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Unity pays Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians connect for praise

Eight religious leaders introduced their parishes together for eight eras in one room. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum searched upon a crowd sitting attentively before her. We have had a long way to go to prepare for this evening, she announced 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 modest dress and kippah worn in her synagogue, there were some meets worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional black gown of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their dress be gathered at the back of the area. Numerous were wearing no religious garb at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for just eight daytimes, a music school in the lowest depression of Jerusalem was be converted into a communal house of prayer, identified 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 municipality.

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 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 traditions, but likewise open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum mentioned: I never belief something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying along with Palestinians, this is a big gamble and a great step. But this is not a political programme; we wanted beings received from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond ideology. Here, “were both” reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen not only brought closer Israels discordant beliefs, but also men and women, which is almost unheard of in such inter-religious gatherings.

Waida
Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed ties up the airstrips 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 leaders had fulfilled 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 experience. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has applied a different epithet in the programme to prevent a reaction against their own families, who are initially from Lebanon, acknowledged he had not met anyone from the Coptic church before. Fr Alberto Fer, the Franciscan monk, had never spoken with a female rabbi.

Instead of merging devotions and institutions, each night the devotion house was hosted by a different religion representation, 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 incident, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already implemented in order to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight epoches. You realised suddenly “weve all” speaking the same usage, she remarked. It cant only be a recognition, this has to be the force for the next step. We will use this as the seed to structure Jerusalem a permanent place where all sects can come and pray alongside each other.

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

Particularly significant was the cooperation of three imams, including information from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point website for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who circulated 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 asked not to be identified on the programme.

Ihab Balh admitted that improving the project had been a challenging stair, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to make them into Amen and obliged it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it demo other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in activities like this, he announced. Of route, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and people campaigning, but its important at the same is necessary to flower the seeds of people coming together and to be together. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, place, location

In a city where geography is politics, the spot of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem abode Amen. Elad-Abblebaum admitted it had been a formidable chore, having been refused again and again by places in both the east and the west of the town and on Mount Zion itself for suspicion the project would provoke anger.

The leads eventually settled on the smaller music school, which teaches both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a pious site for all three religions. The structure, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, is also instantly below the secret zip wire once used to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green text from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the devotion house. Thin airstrips of grey muslin hung from the ceiling, each enduring 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 admitted 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 truly convinced at the beginning, he told. The meaning was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it was able to happen. But when we started gratify up, I was amazed at how real rapports developed between us all and I detected there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I make, is the humble inaugurating 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 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 piou Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her community for a week to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed suggested, and her attentions fitted with rends as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they experience the direction Im garmented in wall street they fear me because they think that every Muslim has a knife to stab a Jew. It is important to emphasise “theres a difference between” what I read in the Quran and how people 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 Both israelis and Palestinians.

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

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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