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Unity commits Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians assemble for adore

Eight religious leaders introduced their congregations together for eight daylights 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 crowd 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 tattered in her synagogue, there were some traverses worn around necks. Others sat in the traditional black garb of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their dress gathered together at the back of the area. Many were wearing no religion garb at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for simply eight days, a music institution in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem was be converted into a communal house of prayer, appointed 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 initiated by Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah nearly a year ago. They contacted out to six other religion representations 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 rules, but too 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 project; we wanted beings to come from the right and from the left and to demonstrate that faith is beyond dogma. Here, we are reshaping reality and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen is not simply brought closer Israels discordant religions, 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 evening of devotion and song. Picture: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight managers had filled 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 entirely new suffer. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has use a different figure 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, “ve never” spoken with a female rabbi.

Instead of mixing devotions and habits, each night the prayer room was hosted by a different religion figure, and most of the devotion done through music and song, a common uniter. The prayer book handed out was in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Speaking after the first nights contest, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight eras. You realised unexpectedly we were all speaking the same expression, she said. It cant only has become a remember, this has to be the intensity for the next step. We will use this as the seed to structure Jerusalem a permanent neighbourhood where all religions can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly significant was the collaboration of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point locate for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who wandered 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 unity can be dangerous. The imams asked not to be mentioned on the programme.

Ihab Balh are recognizing 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 introduce them into Amen and prepared it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it testifies other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in projections like this, he said. Of route, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings campaigning, 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 congregation. Picture: Michal Fattal

Location, location, location

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

The rulers eventually settled on the small music institution, which schools both Jews and Arabs and sits neighboring to Mount Zion, a sacred place for all three beliefs. The building, which instantly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian locality of Silwan, is also directly below the secret zip wire once are applied to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the green text from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty governed the interior design of the devotion residence. Thin pieces of white muslin hung from the ceiling, each allowing a quotation from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their associate musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik acknowledged he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had encountered some resist in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt truly convinced at the start, he said. The feeling was very nice but I did not see how it is unable to happen. But when we started gratify up, I was amazed at how real relationships developed between us all and I detected there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I imagine, is the humble inaugurating we need to change peoples 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 ardent 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 gazes filled with weepings as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they visualize the route Im garmented in wall street they fear me because they think that every Muslim has a knife to jab a Jew. It is important to emphasise there is a difference between what I read in the Quran and how they were are active in the name of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I find a lot of wounded 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 various texts but in the end “were all” contact for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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