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Unity presents Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims and Christians join for adore

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

In a small building in the foreboding shadow 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 articulated 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 traverses worn around necks. Others sat in the conventional black robe of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their attires be gathered at the back of the chamber. Many were wearing no religious garb at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for only eight days, a music academy in the lowest valley of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, called Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their flocks 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 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 practices, but also open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum alleged: 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 risk and a huge step. But this is not a political project; we wanted beings to come from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond dogma. Here, we are reshaping actuality and we are doing it through prayer.

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

Waida
Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed ties up the airstrips 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 managers had filled 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 know-how. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has employed a different appoint in the programme to prevent a backlash against their own families, who are initially 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 mixing devotions and habits, each night the prayer mansion was hosted by a different religious flesh, and most of the prayer done using 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 development projects lived on beyond its eight daytimes. You realised suddenly we were all speaking the same speech, she remarked. It cant simply has become a storage, this has to be the vigour for the next step. We will use this as the seed to structure Jerusalem a permanent neighbourhood where all religions can come and pray alongside one another.

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

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

In an atmosphere where Arab involvement in any activity involving Jews leads to accusations of normalisation, such interfaith harmony can be hazardous. The imams requested not to be called on the programme.

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

This project is a milestone because it testifies other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in campaigns like this, he said. Of direction, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and parties fighting, but its important at the same time to bush the seeds of beings coming together and determining one another. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, locating, location

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

The rulers eventually settled on the small music school, which learns both Jews and Arabs and sits neighboring to Mount Zion, a pious area for all three beliefs. The build, which instantly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian community of Silwan, is also directly below the secret zip wire once used to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the green line from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the prayer mansion. Thin deprives of grey muslin hung from the ceiling, each producing a quote from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their accompanying musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

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

To say the truth, I wasnt really reassured at the start, he answered. The meaning was very nice but I did not see how it could happen. But when we started fit 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 consider, is the humble beginning we need to change people hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically murderous political climate, Amen has not been an easy-going 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 view 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 alleged, and her eyes fitted with rends as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes people, when they meet the space Im dressed in the street they are afraid of me because they were of the view that every Muslim has a knife to jab a Jew. It was important to stress there is a difference between what I read in the Quran and how they were 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 added: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with different textbooks but in the end “were all” reaching for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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