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Unity yields Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians connect for praise

Eight religious leaders created their gatherings together for eight epoches in one chamber. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum looked upon a army sitting attentively before her. We have had a long way to go to prepare for this evening, she replied with a soft smile. Today we all do something very brave.

Certainly this gathering was unlike any she, the leader of an Orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem, was used to addressing. As well as the usual modest dress and kippah tattered in her synagogue, there were some crossings worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional pitch-black dres of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their practices gathered together at the back of the chamber. Many were wearing no religious garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for only eight daytimes, a music academy in the lowest valley of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, called Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their flocks to worship together in one chamber. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated metropolitan.

The project, part of the Jerusalem season of culture, was initiated by Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah almost a year ago. They reached out to six other religion chassis two rabbis, a Franciscan monk, a Catholic priest, a Coptic deaconess and a female Muslim community leader who were very conventional in their beliefs and rehearsals, but likewise open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum supposed: I never belief something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians, this is a big peril and a great step. But this is not a political programme; we wanted parties are derived from the right and from the left and been demonstrated that faith is beyond ideology. Here, we are reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen is not simply brought closer Israels discordant religions, but also men and women, which is almost unheard of in such inter-religious gatherings.

Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed ties up the pieces of muslin that hang from the ceiling in preparation for an night of prayer and song. Picture: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight managers had fulfilled once a few weeks to discuss how the project could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to rehearse praying together. For most, this was a entirely new event. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has used a different appoint in the programme to prevent a backlash against his family, who are originally from Lebanon, declared he had not met anyone from the Coptic church before. Fr Alberto Fer, the Franciscan monk, “ve never” spoken with a female rabbi.

Instead of merging devotions and institutions, each night the prayer house was hosted by a different religion digit, and most of the devotion done using music and song, a common uniter. The prayer book handed out was in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Speaking after the first nights incident, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight daylights. You realised suddenly “weve all” speaking the same usage, she alleged. It cant simply has become a reminiscence, this has to be the force for the next step. We will use this as the seed to body-build Jerusalem a permanent home where all sects can come and pray alongside each other.

In a first step towards devoting Amen longevity, the eight religious leaders all met again on Wednesday for a special rite to distinguish International Peace Day.

Particularly significant was the collaboration of three imams, including information from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point place for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who travelled from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the prayer evenings.

In a climate where Arab involvement in any activity involving Jews leads to accusations of normalisation, such interfaith harmony can be hazardous. The imams questioned not to be referred on the programme.

Ihab Balh admitted that building development projects had been a challenging step, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to introduce them into Amen and formed it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it depicts other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in projects like this, he replied. Of course, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and people fighting, but its important at the same is necessary to plant the seeds of people coming together and realise each other. Thats what I am doing here.

The eight religious leaders, alongside musicians, sit before the parish. Photo: Michal Fattal

Location, place, location

In a city where geography is politics, the place of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem consented Amen. Elad-Abblebaum acknowledged it had been a formidable assignment, having been refused over and over again by places available in both the east and the west of the city and on Mount Zion itself for anxiety the project would spur anger.

The leaders eventually settled on the small music institution, which schools both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a sacred site for all three beliefs. The build, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian community of Silwan, is also directly below the secret zip cable once allows one to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the light-green pipeline from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the prayer live. Thin deprives of lily-white muslin hung from the ceiling, each abiding a quote from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their accompany musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik declared he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had fulfilled some resistance in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt genuinely persuaded at the beginning, he did. The meaning was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started rally up, I was astounded at how real rapports developed between us all and I discovered there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I guess, is the humble embarking we need to change publics hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically violent political climate, Amen has not been an easy project to be publicly attached to.

But Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed, one of the eight organisers and a respected Muslim community leader in the Israeli Arab town of Fureidis, said she was unafraid of her participate being perceived as political.

It shouldnt be taken for granted that a ardent Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her community for a week to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed read, and her seeings fitted with rends as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes people, when they appreciate the way Im garmented in wall street they are afraid of me because they think that every Muslim has a knife to stab a Jew. It is important to emphasise there is a difference between what I speak in the Quran and how people act in the name of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I appear a lot of hurt and sorrow because of whats going on between Israelis and Palestinians.

She added: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with different verses but in the end “were all” contacting for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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