Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

RIP Rabea

A few hours ago the Freedom Theatre in Jenin put out this short statement:

The Freedom Theatre mourns the death of one of our graduated Acting School students, the brave resistance fighter who chose to replace the gun with the stage, Rabea Turkman. Under Juliano‘s guidance Rabea developed his talent as an actor and later as a stand-up comedian. Our thoughts go to Rabea’s loved ones at this difficult time. May you rest in peace Rabea, you will be greatly missed and you will always be part of The Freedom Theatre.


I had the privilege of meeting Rabea in Jenin in 2010. I first encountered him in the cafe behind Cinema Jenin in the city centre. He and one of his friends, also an actor from the Freedom Theatre acting school, were arguing over the respective merits of Brechtian and Stanislavskian theories of performance. Rabea’s argument was passionate but always generous and filled with humour, and he showed as much as he told, acting out what he wanted to say as well as articulating it verbally. The quick mind and rapid-fire repartee that later took him onto the stage as a stand-up comic as well as a fine actor. He repertoire included serious parts such as his role in the Freedom Theatre’s production of Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun. But when I met him, Rabea had been auditioning for Alice in Wonderland; with his electric stage presence and incredible energy and physical flexibility he was a shoe-in for the White Rabbit.

Rabea as the White Rabbit

It wasn’t Rabea but one of his friends who told me that he had joined the armed resistance at 14 and had survived being shot by the Israeli army on several occasions. It was only later on that I met the solemn Rabea who told me about seeing his friends die, and thinking that he would too. By that time, though, he was utterly committed to the ‘cultural intifada’, to resisting Israeli occupation through art. His past was still following him, though: as one of many fighters from Jenin who had been granted amnesty in a deal negotiated between the PA, the Israeli occupation and Zakaria Zubeidi’s forces, he still had trouble getting permission to travel outside the West Bank, and was worried that this would hamper his theatrical dreams.

I didn’t see Rabea after that 2010 visit to Jenin; we missed each other in Ramallah last year, something I will always regret, but we stayed in touch online. Palestine always teaches one to seize the moment, because it really may never come around again. Rabea, you will be deeply, sorely missed.

2 comments on “RIP Rabea

  1. gazaheart
    May 1, 2013

    Reblogged this on Tales of a City by the Sea and commented:
    Sarah Irving writes a moving obituary sharing her personal memory of Palestinian actor Rabea Turkman ” Palestine always teaches one to seize the moment, because it really may never come around again. Rabea, you will be deeply, sorely missed.” RIP Rabea Turkman and may we have the strength to continue our “cultural intifada” until we attain our vision of freedom, justice and liberation.

  2. Pingback: Death In the Middle East | Living Awareness Institute Blog

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