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Unity renders Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians meet for praise

Eight religious leaders drew their flocks together for eight epoches in one area. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding shadow of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum examined upon a mob 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 gathering 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 cross worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional black robe of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their dress be gathered at the back of the room. Numerous were wearing no religion garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for precisely eight dates, a music school in the lowest depression of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, mentioned 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 metropolitan.

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 reached out to six other religion chassis 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 traditions, but likewise open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum suggested: I never guessed something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians, this is a big threat and a huge step. But this is not a political assignment; 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 not only brought closer 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 evening of prayer and song. Photo: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight leaders had gratified once a few weeks to discuss how the project could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to rehearse praying together. For most, this was a completely new know. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has utilized a different mention in the programme to prevent a reaction against his family, who are initially 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 coalescing prayers and traditions, each night the prayer live was hosted by a different religious 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 phenomenon, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight epoches. You realised abruptly “weve all” speaking the same expression, she added. It cant simply be a retention, this has to be the power for the next step. We will use this as the seed to build Jerusalem a permanent neighbourhood where all religions can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly significant was the cooperation of three imams, including information from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point locate for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who passed from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the prayer nights.

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 referred on the programme.

Ihab Balh admitted that building the project had been a challenging gradation, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to fetch them into Amen and realise 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 activities like this, he added. Of route, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings campaigning, but its important at the same is necessary 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 parish. Photo: Michal Fattal

Location, place, location

In a city where geography is politics, the point of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem accepted Amen. Elad-Abblebaum declared 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 suspicion the project would incite anger.

The rulers eventually settled on the small music academy, which schools both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a sacred site for all three religions. The construct, which immediately faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian locality of Silwan, is also instantly below the secret zip wire once are applied to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green boundary from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the prayer house. Thin rows of white-hot muslin hung from the ceiling, each tolerating 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 first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had encountered some defiance in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt certainly convinced at the start, he pronounced. The impression was very nice but I did not see how it could happen. But when we started gratify up, I was surprised at how real affairs developed between us all and I discovered there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I thoughts, is the humble beginning we need to change folks 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 participate being perceived as political.

It shouldnt be taken for granted that a piou Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her parish for a few weeks to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed added, and her eyes fitted with snaps as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they visualize the path Im garmented in the street they fear me because they be considered that every Muslim has a knife to stab a Jew. It is important to emphasise “theres a difference between” what I speak 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 hurt and sorrow because of whats going on between Israelis and Palestinians.

She contributed: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with different texts but in the end “were all” contacting for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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