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Unity commits Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians join for hero-worship

Eight religious leaders raised their congregations together for eight days in one chamber. It was a hazardous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum ogled 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 tattered in her synagogue, there were some intersects worn around necks. Others sat in the conventional black robes of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their habits to gather at the back of the area. Numerous were wearing no religious outfit at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for just eight daylights, a music academy in the lowest depression of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, referred 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 municipality.

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

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never believed something like this is a possibility in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying along with Palestinians, this is a big danger and a great step. But this is not a political projection; we wanted people are derived from the right and from the left and had demonstrated that faith is beyond ideology. Here, the administration is reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen not only 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 airstrips of muslin that hang from the ceiling in preparation for an evening of devotion and song. Image: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight captains had encountered formerly a week to discuss how development projects could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to rehearse praying together. For most, this was a entirely new know-how. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has employed 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, had never spoken with a female rabbi.

Instead of incorporating prayers and institutions, each night the prayer mansion was hosted by a different religious digit, 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 incident, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already implemented in order to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight periods. You realised suddenly we were all speaking the same language, she said. It cant precisely be a recall, this has to be the power for the next step. We will use this as the seed to structure Jerusalem a permanent target where all faiths can come and pray alongside each other.

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

Particularly substantial was the collaboration of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important area for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who advanced from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the devotion 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 requested not to be referred on the programme.

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

This project is a milestone because it depicts 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 pushing, but its important at the same is now time to flower the seeds of parties coming together and reading one another. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, location, location

In a city where geography is politics, the spot of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem accepted Amen. Elad-Abblebaum admitted it had been a formidable undertaking, having been refused time and again by places in both the east and the west of the town and on Mount Zion itself for anxiety development projects would foment anger.

The leads eventually settled on the small music academy, which teaches both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a holy place for all three religions. The structure, which immediately faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian neighbourhood of Silwan, is also directly below the secret zip cable once used to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the dark-green way from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty decided the interior design of the devotion home. Thin strips of lily-white 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 accompanying musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik declared he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had matched some fight in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt certainly persuaded at the beginning, he said. The meaning was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it is able to happen. But when we started rally up, I was stunned at how real relationships developed between us all and I discovered there was something interesting there. And that friendship between us, I see, 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 perceived as political.

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

Sometimes beings, when they experience the direction Im garmented in the street they are afraid of me because they be considered that every Muslim has a knife to stab a Jew. It is important to emphasise there is a difference between what I speak in the Quran and how people are active 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 Both israelis and Palestinians.

She contributed: 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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