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Unity establishes Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians meet for sacred

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

In a small building in the foreboding shadow of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum seemed upon a mob 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 modest dress and kippah wear in her synagogue, there were some sweeps worn around necks. Others sat in the conventional black attire of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their practices to gather at the back of the room. Numerous were wearing no religion outfit at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for exactly eight days, a music institution in the lowest valley of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, identified Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their gatherings to worship together in one room. 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 nearly a year ago. They reached out to six other religion fleshes 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 rehearsals, 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 risk and a great step. But this is not a political activity; we wanted people to come from the right and from the left and had demonstrated that faith is beyond dogma. Here, we are reshaping actuality and we are doing it through prayer.

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

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

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight commanders had gratified formerly 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 entirely new suffer. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has applied a different identify in the programme to prevent a backlash against his family, 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 coalescing prayers and habits, each night the devotion live was hosted by a different religion chassis, 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 abruptly we were all speaking the same usage, she said. It cant only has become a recognition, this has to be the vigour for the next step. We will use this as the seed to construct Jerusalem a permanent plaza where all sects can come and pray alongside one another.

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

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

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

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

This project is a milestone because it demonstrates other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in projects like this, he said. Of route, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings fighting, but its important at the same time to flora the seeds of beings coming together and viewing each other. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, site, location

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

The governors eventually settled on the smaller music institution, which educates both Jews and Arabs and sits adjacent to Mount Zion, a sacred area for all three beliefs. The building, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian region of Silwan, is also directly below the secret zip cable formerly used to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the green course from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty decided the interior design of the prayer home. Thin rows of white muslin hung from the ceiling, each standing 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 admitted he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had encountered some opposition in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt certainly persuasion at the beginning, he said. The theme was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started see up, I was amazed at how real ties-in developed between us all and I detected there was something concerning there. And that friendship between us, I believe, 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 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 devout Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her parish for a week to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her gazes filled with tears as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes people, when they visualize the acces Im dressed in wall 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 read in the Quran and how this is act 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 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 we are all reaching for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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