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Unity commits Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians connect for sacred

Eight religious leaders brought their gatherings together for eight days in one chamber. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum seemed upon a bunch sitting attentively before her. We have had a long way to go to prepare for this evening, she alleged 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 wear in her synagogue, there were some pass worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional black robes of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their attires to gather at the back of the room. Many were wearing no religious outfit at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for exactly eight daytimes, a music institution in the lowest depression of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, called Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their gatherings to worship together in one chamber. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated city.

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 contacted out to six other religious representations 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 read: I never imagined something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying along with Palestinians, this is a big jeopardy and a huge step. But this is not a political activity; we wanted beings to come 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 together Israels discordant religions, but likewise men and women, which is almost unheard of in such inter-religious gatherings.

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

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight commanders had filled once a few weeks to discuss how development projects could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to rehearse praying together. For most, this was a entirely new know. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has employed a different epithet 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 institutions, each night the devotion mansion was hosted by a different religion illustration, and most of the prayer 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 daylights. You realised unexpectedly we were all speaking the same language, she did. It cant just has become a reminiscence, this has to be the vigor for the next step. We will use this as the seed to build Jerusalem a permanent region where all sects can come and pray alongside each other.

In a first step towards giving Amen longevity, the eight religious leaders all met again on Wednesday for a special ceremony to mark 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 the other Palestinian imam who tripped 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 dangerous. The imams expected not to be appointed on the programme.

Ihab Balh has recognised that improving the project had been a challenging step, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to create them into Amen and prepared 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 enunciated. Of track, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings campaigning, but its important at the same time to weed 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 parish. Photo: Michal Fattal

Location, location, location

In a city where geography is politics, the orientation of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem consented Amen. Elad-Abblebaum acknowledged it had been a formidable project, having been refused time and again by places in both the east and the west of the city and on Mount Zion itself for horror the project would inflame anger.

The managers eventually settled on the smaller music academy, which educates both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a pious site for all three religions. The house, which instantly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian region of Silwan, is also immediately below the secret zip wire formerly are applied to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the light-green direction from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the prayer room. Thin deprives 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 acknowledged he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had convened some defiance in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt truly convinced at the start, he supposed. The suggestion was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started session up, I was astonished at how real relations developed between us all and I detected there was something concerning there. And that friendship between us, I recall, is the humble inaugurating we need to change folks 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 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 perceived as political.

It shouldnt be taken for granted that a ardent Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her parish for a week to is everything, let alone this, Mahmeed remarked, and her eyes fitted with snaps as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they read the road Im garmented in wall street they are afraid of me because they were of the view that every Muslim has a knife to jab a Jew. It is important to emphasise “theres a difference between” what I read in the Quran and how people are active in the name of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I seem a lot of injure and sorrow because of whats going on between Israelis and Palestinians.

She added: 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 reaching for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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