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Unity yields Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims and Christians assemble for devotion

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

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum gazed upon a audience 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 tattered in her synagogue, there were some pass worn around necks. Others sat in the conventional pitch-black attire of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their practices gathered together 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 just eight dates, a music institution in the lowest depression of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, mentioned Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their flocks to worship together in one room. 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 almost a year ago. They contacted out to six other religion digits 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 practices, but also 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 along with Palestinians, this is a big peril and a huge step. But this is not a political projection; we wanted parties to come from the right and from the left and to demonstrate that faith is beyond dogma. Here, “weve been” reshaping reality and we are doing it through prayer.

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

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

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight leaders had fulfilled once a few weeks 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 suffer. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has expended a different mention 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, had never spoken with a female rabbi.

Instead of melting devotions and habits, each night the devotion house was hosted by a different religious illustration, 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 affair, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight dates. You realised abruptly “weve all” speaking the same conversation, she said. It cant merely be a remembering, this has to be the intensity for the next step. We will use this as the seed to improve Jerusalem a permanent target where all religions can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly substantial was the cooperation of three imams, including information from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point area for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who circulated 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 hazardous. The imams questioned not to be referred on the programme.

Ihab Balh admitted that improving 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 acquired it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it depicts other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in jobs like this, he said. Of trend, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings fighting, but its important at the same is high time to plant the seeds of people coming together and seeing each other. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, site, location

In a city where geography is politics, the place of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem abode Amen. Elad-Abblebaum admitted 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 horror the project would foment anger.

The chairmen eventually settled on the small music institution, which schools both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a holy site for all three beliefs. The building, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian vicinity of Silwan, is also immediately below the secret zip cable once used to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green pipeline from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the prayer house. Thin deprives of lily-white muslin hung from the ceiling, each assuming a quote 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 firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had filled some fighting in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt actually convinced at the beginning, he said. The sentiment was very nice but I did not see how it could happen. But when we started find up, I was stunned at how real relations developed between us all and I detected there was something concerning there. And that friendship between us, I belief, is the humble inaugurating we need to change peoples 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 participate being view as political.

It shouldnt be taken for granted that a devout 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 fitted with weepings as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes people, when they learn the practice Im garmented in the street they fear 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 are active in the names of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I experience a lot of suffer and sorrow because of whats going on between Both israelis and Palestinians.

She contributed: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with different texts but in the end “were all” reaching for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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