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Unity imparts Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians assemble for venerate

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

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum ogled upon a crowd setting 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 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 tattered in her synagogue, there were some cross worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional pitch-black garb of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their habits to gather at the back of the chamber. Numerous were wearing no religion garb at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for simply eight daytimes, a music institution in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem was be converted into a communal house of prayer, appointed Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their flocks to worship together in one chamber. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated metropolitan.

The project, part of the Jerusalem season of culture, was launched by Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah nearly a year ago. They reached out to six other religious anatomies 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 also open to discussions with other faiths.

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

She emphasised how Amen not only 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 devotion and song. Photograph: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight captains had met 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 know-how. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has expended a different name in the programme to prevent a reaction against his family, 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 prayers and habits, each night the devotion mansion was hosted by a different religious figure, 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 incident, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already is an attempt to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight epoches. You realised unexpectedly “weve all” speaking the same usage, she said. It cant merely be a recall, this has to be the vigor for the next step. We will use this as the seed to develop Jerusalem a permanent region where all faiths can come and pray alongside each other.

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

Particularly significant was the collaboration of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point website for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who walked from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the devotion evenings.

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

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

This project is a milestone because it establishes other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in programmes like this, he said. Of track, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and people fighting, but its important at the same time to bush the seeds of parties coming together and realizing one another. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, orientation, location

In a city where geography is politics, the spot 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 again and again by places available in both the east and the west of the city and on Mount Zion itself for anxiety development projects would incite anger.

The rulers eventually settled on the small music academy, which learns both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a sacred area for all three beliefs. The build, which immediately faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian vicinity of Silwan, is also instantly below the secret zip cable once to benefit from smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the dark-green wrinkle from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the devotion residence. Thin pieces of grey muslin hung from the ceiling, each assuming a quote from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their attend musicians, convened on wooden chairs.

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

To say the truth, I wasnt certainly reassured at the beginning, he said. The sentiment 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 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 people 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 participation being perceived as political.

It shouldnt be taken for granted that a devout Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her community for a few weeks to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her attentions filled with rends as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they view the direction Im dressed in the street they are afraid of 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 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 added: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with various verses but in the end we are all contact for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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