The Freedom Theatre is a theatre and cultural centre in Jenin Refugee Camp, occupied Palestine. We believe that the arts have a crucial role to play in building a free and healthy society, and our contribution to that is a unique programme of activities in performing arts and multimedia, including theatre and drama, filmmaking, photography and creative writing.
We stage professional theatre productions, holds amateur drama workshops and runs a three-year educational program in acting. We offer training in photography and publish books, photography exhibitions and short films.
Since we opened our doors in 2006, we have made theatre and other art forms available to every child in Jenin refugee camp. We have produced 24 theatre plays, including adaptations of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Ghassan Khanafani’s Men in the Sun, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker and Athol Fugard’s The Island, and original plays such as Fragments of Palestine, Sho Kman, Stolen Dreams, Power/Poison, Math Exam, Return to Palestine, The Siege and Suicide Note from Palestine. We have performed for more than 100 000 children, youth and adults. We have trained a core of actors, stage managers, theatre technicians, photographers, filmmakers and instructors that can independently run what has become one of Palestine’s largest cultural centres. A dozen theatre students have graduated from our Theatre School, over a hundred women have been trained in photography and film. We have reached out to more than 50 communities in occupied Palestine and performed, held workshops and presentations in more than 15 countries. Our work has made Jenin refugee camp known in Palestine and internationally for innovative, thought-provoking theatre and media productions. We have created a generation of artists and leaders, who one day will be at the forefront of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Although The Freedom Theatre’s focus is on theatre and visual arts, we do not take a neutral position on the issue of Israeli apartheid, colonization, occupation and military rule. Nor do we turn a blind eye to the internal violation of human rights, in particular the rights of women and children.
For the oppressed, the arts have always been and will always be a powerful tool against the oppressors. For us Palestinians, artistic expression is an integrated part of our struggle for justice, equality and freedom.
So what is successful cultural resistance? First and foremost, play. Play is not reserved for children; it is the basic desire to experiment and test reality, which is a prerequisite for creativity and imagination. To us, everything we do contains an element of play. Through play, we can deconstruct an oppressive reality and make it comprehensible, which is the first step towards changing it. Just as we cannot imagine more colours than what our eyes have seen, we cannot imagine a reality beyond our own experiences and frames of reference.
Our journey has taught us that change does not come easily; it requires dedication, perseverance and a huge amount of fighting spirit. Motivation comes in the form of personal development, a sense of genuine cooperation between people and a sense of being part of something greater than the individuals who make up our movement.
What we do in the theatre is not trying to be a substitute or an alternative to the Palestinian resistance in the struggle for liberation, just the opposite. This must be clear. […] We join, by all means, the Palestinian struggle for liberation, which is our liberation struggle. We are not healers. We are not good Christians. We are freedom fighters.” Juliano Mer Khamis
Jenin Refugee Camp
The Freedom Theatre operates in Jenin Refugee Camp, which is among the most severely affected areas by decades of Israeli occupation and internal conflicts. Jenin camp is largely isolated – culturally, economically and politically. This sense of isolation runs deep within the camp and particularly affects the young generation.
The Freedom Theatre plays an important role in strengthening resilience and contravening feelings of apathy and hopelessness by contributing to enriching the cultural life in Jenin camp and its surroundings. Since The Freedom Theatre opened its doors in 2006, more than 100 000 aspiring artists, spectators, visitors and friends have come together in the theatre to engage, perform and create.