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Unity contributes Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims and Christians join for hero-worship

Eight religious leaders made their congregations together for eight dates in one chamber. It was a dangerous move

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

Certainly this congregation 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 junctions worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional black garb of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their dress be gathered at the back of the area. Numerous were wearing no religion clothe at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for exactly eight days, a music academy in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem was be converted into a communal house of prayer, named Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their flocks to worship together in one area. 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 religious illustrations 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 patterns, but too open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never accepted something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians, this is a big gamble and a huge step. But this is not a political activity; we wanted parties are derived from the right and from the left and to demonstrate that faith is beyond dogma. Here, “weve been” reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen is not simply brought closer Israels discordant religions, but too 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 commanders had assembled once a few weeks to discuss how development projects could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to rehearse praying together. For most, this was a entirely new know-how. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has exploited a different name in the programme to prevent a backlash against their own families, 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 consolidating prayers and traditions, each night the devotion house was hosted by a different religion digit, and most of the devotion done through music and song, a common uniter. The prayer book handed out was in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Speaking after the first nights affair, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight periods. You realised suddenly we were all speaking the same language, she said. It cant only be a retention, this has to be the intensity for the next step. We will use this as the seed to improve Jerusalem a permanent situate where all religions can come and pray alongside one another.

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

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

In an atmosphere where Arab involvement in any activity involving Jews leads to accusations of normalisation, such interfaith harmony can be dangerous. The imams questioned not to be appointed on the programme.

Ihab Balh are recognizing that improving the project had been a challenging gradation, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to wreak them into Amen and built 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 programmes like this, he said. Of trend, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings pushing, but its important at the same time to bush the seeds of people coming together and to be together. Thats what I am doing here.

The eight religious leaders, alongside musicians, sit before the gathering. Picture: Michal Fattal

Location, point, location

In a city where geography is politics, the locating of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem abode Amen. Elad-Abblebaum admitted it had been a formidable enterprise, having been refused time and time again by places available in both the east and the west of the city and on Mount Zion itself for horror the project would foment anger.

The chairmen eventually settled on the small music school, which schools both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a holy site for all three beliefs. The structure, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian vicinity of Silwan, is also immediately below the secret zip cable formerly used to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the light-green row from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty decided the interior design of the prayer house. Thin deprives of grey muslin hung from the ceiling, each countenancing a quotation from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their associated musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik acknowledged he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had assembled some defiance in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt genuinely convinced at the start, he said. The suggestion was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started see up, I was astonished at how real relationships developed between us all and I detected there was something interesting there. And that friendship between us, I believe, is the humble inaugurating we need to change peoples hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically murderous political climate, Amen has not been an easy project to be publicly attributed 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 participation being view as political.

It shouldnt be taken for granted that a piou Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her community for a few weeks to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her attentions fitted with weepings as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they attend the direction Im dressed in wall street they are afraid of me because they think that every Muslim has a knife to stab a Jew. It was important to stress there is a difference between what I speak in the Quran and how they were are active in the name of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I experience a lot of wounded and sorrow because of whats going on between Both israelis and Palestinians.

She contributed: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with various verses but in the end we are all make for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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