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Unity gives Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians meet for adore

Eight religious leaders made their flocks together for eight dates 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 army sitting attentively before her. We have had a long way to go to prepare for this evening, she responded 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 modest dress and kippah tattered in her synagogue, there were some crisscross worn around necks. Others sat in the traditional black robe of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various 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 simply eight periods, a music academy in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem was be converted into a communal house of prayer, mentioned Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their parishes to worship together in one area. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated metropoli.

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 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 rules, but also open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum articulated: I never guessed something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying along with Palestinians, this is a big hazard and a huge step. But this is not a political assignment; we wanted people to come from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond dogma. Here, we are reshaping reality and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen is not simply brought together Israels discordant religions, but too 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 night of prayer and song. Image: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight leads had met formerly a few weeks to discuss how the project could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to practise praying together. For most, this was a completely new suffer. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has use a different mention in the programme to prevent a backlash against their own families, 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 incorporating prayers and habits, each night the prayer house was hosted by a different religion anatomy, and most of the devotion done using 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 working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight daytimes. You realised suddenly “weve all” speaking the same language, she alleged. It cant simply be a memory, this has to be the vitality for the next step. We will use this as the seed to improve Jerusalem a permanent target where all religions 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 observe International Peace Day.

Particularly significant was the cooperation of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important place for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who wandered from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the devotion nights.

In an atmosphere where Arab involvement in any activity involving Jews leads to accusations of normalisation, such interfaith solidarity can be dangerous. The imams requested not to be referred on the programme.

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

This project is a milestone because it indicates other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in projections like this, he announced. Of trend, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and people fighting, but its important at the same time to weed 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, location, location

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

The leads eventually settled on the small music institution, which schools both Jews and Arabs and sits neighboring to Mount Zion, a sacred area for all three beliefs. The build, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, is also instantly below the secret zip cable formerly are applied to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the light-green thread from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the devotion room. Thin pieces of lily-white muslin hung from the ceiling, each allowing a quote 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 declared he had been extremely sceptical when firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had convened some fight in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt certainly convinced at the start, he alleged. The mind was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it was able to happen. But when we started satisfy up, I was astounded at how real relationships developed between us all and I detected there was something concerning there. And that friendship between us, I envision, is the humble beginning we need to change folks hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically violent 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 ardent Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her community for a few weeks to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed articulated, and her gazes filled with snaps as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they experience the direction Im garmented in wall street they are afraid of me because they be considered that every Muslim has a knife to stab a Jew. It is important to emphasise there is a difference between what I speak in the Quran and how they were are active in the name of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I seem 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 various verses but in the end we are all contacting for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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