The Freedom Theater in Jenin: Empowering Children Through the Arts
Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
The Freedom Theatre - a theatre and cultural centre in Jenin Refugee Camp - is developing the only professional venue for theatre and multimedia in the north of the West Bank in Occupied Palestine. Since it opened its doors in 2006, the organisation continues to grow, develop and expand, enabling the young generation in the area to develop new and important skills which will allow them to build a better future for themselves and for their society.
Empowering Children And YouthHaving grown up amidst a violent military occupation, the young generation in the Jenin area struggle with ongoing fears, depression and trauma. At the same time, few opportunities exist for these youngsters to find positive and creative outlets for their emotions which can allow them to develop a healthy and meaningful sense of themselves and their surroundings.
The Freedom Theatre therefore offers children, youth and young adults in the Jenin area a safe space in which they are free to express themselves, to explore their creativity and emotions through culture and arts. It provides them with opportunities to develop the skills, self-knowledge and confidence which can empower them to challenge present realities and to speak out in their own society and beyond.
Creating ChangeThe benefits of cultural activities nevertheless go far beyond the individual. Having endured the hardships of an ongoing, violent military occupation, Palestine today is a shattered society and the population struggles with increasing isolation, fragmentation and disillusion. Countering these trends, The Freedom Theatre believes that theatre and the arts have a crucial role to play in building up a free and healthy society.
By encouraging freedom of expression and respect for individual rights, cultural activities break taboos, stimulate cooperation and enhance understanding of the other. Both for artist and audience, the creative process consists of imagining alternatives, rearranging reality and accepting new ways of life. In societies that reward obedience over initiative and following rules over experimentation, this is radical. In theatre it can also be magical.
Care And LearningThe vision of The Freedom Theatre builds upon a unique project, Care and Learning, run by Arna Mer Khamis in Jenin Camp during the First Intifada. Her work was documented in the film Arna's Children , directed by Juliano Mer Khamis - Arna's son who is today the General Director of The Freedom Theatre.
Arna's project focused on using theatre and arts to address children's immediate trauma, chronic fears and depression - all results of a violent Occupation. At the same time, 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, challenged the children with possibilities for an alternative reality. The Stone Theatre, which was built as part of Arna's project, was destroyed in the Israeli invasion of the camp in 2002.
Juliano Mer Khamis was murdered in front of the Freedom theater in Jenin on April 4th, 2011 after many death threats for his good work. The work of the Freedom Theater will continue with your help.
Our MissionThe Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre, Inc., was established in 2006 in New York to help support The Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank, Palestine. We provide financial and logistic support to The Freedom Theatre by:
- raising funds for the ongoing operational expenses of The Freedom Theatre.
- helping finance The Freedom Theatre’s expansion plans, including a new building to house the theatre, new programs and additional staff.
- establishing relationships for The Freedom Theatre in the United States.
- hosting children and others involved in the theater during their travels in the U.S.
- arranging for outside productions to stage performances at The Freedom Theatre.
- building alliances with actors, artists, educators and others.
Letter To The People Of The Jenin Refugee CampWe would like to introduce ourselves. We are the Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theater, a group of individuals in the United States who have come together to support the excellent work of the Freedom Theater. Our members come from many walks of life and many religions; we are Christians, Muslims, and Jews, united in our efforts to do what we can to spread awareness about the Jenin Refugee Camp and act as a means for individuals and institutions in the United States to help rebuild and maintain the Freedom Theater.
Our involvement with the Freedom Theater began in 2006, when we had a chance to meet Juliano Mer Khamis and hear him discuss his film “Arna’s Children.” We had all seen the film previously and had been deeply affected by it. All of us are veteran human rights activists and long-time supporters of the Palestinian people, but rarely have we been so moved. After meeting Juliano and hearing more about the efforts to rebuild the Theater, we decided to do our small part for this essential project. Each of us has been supporting the Palestinian people for years or even decades, but in all those years we had seldom been given the chance for involvement in such a wonderful endeavor.
These past seven years have seen a growing outrage among supporters of Palestine in the United States and around the world, accompanied by an even greater amazement at the strength and courage of the Palestinian people. Such outrage and amazement has engendered a growing determination to do more in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their resistance to the Occupation and their insistence on leading normal lives under brutal conditions.
As Juliano told us when we met him, the Freedom Theater is part of that resistance and determination. We therefore have been working to build a small but effective organization here to carry on various activities in support of your and Juliano’s work, including fundraising and awareness-building.
We see our organization as more than a project, however—we see it as a relationship with the people of Jenin. Several of us have already visited the Jenin Refugee Camp; many of you have met them. Others will follow. As we continue with our work, we look forward to seeing this relationship grow and develop. We have each seen something special in the Freedom Theater and in the people of the Jenin Refugee camp, and we intend to maintain our relationship with you for many years to come.
The Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theater
Board Of Directors
- Constancia Dinky Romilly, President
- Inea Busnaq, Vice President
- Dorothy Zellner, Treasurer
- Mahmoud Bitar
- Kathleen Chalfant
- Felice Gelman
- Yoram Gelman
- Ismail Khalidi
- Liz Magnes
- Jen Marlowe
- Josh Perlstein
- Ann Petter
- Mariam C. Said
- Terry Weber
- Maya Angelou
- Issa Mikel
- Yoav Elinevsky
- Kathy Engel
- Eve Ensler
- Danny Glover
- Suheir Hammad
- Abdeen Jabara
- Miriam Margolyes
- Vanessa Redgrave
- Jean Stein
- Lubna Hammad
Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre
P.O. Box 592, Tarrytown, New York 10591
Contact: Constancia Dinky Romilly
Tel: 917 991 5653
Support Our Friends
If you would like to play an active role in fundraising and networking for The Freedom Theatre or make a donation to one of our friends and partners worldwide, please contact one of our official Friendship Associations or partners.
Friends of The Jenin Freedom Theatre, United States
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- To Donate Directly to the Freedom Theater in US Dollars Please Use the following Fiscal Sponsor Link: