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

Eight religious leaders accompanied their gatherings together for eight daytimes in one chamber. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding shadow of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum examined 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 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 intersects worn around necks. Others sat in the conventional pitch-black robe of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their dress to gather at the back of the area. Many were wearing no religion garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for precisely eight days, a music institution in the lowest depression 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 contacted out to six other religious fleshes two rabbis, a Franciscan monk, a Catholic priest, a Coptic deaconess and a female Muslim community leader who were very conventional in their beliefs and rehearses, but also open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never guessed something like this is a possibility 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 job; we wanted people are derived from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond ideology. Here, we are reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

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

Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed ties up the strips 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 leads had congregated formerly a week 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 know. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has expended a different mention in the programme to prevent a backlash 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 melting prayers and habits, each night the prayer room was hosted by a different religion flesh, 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 development projects lived on beyond its eight periods. You realised abruptly “weve all” speaking the same conversation, she said. It cant exactly has become a remembering, this has to be the intensity for the next step. We will use this as the seed to construct Jerusalem a permanent plaza where all religions can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly substantial was the cooperation of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important website for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who wandered from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the prayer nights.

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

Ihab Balh are recognizing that constructing development projects had been a challenging stair, but that his work with these imams over the last few decades had laid the groundwork to deliver them into Amen and obliged it seem more acceptable.

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

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

Location, locating, 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 project, having been refused time and again by places available in both the east and the west of the town and on Mount Zion itself for dread the project would provoke anger.

The governors eventually settled on the small music academy, which teaches both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a sacred website for all three beliefs. The build, which immediately faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, is also instantly below the secret zip cable once used to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the light-green position from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty governed the interior design of the devotion house. Thin airstrips of lily-white muslin hung from the ceiling, each accepting 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 declared he had been extremely sceptical when firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had assembled some fighting in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt genuinely reassured at the beginning, he said. The mind was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started see up, I was stunned at how real rapports developed between us all and I detected there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I conceive, is the humble beginning we need to change folks 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 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 attentions fitted with rends as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes people, when they recognize the behavior Im dressed in the street they are afraid of me because they think that every Muslim has a knife to jab a Jew. It is important to underscore there is a difference between what I read in the Quran and how this is are active 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 lent: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with various texts but in the end “were all” contacting for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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