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Unity commits Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians join for love

Eight religious leaders drew their parishes together for eight days in one area. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding shadow of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum gazed 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 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 crisscross worn around necks. Others sat in the traditional pitch-black robes of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their attires be gathered at the back of the room. Many were wearing no religion garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for exactly eight dates, a music school 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 gatherings to worship together in one area. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated municipality.

The project, part of the Jerusalem season of culture, was launched by Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah nearly a year ago. They contacted 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 rules, but too 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 together with Palestinians, this is a big jeopardy and a huge step. But this is not a political programme; we wanted parties to come from the right and from the left and to demonstrate that faith is beyond ideology. Here, “weve been” reshaping reality and we are doing it through prayer.

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

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

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight managers had convened once a week to discuss how the project could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to practise praying together. For most, this was a entirely new knowledge. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has utilized a different refer in the programme to prevent a reaction against their own families, 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 illustration, and most of the prayer 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 implemented in order to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight days. You realised abruptly we were all speaking the same language, she said. It cant merely has become a memory, this has to be the power for the next step. We will use this as the seed to build Jerusalem a permanent target 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 ceremony to commemorate International Peace Day.

Particularly significant was the collaboration of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important area for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who advanced 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 solidarity can be dangerous. The imams asked not to be identified on the programme.

Ihab Balh admitted that improving the project had been a challenging gradation, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to create 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 campaigns like this, he said. Of trend, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and people pushing, but its important at the same is high time to bush the seeds of people coming together and to be together. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, place, location

In a city where geography is politics, the place of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem accepted Amen. Elad-Abblebaum acknowledged it had been a formidable assignment, having been refused time and time again by places available in both the east and the west of the city and on Mount Zion itself for dread development projects would instigate anger.

The leads eventually settled on the smaller music school, which learns both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a holy website for all three religions. The construct, which instantly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian region of Silwan, is also instantly below the secret zip cable formerly are applied to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the light-green course from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty decided the interior design of the devotion live. Thin airstrips of white-hot muslin hung from the ceiling, each tolerating 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 firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had matched some resist in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt truly convinced at the beginning, he said. The theme was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it is unable to happen. But when we started fit up, I was astonished at how real relationships developed between us all and I detected there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I conceive, is the humble beginning we need to change publics 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 participate 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 few weeks to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her gazes filled with snaps as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they ensure the course Im dressed in the street they fear me because they is considered that every Muslim has a knife to stab a Jew. It is important to emphasise 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 find a lot of damage 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 we are all accomplish for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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