Student of Juliano Mer Khamis
Max Budovitch: Can you introduce yourself briefly for the recording and describe how you got into theater in the first place?
Miryam: OK. My name is Miriam, I’m 20 years old, I’m from Jenin Refugee Camp. When I finished from my high school I decided to go to study theater. When Juliano see me, he said you have a presence and you can work with famous actors and he encouraged me to be with them—with the acting school. I went there, you know.
MB: At the Freedom Theatre?
M: At the Freedom Theatre.
MB: And when you first joined, what did you expect to get out of it?
M: From the school?
MB: Yes, exactly.
M: From the acting school?
MB: What did you expect would happen? Did you want to be a professional actress? Was it more political?
M: Yes, to be, you know, to be something in my community. To be a good woman in my community. To be active and something. So I went there and there were a lot of things to do there it was very interesting. I was nothing. Juliano do for me something. He make me a woman. He did everything. He teach me…he do everything. I was nothing before the Theatre….when I went to the Theatre I learned to speak to the people. To…first of all, my rights—there are no rights for women, you know.
MB: So the Theatre was a way to become free, in a sense, is that correct?
M: Yes, yes, I find my freedom in the Freedom Theatre. I find my freedom. And Juliano helped me to find it.
MB: So we’re not only talking about political freedom, but also personal freedom?
M: Political freedom? You know I’m just talking about the political things. First I want to, you know, free myself from the occupation, second I want to free myself from my community. I fight from both sides—from the Israeli soldier and my community. Thirdly, I want to free myself from the people who are around me. Then I will free myself from the Israeli soldier and the Jewish, you know…
MB: Exactly, but what do you mean by “free yourself from your community”? What about your community did you need to free yourself from?
M: First thing, the people in the camp. In our community there is no rights for girls. Girls can’t say anything. So when I went to the Theatre, I have my, you know, I have the power to stand on the stage and say I’m here, I want to survive. You know the people won’t leave you alone to do whatever you want. But when I’m in the Theatre I can do whatever I want.
MB: Did you have classmates in the Theatre, other girls and boys who were studying with Juliano?
M: Yes sure, you mean students?
M: Yes we have…we are 2 girls and 4 boys.
MB: Do you feel that the other students feel the same way that you do? Is this something common?
M: Yeah everyone, especially the girls. We are the same aim. We have the same thing to do.
MB: Do people admire the Theatre? do they appreciate the work that the Theatre does in Jenin or is it sometimes not so good of a relationship between the Theatre and the community?
M: when I in the Theatre, there is a lot of people. How can people be against it? They are against it. Half of them they quit the Theatre. I am with the people at the Theatre and I ignore those who are against the Theatre because I want to do theater, not to run after the people who are against the Theatre or something.
MB: Now that Juliano is gone how will you continue your interest in theater? What are you plans?
M: It’s very hard to learn like Juliano . Juliano teach us, he always keep saying, “just continue and let the Theatre alive and don’t let the Theatre die. Don’t put the Theatre down. Just survive, Just complete.” We will complete the line that Juliano did with us. We will complete Juliano’s message. We will show the people that we are still here. Juliano died but we are Juliano. All of us Juliano. And all of us know what Juliano wants. Especially the students. What was Juliano’s aim, what was Juliano’s message, so we can complete it and we can make new Theatre, you know. It will be hard but we will try. There are a lot of people who want to help us and that gives me hope.
MB: Now that Juliano is gone, do you feel that the Theatre is hurt, or do you think that the Theatre will continue on as it always has?
M: Sure, the Theatre will continue to survive.
MB: Will lit be as successful as it was in peaceful resistance, or will it be even more successful?
M: Yeah, it will be survive. You know there is a sentence that Juliano keeps talking about it. Resistance through art. And this is the way we will continue on it.
MB: Juliano was both Palestinian and Israeli, how do the residents of Jenin—how do you see this mixed identity—what does this mean?
M: What does this mean for the Palestinian people, that Juliano is Israeli?
MB: Exactly—mixed, like, Palestinian / Israeli [Arabic]
M: Okay, for me I don’t know from the people, but for me I don’t see the sides. I don’t have a problem with the Israeli people. I have a problem with the occupation, with the Israeli soldier who killed my father, my brother. I have this problem. But for me I see Juliano from the Palestinian side. He is a good man. I didn’t see him as a Jewish or as an Israeli man. He is a man who wanted freedom for a girl—for a girl, for a Palestinian people, for poor people. Just freedom. He want to help the Palestinian people. I don’t see Juliano as Jewish or Israeli. All the people who talked to Juliano will think the same thing.
MB: Do you feel that after your work with Juliano that you are closer to peace and close to your freedom?
M: Okay. I told you I found my freedom in the Theatre and Juliano agreed to find it. I’m so happy to meet Juliano. I’m so lucky because I know Juliano in the last 3 years of my life. I’m so lucky you know, if I didn’t meet Juliano I would be in university like a doctor or something with a closed mind. A lot of bad things, you know.
MB: Okay, Miryam, thank you so much for talking with me. It was very touching to hear your thoughts.