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Unity gives Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims and Christians assemble for adore

Eight religious leaders fetched their gatherings together for eight daylights in one chamber. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum ogled upon a army sitting attentively before her. We have had a long way to go to prepare for this evening, she said 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 meagre dress and kippah wear in her synagogue, there were some spans worn around necks. Others sat in the traditional black robes of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their attires gathered together at the back of the room. Numerous were wearing no religious outfit at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for only eight dates, a music academy in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, identified 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 city.

The project, the members 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 illustrations 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 rehearsals, but too open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never imagined something like this is a possibility in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying along with Palestinians, this is a big threat and a great step. But this is not a political projection; we wanted parties to come from the right and from the left and had demonstrated that faith is beyond dogma. Here, the administration is reshaping reality and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen is not merely 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 rows 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 matched formerly a week to discuss how the project could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to rehearse praying together. For most, this was a entirely new knowledge. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has employed a different figure in the programme to prevent a backlash 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 coalescing devotions and habits, each night the devotion live was hosted by a different religious chassis, 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 event, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight dates. You realised suddenly “weve all” speaking the same expression, she said. It cant just be a retention, this has to be the force for the next step. We will use this as the seed to develop Jerusalem a permanent region where all sects can come and pray alongside each other.

In a first step towards establishing 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 locate for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who advanced 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 harmony can be dangerous. The imams asked not to be identified on the programme.

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

This project is a milestone because it demonstrates other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in projections like this, he said. Of track, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings campaigning, but its important at the same time to weed the seeds of beings coming together and attending each other. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, spot, location

In a city where geography is politics, the location of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem consented Amen. Elad-Abblebaum declared it had been a formidable exercise, having been refused time and again by places in both the east and the west of the city and on Mount Zion itself for fright the project would prompt anger.

The governors eventually settled on the small music school, which learns both Jews and Arabs and baby-sit neighboring to Mount Zion, a sacred site for all three beliefs. The house, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian region of Silwan, is also directly below the secret zip wire once used to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the light-green wrinkle from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the prayer mansion. Thin strips of white muslin hung from the ceiling, each enduring a quote from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their associated musicians, convened on wooden chairs.

Rafik admitted he had been extremely sceptical when firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had met some defiance in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt actually reassured at the start, he said. The hypothesi was very nice but I did not see how it is able to happen. But when we started session up, I was surprised at how real ties-in developed between us all and I discovered there was something interesting there. And that friendship between us, I recall, 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 participation being perceived as political.

It shouldnt be taken for granted that a piou Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her parish for a week to is everything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her sees fitted with rends as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they ensure the path Im garmented in the street they fear me because they be considered 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 people act in the name 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 Israel 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 “were all” attain for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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