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Unity yields Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims and Christians assemble for devotion

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

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum looked upon a bunch sitting attentively before her. We have had a long way to go to prepare for this evening, she remarked 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 tattered in her synagogue, there were some crosses worn around necks. Others sat in the traditional black attire of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their garbs be gathered at the back of the room. Numerous were wearing no religion clothe at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for merely eight daylights, a music school in the lowest depression of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, reputation 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 religion fleshes 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 patterns, but too open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum told: I never belief 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 activity; we wanted beings received from the right and from the left and have demonstrated that faith is beyond ideology. Here, “were both” reshaping reality and we are doing it through prayer.

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

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

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight managers had satisfied formerly 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 completely new knowledge. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has expended a different identify in the programme to prevent a reaction against their own families, who are originally 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 melting devotions and institutions, each night the prayer home was hosted by a different religious illustration, 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 phenomenon, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight eras. You realised suddenly we were all speaking the same expression, she suggested. It cant simply has become a remembrance, this has to be the intensity for the next step. We will use this as the seed to structure Jerusalem a permanent residence where all sects can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly substantial was the cooperation of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important place for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who hurtled 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 unity can be dangerous. The imams expected not to be referred on the programme.

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

This project is a milestone because it demo other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in activities like this, he replied. Of route, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and parties crusading, but its important at the same is necessary to bush the seeds of parties coming together and seeing each other. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, site, location

In a town where geography is politics, the point of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem consented Amen. Elad-Abblebaum acknowledged it had been a formidable duty, having been refused over and over again by places available in both the east and the west of the town and on Mount Zion itself for dread the project would spur anger.

The rulers eventually settled on the smaller music school, which teaches both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a pious locate for all three beliefs. The house, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian vicinity of Silwan, is also directly below the secret zip wire once are applied to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the green path from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty decided the interior design of the devotion residence. Thin airstrips of grey muslin hung from the ceiling, each bearing a quote from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their associate musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik declared he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had gratified some fighting in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt really convinced at the start, he read. The suggestion was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started find up, I was surprised at how real affairs developed between us all and I detected there was something interesting there. And that friendship between us, I recall, is the humble inaugurating we need to change families 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 view as political.

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

Sometimes people, when they construe the room Im garmented in wall 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 read in the Quran and how people are active in the names of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I feel a lot of hurt and sorrow because of whats going on between Both israelis and Palestinians.

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

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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