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Unity imparts Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians assemble for sacred

Eight religious leaders delivered their flocks together for eight dates in one room. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding shadow of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum looked 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 parish 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 cross worn around necks. Others sat in the conventional pitch-black costume of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their dress gathered together at the back of the chamber. Numerous were wearing no religion garb at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for just eight daylights, a music academy in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem was be converted into a communal house of prayer, named Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their gatherings to worship together in one room. 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 religious 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 practises, but also open to discussions with other faiths.

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

She emphasised how Amen is not simply brought together Israels discordant beliefs, 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 prayer and song. Photograph: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight governors had fulfilled once a week to discuss how development projects could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to rehearse praying together. For most, this was a completely new ordeal. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has use a different epithet in the programme to prevent a reaction against their own families, who are originally 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 mixing prayers and institutions, each night the devotion home 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 event, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already implemented in order to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight daytimes. You realised abruptly we were all speaking the same conversation, she said. It cant merely has become a retention, this has to be the vigour for the next step. We will use this as the seed to develop Jerusalem a permanent home where all faiths can come and pray alongside each other.

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

Particularly significant was the collaboration of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point place for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who walked 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 hazardous. The imams questioned not to be named on the programme.

Ihab Balh are recognizing that building development projects had been a challenging stair, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to introduce them into Amen and formed it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it presents other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in projections like this, he said. Of course, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and parties fighting, but its important at the same is high time to weed 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, 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 acknowledged it had been a formidable project, 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 horror the project would foment anger.

The governors eventually settled on the smaller music institution, which teaches both Jews and Arabs and sits neighboring to Mount Zion, a pious place for all three religions. The construct, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, is also immediately below the secret zip wire formerly used to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green wrinkle from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the prayer home. Thin deprives of grey muslin hung from the ceiling, each accepting a quotation 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 admitted he had been extremely sceptical when firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had congregated some defiance in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt actually convinced at the beginning, he said. The plan was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it is unable to happen. But when we started join up, I was amazed at how real ties-in developed between us all and I discovered there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I conclude, is the humble inaugurating we need to change people 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 devout Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her community for a week to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her eyes fitted with rips as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they investigate the acces Im dressed in the street they are afraid of 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 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 hurt 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” accomplish for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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