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Unity sacrifices Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims and Christians meet for adore

Eight religious leaders produced their parishes together for eight periods in one chamber. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum seemed upon a audience 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 gathering 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 spans worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional black costume of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their garbs 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 merely eight periods, 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 gatherings to worship together in one room. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated metropolitan.

The project, the members of the Jerusalem season of culture, was initiated by Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah almost a year ago. They reached out to six other religious digits 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 too open to discussions with other faiths.

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

She emphasised how Amen is not merely 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 evening of devotion and song. Photograph: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight presidents had encountered formerly a week to discuss how development projects could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to practise praying together. For most, this was a entirely new suffer. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has employed 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 melting devotions and habits, each night the devotion house was hosted by a different religion 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 contest, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight eras. You realised suddenly “weve all” speaking the same language, she said. It cant simply has become a storage, 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 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 differentiate International Peace Day.

Particularly substantial was the collaboration of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important area for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who roamed 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 expected not to be appointed on the programme.

Ihab Balh has recognised that improving development projects had been a challenging pace, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to deliver them into Amen and stirred it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it depicts other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in activities like this, he said. Of trend, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and parties opposing, but its important at the same time to plant the seeds of people coming together and insuring each other. Thats what I am doing here.

The eight religious leaders, alongside musicians, sit before the congregation. Photograph: Michal Fattal

Location, spot, location

In a city where geography is politics, the site of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem accepted Amen. Elad-Abblebaum declared it had been a formidable chore, having been refused time and again by places available in both the east and the west of the city and on Mount Zion itself for fear development projects would inflame anger.

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

Modesty decided the interior design of the prayer live. Thin rows of grey muslin hung from the ceiling, each standing a quote from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their accompany musicians, convened on wooden chairs.

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

To say the truth, I wasnt actually reassured at the beginning, he said. The idea was very nice but I did not see how it is able to happen. But when we started join up, I was surprised at how real rapports developed between us all and I detected there was something concerning there. And that friendship between us, I anticipate, is the humble beginning we need to change folks hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically murderous political climate, Amen has not been an easy project to be publicly is connected 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 community for a week to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her sees filled with tears as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they ensure the mode Im garmented in wall street they fear me because they think that every Muslim has a knife to stab 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 feel 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 verses but in the end “were all” achieve for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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