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

Eight religious leaders made their flocks 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 ogled 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 meagre dress and kippah worn in her synagogue, there were some crisscross worn around necks. Others sat in the traditional pitch-black costume of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their attires gathered together at the back of the room. Numerous were wearing no religious garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for only eight periods, a music institution in the lowest depression of Jerusalem was be converted into a communal house of prayer, appointed Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their parishes to worship together in one chamber. 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 contacted out to six other religion anatomies two rabbis, a Franciscan monk, a Catholic priest, a Coptic deaconess and a female Muslim community leader who were very traditional in their beliefs and rehearsals, but too open to discussions with other faiths.

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

She emphasised how Amen not only brought together Israels discordant religions, but also 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 night of devotion and song. Photograph: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight leaders had gratified once a few weeks to discuss how development projects 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 used a different appoint in the programme to prevent a backlash 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 melting prayers and traditions, each night the devotion home was hosted by a different religion anatomy, 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 event, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already implemented in order to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight daylights. You realised suddenly we were all speaking the same conversation, she said. It cant just has become a remembrance, this has to be the power for the next step. We will use this as the seed to body-build Jerusalem a permanent region where all religions can come and pray alongside each other.

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

Particularly substantial was the cooperation of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point site for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who circulated from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the prayer 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 asked not to be identified on the programme.

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

This project is a milestone because it establishes other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in projects like this, he said. Of course, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings fighting, but its important at the same time to plant 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 gathering. Photograph: Michal Fattal

Location, point, location

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

The managers eventually settled on the small music institution, which educates both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a sacred site for all three religions. The building, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian locality of Silwan, is also immediately below the secret zip cable formerly are applied to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the green text from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty governed the interior design of the prayer house. Thin airstrips of white-hot muslin hung from the ceiling, each assuming 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 admitted he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had congregated some fighting in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt really convinced at the start, he said. The theory was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started see up, I was amazed at how real relations developed between us all and I detected there was something concerning there. And that friendship between us, I see, is the humble embarking 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 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 parish for a few weeks to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her attentions fitted with rends as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they envision the lane 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 people act in the name of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I detect a lot of wounded and sorrow because of whats going on between Israelis and Palestinians.

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

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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