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Unity leaves Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians assemble for hero-worship

Eight religious leaders wreaked their congregations together for eight periods in one area. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum gazed upon a gathering sitting attentively before her. We have had a long way to go to prepare for this evening, she spoke 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 tattered in her synagogue, there were some intersections worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional pitch-black robes of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their wonts be gathered at the back of the chamber. Numerous were wearing no religion garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for merely eight epoches, a music institution 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 area. 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 almost a year ago. They contacted out to six other religion chassis 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 practices, but too open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum articulated: I never accepted something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians, this is a big gamble and a huge step. But this is not a political assignment; we wanted parties to come from the right and from the left and have demonstrated that faith is beyond dogma. Here, “were both” reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

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

Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed ties up the pieces of muslin that hang from the ceiling in preparation for an evening of prayer and song. Photograph: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight leads had assembled 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 experience. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has used a different call in the programme to prevent a backlash 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, “ve never” spoken with a female rabbi.

Instead of merging prayers and traditions, each night the prayer house was hosted by a different religious flesh, 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 occasion, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight eras. You realised unexpectedly “weve all” speaking the same expression, she added. It cant precisely has become a reminiscence, this has to be the vitality for the next step. We will use this as the seed to improve Jerusalem a permanent home where all faiths can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly significant was the cooperation of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point site for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who toured from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the prayer nights.

In a climate where Arab involvement in any activity involving Jews leads to accusations of normalisation, such interfaith unity can be hazardous. The imams questioned not to be appointed on the programme.

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

This project is a milestone because it testifies other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in activities like this, he suggested. Of trend, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and parties campaigning, but its important at the same is necessary to bush the seeds of people coming together and seeing each other. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, site, location

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

The leaders eventually settled on the small music academy, which schools both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a holy area for all three religions. The construct, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian region of Silwan, is also instantly below the secret zip wire formerly used to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green way from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty governed the interior design of the prayer live. Thin strips of white muslin hung from the ceiling, each countenancing 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 prayer house and had filled some opposition in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt really convinced at the start, he said. The meaning was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started meet up, I was astonished at how real relations developed between us all and I detected there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I contemplate, is the humble inaugurating we need to change peoples 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 participate being view as political.

It shouldnt be taken for granted that a devout Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her community for a week to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed did, and her sees fitted with rends as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they witness the room Im garmented in wall street they fear 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 read in the Quran and how people act 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 Israelis and Palestinians.

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

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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