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Unity opens Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims and Christians join for love

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

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum seemed upon a army sitting attentively before her. We have had a long way to go to prepare for this evening, she replied 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 modest dress and kippah wear in her synagogue, there were some spans worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional pitch-black robes of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their dress be gathered at the back of the chamber. Many were wearing no religion garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for just eight dates, a music institution in the lowest hollow of Jerusalem is turning into a communal house of prayer, named Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their parishes to worship together in one chamber. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated city.

The project, the members 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 religion representations 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 too open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never conceived something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians, this is a big threat and a great step. But this is not a political projection; we wanted parties to come from the right and from the left and to show 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 too men and women, which is almost unheard of in such inter-religious gatherings.

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

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight presidents had met 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 exploited a different epithet in the programme to prevent a reaction 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, “ve never” spoken with a female rabbi.

Instead of melting prayers and traditions, each night the prayer mansion was hosted by a different religious person, and most of the prayer done using music and song, a common uniter. The prayer book handed out was in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

Speaking after the first nights happen, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight periods. You realised unexpectedly we were all speaking the same expression, she did. It cant only has become a recall, this has to be the intensity for the next step. We will use this as the seed to improve Jerusalem a permanent home where all faiths 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 rite to differentiate International Peace Day.

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

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

Ihab Balh are recognizing that constructing development projects had been a challenging step, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to wreak them into Amen and prepared it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it presents other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in projects like this, he added. Of route, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and parties campaigning, but its important at the same time to weed the seeds of beings coming together and ensure one another. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, place, location

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

The leaders eventually settled on the small music academy, which schools both Jews and Arabs and sits neighboring to Mount Zion, a holy site for all three religions. The build, which instantly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian vicinity of Silwan, is also immediately below the secret zip cable once used to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the light-green pipeline from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the prayer live. Thin pieces of white-hot muslin hung from the ceiling, each permitting a quotation 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 prayer house and had met some opposition in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt truly reassured at the start, he added. The hypothesi was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started find up, I was stunned at how real affairs developed between us all and I discovered there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I make, is the humble beginning we need to change publics hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically brutal political climate, Amen has not been an easy-going 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 parish for a few weeks to is everything, let alone this, Mahmeed articulated, and her eyes fitted with weepings as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they ensure the route Im dressed in the street they fear me because they think that every Muslim has a knife to stab a Jew. It is important to emphasise there is a difference between what I read in the Quran and how they were act in the name of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I appear a lot of hurt and sorrow because of whats going on between Both israelis and Palestinians.

She lent: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with different texts but in the end we are all reaching for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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