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Unity returns Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians assemble for praise

Eight religious leaders brought their parishes together for eight daytimes in one chamber. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum gazed 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 congregation was unlike any she, the leader of an Orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem, was used to addressing. As well as the usual meagre dress and kippah wear in her synagogue, there were some spans worn around cervixes. Others sat in the conventional pitch-black dres of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their garbs gathered together at the back of the area. Numerous were wearing no religion garb at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for simply eight dates, a music school in the lowest depression of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, referred Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their gatherings to worship together in one area. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated metropoli.

The project, part of the Jerusalem season of culture, was launched by Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah almost a year ago. They reached out to six other religion figures 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 rehearses, but likewise open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never guessed something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying along with Palestinians, this is a big danger and a huge step. But this is not a political activity; we wanted beings to come 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 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 deprives of muslin that hang from the ceiling in preparation for an night of prayer and song. Photo: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight presidents had convened once a week to discuss how development projects could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to practise praying together. For most, this was a completely new experience. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has exploited a different call in the programme to prevent a reaction against his family, who are initially from Lebanon, admitted 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 coalescing prayers and institutions, each night the prayer home was hosted by a different religion flesh, 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 phenomenon, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight dates. You realised unexpectedly “weve all” speaking the same communication, she said. It cant just has become a retention, this has to be the energy for the next step. We will use this as the seed to construct Jerusalem a permanent situate where all religions can come and pray alongside each other.

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

Particularly significant was the cooperation of three imams, including information from al-Aqsa mosque the most important locate for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who jaunted from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the devotion 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 requested not to be referred on the programme.

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

This project is a milestone because it pictures other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in assignments like this, he said. Of track, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and people pushing, but its important at the same time to flower the seeds of beings coming together and to be together. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, point, location

In a town where geography is politics, the point of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem abode Amen. Elad-Abblebaum declared it had been a formidable exercise, having been refused over and over again by places in both the east and the west of the city and on Mount Zion itself for suspicion development projects would inspire anger.

The managers eventually settled on the smaller music academy, which educates both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a sacred place for all three religions. The build, 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 cable from East to West Jerusalem.

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

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

To say the truth, I wasnt genuinely convinced at the start, he said. The opinion was very nice but I did not see how it is unable to happen. But when we started session up, I was astounded at how real rapports developed between us all and I detected there was something interesting there. And that friendship between us, I conceive, is the humble embarking we need to change peoples 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 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 week to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her sees filled with snaps as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they see the behavior Im garmented in the street they fear 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 read in the Quran and how people act in the names of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I detect a lot of injure 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 textbooks but in the end we are all reaching for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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