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Unity devotes Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians meet for worship

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

In a small building in the foreboding shadow of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum appeared upon a army 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 modest dress and kippah worn in her synagogue, there were some meets worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional black dres of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their dress gathered together at the back of the chamber. Many were wearing no religion garb at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for merely eight daylights, a music school in the lowest valley of Jerusalem was be converted into a communal house of prayer, named Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their congregations to worship together in one room. 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 almost a year ago. They contacted out to six other religious representations 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 practises, but too open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never belief something like this is a possibility in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians, this is a big peril and a huge step. But this is not a political projection; we wanted beings to come from the right and from the left and had demonstrated that faith is beyond ideology. Here, we are reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

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

Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed ties up the deprives of muslin that hang from the ceiling in preparation for an evening of prayer and song. Picture: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight captains had gratified once a few weeks to discuss how development projects could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to rehearse praying together. For most, this was a completely new experience. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has employed a different mention 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 coalescing devotions and habits, each night the devotion mansion was hosted by a different religion illustration, 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 contest, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight periods. You realised abruptly “weve all” speaking the same communication, she said. It cant precisely be a recall, this has to be the intensity for the next step. We will use this as the seed to develop Jerusalem a permanent lieu where all sects can come and pray alongside one another.

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

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

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

Ihab Balh are recognizing that building the project had been a challenging stair, but that his work with these imams over the last few decades had laid the groundwork to return them into Amen and stirred it seem more acceptable.

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

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

Location, location, location

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

The managers eventually settled on the smaller music institution, which educates both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a holy site for all three beliefs. The structure, which instantly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian region of Silwan, is also immediately below the secret zip cable once used to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green way from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty decided the interior design of the prayer mansion. Thin deprives of white muslin hung from the ceiling, each accepting a quotation from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their attend musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik acknowledged he had been extremely sceptical when firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had convened some fight in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt genuinely reassured at the start, he said. The idea was very nice but I did not see how it could happen. But when we started gather up, I was astonished at how real rapports developed between us all and I discovered there was something concerning there. And that friendship between us, I speculate, 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 is connected 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 piou 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 sees fitted with snaps as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they realize the mode Im dressed in wall street they are afraid of me because they be considered 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 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 various texts but in the end we are all reaching for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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