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Unity establishes Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims and Christians join for love

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

In a small building in the foreboding shadow of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum examined upon a gathering 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 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 meets worn around necks. Others sat in the traditional black cape of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their attires be gathered at the back of the area. Many were wearing no religion garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for precisely eight days, a music academy in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem was be converted into a communal house of prayer, called Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their flocks to worship together in one room. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated city.

The project, part of the Jerusalem season of culture, was initiated by Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah nearly a year ago. They reached out to six other religious digits 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 also open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never believed 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 huge step. But this is not a political programme; we wanted people are derived from the right and from the left and to demonstrate that faith is beyond dogma. Here, we are reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

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

Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed ties up the strips of muslin that hang from the ceiling in preparation for an evening of prayer and song. Photograph: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight presidents had matched once a few weeks to discuss how the project could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to practise praying together. For most, this was a entirely new experience. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has expended a different figure in the programme to prevent a reaction against their own families, who are initially from Lebanon, declared he had not met anyone from the Coptic church before. Fr Alberto Fer, the Franciscan monk, had never spoken with a female rabbi.

Instead of incorporating prayers and habits, each night the prayer mansion was hosted by a different religious person, and most of the prayer done using music and song, a common uniter. The prayer book handed out was in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Speaking after the first nights happening, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already implemented in order to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight periods. You realised unexpectedly “weve all” speaking the same expression, she said. It cant simply has become a storage, this has to be the energy for the next step. We will use this as the seed to develop Jerusalem a permanent home where all religions can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly significant was the cooperation of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important area for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who passed 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 unity can be dangerous. The imams questioned not to be identified on the programme.

Ihab Balh admitted that constructing the project had been a challenging pace, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to accompanied them into Amen and formed it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it depicts other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in campaigns like this, he said. Of direction, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and parties fighting, but its important at the same is high time to weed 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 parish. Photograph: Michal Fattal

Location, location, location

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

The commanders eventually settled on the smaller music school, which teaches both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a sacred area for all three beliefs. The construct, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, is also instantly below the secret zip cable formerly are applied to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the light-green pipeline from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty decided the interior design of the prayer live. Thin airstrips of white muslin hung from the ceiling, each permitting 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 firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had met some resist in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt certainly convinced at the beginning, he said. The opinion was very nice but I did not see how it is unable to happen. But when we started satisfy up, I was amazed at how real ties-in developed between us all and I discovered there was something concerning there. And that friendship between us, I envisage, is the humble inaugurating we need to change families hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically brutal 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 eyes fitted with tears as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes people, when they accompany the way Im garmented in the street they fear me because they is considered that every Muslim has a knife to jab a Jew. It was important to stress there is a difference between what I read in the Quran and how people are active in the name of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I feel a lot of suffering and sorrow because of whats going on between Israelis and Palestinians.

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

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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