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Unity sacrifices Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims and Christians assemble for worship

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

In a small building in the foreboding shadow of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum gazed upon a gang 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 congregation 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 meets worn around necks. Others sat in the traditional black dres of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their dress to gather at the back of the area. Numerous were wearing no religion clothe at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for precisely eight eras, a music academy in the lowest depression 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 area. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated city.

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

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never belief something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying along with Palestinians, this is a big gamble and a great step. But this is not a political activity; we wanted parties are derived from the right and from the left and had demonstrated that faith is beyond dogma. Here, the administration is reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

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

Waida
Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed ties up the strips 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 satisfied 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 event. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has used a different epithet in the programme to prevent a backlash against their own families, who are originally from Lebanon, declared 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 devotions and institutions, each night the devotion live was hosted by a different religious figure, and most of the devotion done through music and song, a common uniter. The prayer book handed out was in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Speaking after the first nights phenomenon, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight daytimes. You realised unexpectedly we were all speaking the same communication, she said. It cant precisely has become a remembrance, this has to be the vitality for the next step. We will use this as the seed to develop Jerusalem a permanent target where all sects can come and pray alongside each other.

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

Particularly substantial 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 toured from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the prayer evenings.

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

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

This project is a milestone because it presents other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in campaigns like this, he said. Of route, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings contending, but its important at the same time to flora the seeds of people coming together and accompanying each other. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, orientation, location

In a city where geography is politics, the point of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem countenanced Amen. Elad-Abblebaum acknowledged it had been a formidable exercise, 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 foment anger.

The governors eventually settled on the smaller music academy, which teaches both Jews and Arabs and convenes neighboring to Mount Zion, a sacred locate for all three religions. The structure, which instantly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, is also directly below the secret zip wire formerly used to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green row from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty governed the interior design of the prayer room. Thin rows 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 associated musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik declared he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had congregated some defiance in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt genuinely 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 see up, I was surprised at how real relationships developed between us all and I detected there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I speculate, is the humble beginning we need to change publics 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 participate 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 few weeks to is everything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her sees filled with tears as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they investigate the space Im dressed 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 speak in the Quran and how this is 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 added: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with various verses but in the end “were all” make for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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