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Unity affords Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians assemble for sacred

Eight religious leaders created their flocks together for eight daytimes in one chamber. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding shadow of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum ogled upon a audience 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 parish 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 wear in her synagogue, there were some intersects worn around cervixes. Others sat in the conventional black gown of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their attires gathered together at the back of the area. Many were wearing no religion garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for only eight epoches, a music academy in the lowest valley of Jerusalem is turning into a communal house of prayer, mentioned 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 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 figures 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 spoke: I never speculated 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 to come from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond dogma. Here, “were about” reshaping reality and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen not only 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 airstrips of muslin that hang from the ceiling in preparation for an evening of devotion and song. Picture: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight leads had convened formerly 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 suffer. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has used a different name in the programme to prevent a reaction against his family, 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 prayers and traditions, each night the devotion live was hosted by a different religion 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 affair, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight epoches. You realised suddenly “weve all” speaking the same expression, she supposed. It cant merely has become a remember, this has to be the vitality for the next step. We will use this as the seed to structure Jerusalem a permanent region where all faiths can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly significant was the collaboration of three imams, including information from al-Aqsa mosque the most important locate for Muslims in Jerusalem and another 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 solidarity can be dangerous. The imams questioned not to be called on the programme.

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

This project is a milestone because it shows other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in activities like this, he articulated. Of direction, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings engaging, but its important at the same time to bush the seeds of parties coming together and determining each other. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, orientation, location

In a city where geography is politics, the location of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem admitted Amen. Elad-Abblebaum declared it had been a formidable enterprise, 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 spur anger.

The governors eventually settled on the small music institution, which teaches both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a holy website for all three beliefs. The construct, which immediately faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian region of Silwan, is also immediately below the secret zip wire once used to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green string from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the prayer home. Thin deprives of white muslin hung from the ceiling, each suffering a quotation from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their associated musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik admitted he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had converged some resistance in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt genuinely persuaded at the beginning, he articulated. The mind was very nice but I did not see how it could happen. But when we started rally up, I was astounded at how real affairs developed between us all and I discovered there was something interesting there. And that friendship between us, I believe, is the humble inaugurating we need to change folks hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically brutal political climate, Amen has not been an easy-going 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 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 is everything, let alone this, Mahmeed read, and her attentions filled with rends as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes people, when they accompany the style Im garmented in the street they are afraid of me because they were of the view that every Muslim has a knife to stab a Jew. It was important to stress there is a difference between what I read 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 appear a lot of hurt and sorrow because of whats going on between Israelis and Palestinians.

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

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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