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Unity generates Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians connect for hero-worship

Eight religious leaders made their flocks 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 army 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 modest dress and kippah tattered in her synagogue, there were some meets 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. Numerous were wearing no religion garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for exactly eight days, a music academy in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem was be converted into a communal house of prayer, identified Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their flocks to worship together in one chamber. 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 almost a year ago. They reached out to six other religion fleshes 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 rules, but too open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never belief something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians, this is a big threat and a great step. But this is not a political campaign; we wanted people are derived from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond dogma. Here, “weve been” reshaping reality and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen is not simply brought together 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 night of prayer and song. Photograph: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight leads had encountered formerly a few weeks to discuss how the project could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to rehearse praying together. For most, this was a completely new knowledge. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has applied a different reputation in the programme to prevent a backlash against his family, who are originally from Lebanon, declared 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 coalescing devotions and traditions, each night the prayer live was hosted by a different religion figure, 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 happen, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight daytimes. You realised unexpectedly “weve all” speaking the same communication, she said. It cant merely be a remembering, this has to be the vigor for the next step. We will use this as the seed to build Jerusalem a permanent target where all faiths 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 formality to recognize International Peace Day.

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

Ihab Balh are recognizing that building development projects had been a challenging step, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to introduce them into Amen and established 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 activities 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 seeing each other. Thats what I am doing here.

The eight religious leaders, alongside musicians, sit before the gathering. Picture: Michal Fattal

Location, site, location

In a town where geography is politics, the point of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem countenanced Amen. Elad-Abblebaum declared it had been a formidable assignment, 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 fear development projects would instigate anger.

The chairmen eventually settled on the small music school, which schools both Jews and Arabs and sits neighboring to Mount Zion, a pious area for all three religions. The build, which immediately faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, is also immediately below the secret zip wire once used to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the light-green thread from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty decided the interior design of the devotion room. Thin strips of grey 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 associated musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik declared he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had gratified some fight in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt genuinely convinced at the beginning, he said. The intuition was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started rally up, I was surprised at how real rapports developed between us all and I detected there was something interesting there. And that friendship between us, I recall, is the humble embarking 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 participation 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 fitted with snaps as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they recognize the behavior Im dressed in wall street they fear me because they think that every Muslim has a knife to jab a Jew. It was important to stress there is a difference between what I read in the Quran and how they were act in the names 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 Both israelis and Palestinians.

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

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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