchy upside-down. Putting the youth in the center. Making the youth the change-makers. In a practical sense, it’s about continuing. The mere fact that the Freedom Theatre is continuing is a symbol of resistance. Continuing to teach youth to be independent, free-minded thinkers. To continue to provide artistic debates, performances, shows to the community. Continuing to be the transmitter of the Palestinian story, narrative to the outside world. To continue to be a reference point for the outside world, inside Palestine, inside Jenin, in the refugee camp, and so on.
MB: In the last several days since the murder, have there been any ceremonies? I assume there was a funeral, perhaps parades, any formal kinds of gatherings to commemorate Juliano’s life?
JS: Absolutely there has been. First in Haifa where Juliano has lived most of his life, also his mother. All the Theatres in Haifa, even from all around, Palestinians, Israelis, Jews, Muslims, Christians, non-believers—everyone came together for a ceremony, a very respectful ceremony in the Ali-Dam theatre in central Haifa. There was a mourning march through the streets of Haifa with up to 2000 people. There was a ceremony in the checkpoint between Jenin and Israel, the Jalama checkpoint where there was a gathering on the Israeli side of the checkpoint and a gathering on the Jenin side of the checkpoint where the coffin, the body, was brought from the Israeli side past the checkpoint. And there a ceremony was held for all the people here in Jenin who were unable to get permits to get to the actual funeral. So they had a symbolic and memorial with the coffin present there. Afterwards the car with the coffin with a trail of, I believe, up to 100 cars and buses, went to the kibutz where Arna Mer Khamis was buried. And Juliano was buried next to her. There were speeches held by the closest friends and members of Juliano’s family, including his daughter, including members of his family. In Arabic, Hebrew, and in English, Songs were sung, poems were read. Today in Jenin there was a march. It went from Jenin refugee camp to the city of Jenin. A big picture of Juliano in the front and many Palestinian flags. The Freedom Theatre was open today for people to pay their respects and give their condolences. Hundreds of people came not only from Jenin but other parts of Palestine and outside as well. And then, this is it. This is the farewell, I think. Tomorrow there is a day off and then the Freedom Theatre is continuing its regular activities. There will be several arrangements, shows, performances, not only the FT and not only in other parts of Palestine, but in Israel and around the world. In the US, I’ve heard that there is up to 50 different screenings of Arna’s children. Here in Jenin there’re plans for a theater festival in the memory of Juliano. The new theater in the city of Jenin is trying to give the name Mer Khamis in the memory of both Juliano and his mother, etc etc.
MB: Now Juliano, of course, was half Palestinian and half Israeli, his mother being an Israeli Jew and his father being a Palestinian Christian. Do you feel that his death is interpreted in the same way by Israelis and Palestinians or, you yourself—do you see that the Palestinian and Israeli mourners are mourning the same thing, or is there a difference?
JS: I think everyone is mourning the same Juliano. And most important of what Juliano has done is that he has broke and he is breaking the borders, breaking the barriers. The conceptual and physical barriers between people and that, I think, is the most important thing to challenge the…how I should say it…the short mindedness of society. To widen the concepts, to break the mainstream narrative, to challenge every though, to turn things upside-down. See what I mean with what I’m saying?
JS: And I think this kind of himself, being a border in the sense that he is a border and is also challenging all the borders, he is breaking the borders. So I think that is his most important contribution—to show that there is always a different perspective and always a different way of thinking of things. Always to challenge the ideologies, always to challenge the power.
MB: And when we loose someone like Juliano who was such an inspiration and tried to bring two people together in cooperation, especially when we loose someone like Juliano to such a violent act, I have to think that the movement itself is under attack. Has the peaceful movement been challenged?
JS: It’s always challenged. The peace movement, the movement for freedom for liberation is always under attack. It always has to fight for its existence. And there’s few people who are willing to take it on themselves to be the guardians of that movement. And people such as Juliano who are willing to take the lead in the struggle for liberation always put themselves at great risk and the person, whoever did this, is an enemy of the concept of freedom.
MB: Has this person, the attacker, has he set the movement back or can it recover?
JS: I think, if you consider Juliano was assassinated on the same day as Martin Luther King, and if you consider the aftermath, what did Martin Luther King leave behind him? Was the assassination of Martin Luther Kind a setback for the movement of freedom of expression, freedom of thought—was his death a setback for the movement, or was it a leap forward, an eye-opener. I think we can all agree that a lot of people opened their eyes. They left a great heritage. I think that Juliano is the same way. He’s dead. He will never be a set back. His death can only be an eye-opener for others.
MB: I’m interested by the fact that I heard that at his funeral at the checkpoint, several people were chanting “Allahu Akbar” which is the traditional chant for a martyr’s funeral or a fighter’s funeral. Is Juliano seen as a Palestinian shaheed in the eyes of the residents of Jenin? How is he viewed, now that he’s gone?
JS: Juliano, in many ways, is seen to be as a Che Guevara. The hero revolutionary. His language, his ideas, his work, is all the work of a true revolutionary. In the eyes of many people, not only in Jenin, but in the eyes of many people around the world, he is seen as a revolutionary in the spirit and mind of the Jasmine revolution.
MB: As for yourself, are you going to stay in Jenin? Are you going to return to Sweden? What are your plans?
JS: I have been engaged in many meetings here, trying to understand what people want and I am soon going back to Sweden because I have a newborn baby and I hope in the very near future to rejoin the Freedom Theatre.