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Unity renders Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians meet for love

Eight religious leaders fetched their congregations together for eight daytimes in one room. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum seemed upon a mob 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 flock 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 crisscross worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional pitch-black robes of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their garbs gathered together at the back of the room. Many were wearing no religion clothe at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for merely eight days, a music institution in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, called Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their parishes 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 initiated by Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah almost a year ago. They contacted out to six other religious 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 traditions, but too open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never speculated something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying along with Palestinians, this is a big peril and a huge step. But this is not a political programme; we wanted beings to come from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond dogma. Here, “weve been” reshaping actuality and we are doing it through prayer.

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

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

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight presidents had fulfilled formerly 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 event. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has applied a different reputation in the programme to prevent a reaction against his family, who are initially from Lebanon, acknowledged 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 live was hosted by a different religious chassis, 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 occasion, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already implemented in order to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight days. You realised suddenly we were all speaking the same communication, she said. It cant merely be a remember, this has to be the vigor for the next step. We will use this as the seed to body-build Jerusalem a permanent region where all sects can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly substantial was the collaboration of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point site for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who wandered from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the prayer nights.

In an atmosphere 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 appointed on the programme.

Ihab Balh are recognizing 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 return them into Amen and moved 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 programmes like this, he said. Of trend, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and people fighting, but its important at the same time to flora the seeds of parties coming together and to be together. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, locating, location

In a city where geography is politics, the point of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem abode Amen. Elad-Abblebaum acknowledged it had been a formidable chore, 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 dread the project would motivate anger.

The governors eventually settled on the small music school, which teaches both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a pious site for all three beliefs. The construct, which instantly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian community of Silwan, is also instantly below the secret zip wire formerly are applied to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the green course from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the prayer mansion. Thin pieces of white-hot muslin hung from the ceiling, each allowing a quote 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 declared he had been extremely sceptical when firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had congregated some defiance in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt actually convinced at the start, he said. The hypothesi was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started gratify up, I was astounded at how real affairs developed between us all and I discovered there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I speculate, is the humble inaugurating we need to change people 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 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 perceived as political.

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

Sometimes people, when they encounter the path Im dressed in the street they fear me because they is considered 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 people are active in the names 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 added: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with different textbooks but in the end “were all” make for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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