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Unity imparts Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims and Christians join for praise

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

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum gazed 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 spans worn around cervixes. Others sat in the conventional pitch-black costume of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their wonts 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 merely eight daytimes, a music institution in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem was be converted into a communal house of prayer, appointed Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their flocks to worship together in one chamber. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated municipality.

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 religion chassis 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 rules, but likewise open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never felt something like this is a possibility in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying along with Palestinians, this is a big risk and a great step. But this is not a political project; we wanted parties to come 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 strips of muslin that hang from the ceiling in preparation for an evening of prayer and song. Image: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight rulers had satisfied 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 knowledge. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has exploited a different appoint in the programme to prevent a backlash against his family, who are originally from Lebanon, admitted 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 coalescing prayers and institutions, each night the prayer room was hosted by a different religious flesh, and most of the prayer 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 implemented in order to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight epoches. You realised abruptly “weve all” speaking the same language, she said. It cant only be a recall, this has to be the vigor for the next step. We will use this as the seed to develop Jerusalem a permanent situate where all religions can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly significant was the cooperation of three imams, including the right from al-Aqsa mosque the most important area for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who toured 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 questioned not to be mentioned on the programme.

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

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

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

Location, site, location

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

The leads eventually settled on the smaller music academy, which learns both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a pious site for all three beliefs. The building, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian vicinity of Silwan, is also directly below the secret zip cable formerly to benefit from smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green wire from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty decided the interior design of the prayer mansion. Thin pieces of lily-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 associated musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik declared he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had congregated some opposition in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt certainly convinced at the beginning, he said. The opinion was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started convene up, I was astonished at how real relationships developed between us all and I discovered there was something interesting there. And that friendship between us, I ponder, 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 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 view as political.

It shouldnt be taken for granted that a piou 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 filled with rips as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they appreciate the behavior Im garmented in the street they fear 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 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 contributed: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with various textbooks but in the end “were all” contacting for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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