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

Eight religious leaders returned their congregations together for eight epoches in one chamber. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding shadow of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum seemed upon a gang 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 modest dress and kippah tattered in her synagogue, there were some spans worn around necks. Others sat in the conventional black costume of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their habits 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 precisely eight periods, a music institution in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, appointed Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their parishes to worship together in one room. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated metropolitan.

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 reached out to six other religious chassis 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 traditions, but too open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never conceived 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 great step. But this is not a political projection; we wanted beings are derived from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond ideology. Here, “weve been” reshaping actuality and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen not only 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 rows of muslin that hang from the ceiling in preparation for an evening of prayer and song. Photo: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight rulers had filled once a few weeks 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 used a different call 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 incorporating prayers and institutions, each night the devotion room was hosted by a different religious digit, 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 episode, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight daylights. You realised abruptly “weve all” speaking the same usage, she said. It cant just has become a recollection, this has to be the vigour for the next step. We will use this as the seed to body-build Jerusalem a permanent target where all sects can come and pray alongside each other.

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

Particularly significant was the collaboration of three imams, including information from al-Aqsa mosque the most important website 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 harmony can be dangerous. The imams asked not to be appointed on the programme.

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

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

The eight religious leaders, alongside musicians, sit before the flock. Photo: Michal Fattal

Location, site, location

In a city where geography is politics, the location of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem accepted Amen. Elad-Abblebaum acknowledged it had been a formidable project, 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 panic the project would incite anger.

The leads eventually settled on the smaller music institution, which schools both Jews and Arabs and sits neighboring to Mount Zion, a pious place for all three religions. The build, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, is also directly below the secret zip wire formerly are applied to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the light-green line from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty governed the interior design of the devotion home. Thin rows of lily-white muslin hung from the ceiling, each permitting a quotation from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their accompany musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

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

To say the truth, I wasnt actually convinced at the start, he said. The impression was very nice but I did not see how it is unable to happen. But when we started rally up, I was stunned at how real relations developed between us all and I discovered there was something interesting there. And that friendship between us, I visualize, is the humble embarking we need to change families 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 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 attentions fitted with rends as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they interpret the space Im garmented in the 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 act 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 lent: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with various texts but in the end we are all attain for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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