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Unity holds Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians connect for love

Eight religious leaders brought their gatherings together for eight epoches 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 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 crosses worn around cervixes. Others sat in the conventional black robe of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their dress gathered together at the back of the area. Numerous were wearing no religious garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for simply eight epoches, a music school in the lowest depression of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, named Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their parishes to worship together in one area. 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 nearly a year ago. They contacted out to six other religious anatomies 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 also open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum did: I never believed something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians, this is a big gamble and a huge step. But this is not a political campaign; we wanted people was derived from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond ideology. Here, we are reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

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

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight governors had congregated once a week 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 experience. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has employed a different mention in the programme to prevent a backlash against their own families, who are initially 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 consolidating prayers and traditions, each night the prayer room was hosted by a different religion chassis, and most of the devotion 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 development projects lived on beyond its eight periods. You realised unexpectedly we were all speaking the same conversation, she enunciated. It cant just has become a remembering, this has to be the intensity for the next step. We will use this as the seed to construct Jerusalem a permanent place where all sects can come and pray alongside each other.

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

Particularly significant was the collaboration of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important website for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who tripped from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the devotion evenings.

In a climate where Arab involvement in any activity involving Jews leads to accusations of normalisation, such interfaith unity can be hazardous. The imams expected not to be identified on the programme.

Ihab Balh has recognised that building development projects had been a challenging pace, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to draw them into Amen and attained it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it evidences other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in projects like this, he did. Of direction, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings engaging, but its important at the same time to weed the seeds of beings coming together and to be together. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, locating, location

In a city where geography is politics, the orientation of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem accepted Amen. Elad-Abblebaum admitted it had been a formidable task, 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 fear development projects would inspire anger.

The presidents eventually settled on the small music academy, which learns both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a pious locate for all three religions. The house, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian locality of Silwan, is also immediately below the secret zip cable once are applied to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green thread from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the prayer live. Thin strips of white muslin hung from the ceiling, each birthing a quotation 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 acknowledged he had been extremely sceptical when firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had fulfilled some resist in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt genuinely convinced at the beginning, he enunciated. The idea was very nice but I did not see how it could happen. But when we started convene up, I was amazed at how real affairs developed between us all and I discovered there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I envisage, is the humble inaugurating we need to change families 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 remarked, and her seeings fitted with tears as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they identify the method Im dressed in the street they fear me because they were of the view 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 name of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I appear a lot of throb 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 various texts but in the end “were all” contacting for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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