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Unity pays Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians meet for hero-worship

Eight religious leaders delivered their congregations together for eight eras in one chamber. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum searched upon a bunch 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 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 intersections worn around cervixes. Others sat in the conventional black garb of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their dress to gather 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 precisely eight periods, a music academy in the lowest depression of Jerusalem was be converted 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 launched by Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah nearly 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 practises, but also open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never believed something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians, this is a big probability and a great step. But this is not a political projection; 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 not only brought together Israels discordant beliefs, but also men and women, which is almost unheard of in such inter-religious gatherings.

Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed ties up the airstrips of muslin that hang from the ceiling in preparation for an night of devotion and song. Image: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight commanders 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 entirely new suffer. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has exploited a different identify in the programme to prevent a reaction 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, “ve never” spoken with a female rabbi.

Instead of consolidating devotions and habits, each night the prayer mansion was hosted by a different religion person, 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 working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight eras. You realised unexpectedly “weve all” speaking the same conversation, she said. It cant merely has become a retention, this has to be the intensity for the next step. We will use this as the seed to body-build Jerusalem a permanent neighbourhood where all religions can come and pray alongside each other.

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

Particularly significant was the collaboration of three imams, including the right from al-Aqsa mosque its important area for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who tripped from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the prayer 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 asked not to be reputation on the programme.

Ihab Balh are recognizing that building the project had been a challenging gradation, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to create them into Amen and formed it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it pictures other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in projects like this, he said. Of route, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings opposing, but its important at the same is now time to weed the seeds of parties coming together and assuring each other. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, site, location

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

The presidents eventually settled on the small music academy, which educates both Jews and Arabs and sits neighboring to Mount Zion, a holy locate for all three religions. The construct, which directly 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 light-green wire from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty governed the interior design of the prayer residence. Thin pieces of white-hot 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 accompany musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

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

To say the truth, I wasnt certainly persuaded at the start, he said. The suggestion was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it is able to happen. But when we started meet up, I was surprised at how real affairs developed between us all and I detected there was something concerning there. And that friendship between us, I belief, is the humble beginning we need to change families 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 participate being view as political.

It shouldnt be taken for granted that a ardent Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her community for a week to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her eyes fitted with rends as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they attend the channel Im dressed in the 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 read in the Quran and how people act in the names 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 lent: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with different textbooks but in the end “were all” contacting for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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