April 07, 2011 Nisan 3, 5771

Letters to the Editor

Keeping Juliano's legacy alive

When the former British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, came on his first visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, he did not go at once to see politicians. He did not speak immediately to security experts or international lawyers. He went to the Freedom Theater in Jenin. With so much despair and tragedy on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we wanted to begin by showing him something of the hope that exists, too. There, in a place synonymous with the most violent days of the second intifada, was a light for the future.

On Monday, someone attempted to extinguish that light. They shot Juliano Mer-Khamis five times. In his arms was his baby son. His killers fled.

If you ever had the privilege to go to the Freedom Theater, to meet Juliano and to watch the children perform, then you already know what a transformative experience it can be.

To start, the plays were good. This was no ramshackle amateur operation: With an actor and director of Juliano's talent, how could it be?

The theater took on difficult plays, the actors were gifted and committed, the volunteers were enthusiastic. But it was Juliano who bound it all together.

He had an energy and presence that could fill not just a room, but an auditorium.

Juliano could have settled for an easy life. He had talent to burn. Instead, he took the difficult path because he believed he could help others. He was right. We once took a group of senior members of parliament to the theater, and one parliamentarian asked a teenager what he'd be doing if he wasn't rehearsing on the stage. "I would probably be dead," the boy replied.

The men who killed Juliano were everything he was not. They were small – unable to lift their heads above ideology and petty hatred. We will remember Juliano. We will support his theater, his work and his legacy. We will not allow his light to be extinguished.

John Edwards, Deputy Consul General

British Consulate General, Jerusalem