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Unity opens Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians join for adore

Eight religious leaders brought their flocks together for eight days 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 gathering sitting attentively before her. We have had a long way to go to prepare for this evening, she read 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 meagre dress and kippah worn in her synagogue, there were some bridges worn around necks. Others sat in the traditional black robes of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their habits gathered together at the back of the chamber. Many were wearing no religious clothe at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for merely eight days, a music institution in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, mentioned Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their congregations to worship together in one chamber. 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 almost a year ago. They reached out to six other religious illustrations 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 likewise open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum added: I never accepted something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians, this is a big jeopardy and a great step. But this is not a political projection; we wanted parties to come from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond dogma. Here, we are reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen is not simply brought together 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 devotion and song. Photo: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight governors had converged formerly 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 completely new knowledge. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has used a different identify in the programme to prevent a reaction against his family, 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 merging prayers and institutions, each night the devotion mansion was hosted by a different religious flesh, 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 periods. You realised unexpectedly “weve all” speaking the same conversation, she alleged. It cant simply has become a remembrance, this has to be the vigor for the next step. We will use this as the seed to construct Jerusalem a permanent lieu where all faiths can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly significant was the collaboration of three imams, including information from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point website for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who toured from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the devotion 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 expected not to be identified on the programme.

Ihab Balh has recognised 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 wreak them into Amen and did it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it proves other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in projections like this, he enunciated. Of course, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and parties opposing, but its important at the same time to plant the seeds of parties coming together and to be together. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, site, location

In a town where geography is politics, the locating of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem admitted 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 dread the project would provoke anger.

The presidents eventually settled on the smaller music institution, which learns both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a pious locate for all three religions. The structure, which immediately faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian locality of Silwan, is also instantly 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 strips of white muslin hung from the ceiling, each permitting a quote from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their attend musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik acknowledged he had been extremely sceptical when firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had gratified some resist in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt truly convinced at the beginning, he alleged. The theory was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it was able to happen. But when we started fit up, I was amazed at how real relationships developed between us all and I detected there was something concerning there. And that friendship between us, I remember, is the humble embarking we need to change peoples 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 perceived 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 supposed, and her seeings filled with rips as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes people, when they verify the lane Im garmented in the street they are afraid of me because they be considered 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 hurt and sorrow because of whats going on between Both 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 “were all” reaching for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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