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Unity yields Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians assemble for hero-worship

Eight religious leaders raised their gatherings together for eight daylights in one area. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum ogled upon a gathering 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 wear in her synagogue, there were some intersections worn around necks. Others sat in the traditional black robes of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their dress gathered together at the back of the room. Many were wearing no religion outfit at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for exactly eight epoches, a music academy in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, referred Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their parishes to worship together in one room. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated metropolitan.

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 reached out to six other religion anatomies 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 also open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never speculated something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians, this is a big gamble and a great step. But this is not a political job; we wanted parties are derived from the right and from the left and had demonstrated that faith is beyond dogma. Here, we are reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

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

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

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight leaders had convened 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 completely new event. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has utilized a different appoint in the programme to prevent a reaction 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, had never spoken with a female rabbi.

Instead of merging devotions and traditions, each night the prayer residence was hosted by a different religion anatomy, 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 phenomenon, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already implemented in order to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight daylights. You realised suddenly “weve all” speaking the same communication, she said. It cant merely has become a reminiscence, this has to be the energy for the next step. We will use this as the seed to improve Jerusalem a permanent home where all sects can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly significant was the cooperation of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque its important website for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who advanced 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 unity can be hazardous. The imams requested not to be mentioned on the programme.

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

This project is a milestone because it establishes other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in activities like this, he said. Of track, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and parties contending, but its important at the same is now time to flora the seeds of people coming together and examining one another. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, locating, location

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

The managers eventually settled on the smaller music school, which educates both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a sacred locate for all three beliefs. The building, which instantly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian region of Silwan, is also directly below the secret zip wire formerly to benefit from smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green position from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the prayer home. Thin strips of lily-white muslin hung from the ceiling, each digesting a quote 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 declared he had been extremely sceptical when firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had gratified some resist in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt really reassured at the beginning, he said. The impression was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it is able to happen. But when we started join up, I was stunned at how real relationships developed between us all and I detected there was something concerning there. And that friendship between us, I consider, is the humble beginning we need to change folks hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically violent 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 participate being perceived 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 seeings filled with snaps as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes people, when they view the style Im garmented in the street they fear 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 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 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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