RAMALLAH, August 23 (JMCC) - Two of three Palestinians involved with Jenin’s Freedom Theater and detained by the Israeli military in recent weeks are expected to be released Tuesday, said the general manager of the Freedom Theater in Jenin
A third detainee, board member Balal Saadi, is reportedly to be released on Wednesday.
The releases come just after the Sunday arrest of Mohammed Naghnaghiya, a security guard at the theater, who was detained along with others from the refugee camp where the theater is based.
Mohammed Naghnaghiya’s brother, theater technician Adnan Naghnaghiya, was also arrested last month and is slated for release Tuesday. The arrests by the Israeli military appear to be an attempt to find the man who shot Juliano Mer-Khamis. Israeli citizen Mer-Khamis was the director of the Freedom Theater before being killed in a shooting in April.
Jacob Gough, general manager of acting programs at the theater, said he felt, however, that the Israeli military’s raids on the theater were more antagonistic than inquisitive.
“This doesn’t seem like an investigation of the murder,” he said, “it seems more like an investigation on the theater.”
Rami Hwayel, the other Palestinian scheduled for release Tuesday, was a 20-year-old acting student at the school. Detained on August 6 for allegedly participating in Mer-Khamis’ killing, he was able to prove that he had been on the second floor of the theater when the murder occurred in the camp. According to Haaretz
, a military judge ruled on August 10 that there was no basis for trying Hwayel for murder, although Israeli officials continued to hold him on suspicion of illegally entering Israel.
Gough says that of the three camp members detained Sunday, two are said to have seen the murderer running from the crime. One of these is a minor.
Theater officials believe that the Israeli government was disturbed at the level of international support the Freedom Theater garnered following Mer-Khamis’ death. The theater sees itself as fighting Israel’s occupation through the arts, in a “cultural intifada.”
As evidence of a new Israeli attitude towards the theater, Gough says that the theater has had more difficulty in recent months getting military permits so that students can apply for travel visas in Jerusalem to pursue performances abroad.
The theater is currently preparing to run “Sho Kman” (“What Else?” in Arabic), which draws connections between the violence of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and murder and domestic violence within Palestinian society.
Faisal Abu al-Hije, a 22-year-old acting trainer at the Freedom Theater, helped prepare students acting in the Sho Kman play. He originally came to the theater to learn how to be an actor, but later became attached to the theater’s mission.
Abu al-Hije hopes that the school raises awareness about Palestinian culture in order to end what he says is an occupation not only of the land, but of the mind.
“The occupation is not just from the soldiers,” he said, “It is also in the body. Through the theater, we can help people understand the ideas of the occupation, and we can change people’s ideas.”