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Unity presents Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims and Christians connect for worship

Eight religious leaders wreaked their gatherings 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 seemed upon a bunch 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 worn in her synagogue, there were some crossings worn around cervixes. Others sat in the conventional black robes of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their dress gathered together at the back of the chamber. Numerous were wearing no religious garb at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for simply eight daylights, a music institution in the lowest valley of Jerusalem is turning into a communal house of prayer, referred 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 city.

The project, the members 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 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 traditions, but also open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum responded: 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 danger and a huge step. But this is not a political campaign; we wanted people to come from the right and from the left and been demonstrated that faith is beyond ideology. Here, “were about” reshaping reality and we are doing it through prayer.

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

Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed ties up the airstrips of muslin that hang from the ceiling in preparation for an evening of devotion and song. Photo: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight chairmen had met formerly a week to discuss how development projects could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to rehearse praying together. For most, this was a completely new suffer. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has applied a different refer in the programme to prevent a reaction against their own families, who are originally from Lebanon, acknowledged 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 coalescing devotions and habits, each night the devotion house was hosted by a different religion flesh, 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 affair, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight daylights. You realised abruptly “weve all” speaking the same conversation, she pronounced. It cant precisely has become a memory, this has to be the vigor for the next step. We will use this as the seed to erect Jerusalem a permanent lieu where all religions can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly significant was the collaboration of three imams, including information from al-Aqsa mosque the most important place for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who hurtled from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the devotion nights.

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

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

This project is a milestone because it proves other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in jobs like this, he added. Of course, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and parties engaging, but its important at the same is necessary to weed the seeds of parties coming together and encountering one another. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, locating, location

In a city where geography is politics, the spot 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 the project would spur anger.

The rulers eventually settled on the smaller music academy, which educates both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a holy locate for all three religions. The building, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian region of Silwan, is also instantly below the secret zip wire once allows one to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the green wire from East to West Jerusalem.

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

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

To say the truth, I wasnt actually convinced at the start, he answered. The project was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started fit up, I was stunned at how real affairs developed between us all and I discovered there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I feel, is the humble beginning we need to change publics hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically murderous political climate, Amen has not been an easy-going 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 devout Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her community for a week to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed articulated, and her eyes fitted with rends as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they determine the acces Im dressed in the street they fear me because they were of the view 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 name of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I seem a lot of hurt and sorrow because of whats going on between Israelis and Palestinians.

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

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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