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

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

In a small building in the foreboding shadow of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum seemed upon a crowd 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 crossings worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional pitch-black gown of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their attires gathered together 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 merely eight daylights, a music academy 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 city.

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 contacted out to six other religious representations 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 suggested: I never accepted something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying along with Palestinians, this is a big jeopardy and a huge 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 dogma. Here, we are reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen is not simply brought closer Israels discordant beliefs, but too 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 night of prayer and song. Photo: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight chairmen had congregated 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 ordeal. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has use a different call in the programme to prevent a backlash 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 mixing prayers and habits, each night the devotion house was hosted by a different religious illustration, 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 phenomenon, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight daylights. You realised suddenly “weve all” speaking the same expression, she read. It cant only be a remembrance, this has to be the energy for the next step. We will use this as the seed to improve Jerusalem a permanent situate where all faiths can come and pray alongside each other.

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

Particularly substantial was the collaboration of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point website for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who advanced 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 constructing the project had been a challenging step, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to create them into Amen and shaped it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it proves other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in assignments like this, he told. Of trend, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings engaging, but its important at the same time to weed 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 flock. Picture: Michal Fattal

Location, orientation, location

In a town where geography is politics, the locating of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem abode Amen. Elad-Abblebaum acknowledged it had been a formidable assignment, 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 anxiety the project would motivate anger.

The presidents eventually settled on the small music school, which teaches both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a sacred place for all three religions. The construct, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian region of Silwan, is also immediately below the secret zip cable once used to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the green cable from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty decided the interior design of the prayer live. Thin strips of lily-white muslin hung from the ceiling, each enduring a quotation 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 prayer house and had converged some fighting in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt actually convinced at the beginning, he supposed. The theme was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it was able to happen. But when we started join up, I was surprised at how real ties-in developed between us all and I discovered there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I anticipate, is the humble beginning we need to change peoples 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 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 answered, and her seeings fitted with tears as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they find the path Im dressed in the street they are afraid of me because they think that every Muslim has a knife to jab a Jew. It is important to emphasise there is a difference between what I speak 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 experience 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” contacting for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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