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

Eight religious leaders raised their gatherings together for eight daytimes 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 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 gathering 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 traditional black garb of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their garbs gathered together at the back of the area. Numerous were wearing no religious garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for just eight daylights, a music school in the lowest valley of Jerusalem has grown into a communal house of prayer, called Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their flocks to worship together in one area. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated city.

The project, part of the Jerusalem season of culture, is an initiative of Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah nearly a year ago. They reached out to six other religious digits 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 practises, but also open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum said: I never imagined 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 huge step. But this is not a political job; we wanted people are derived from the right and from the left and had demonstrated that faith is beyond ideology. Here, we are reshaping actuality and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen not only to bring about 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 evening of prayer and song. Picture: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight leads had satisfied once a few weeks to discuss how the project could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to rehearse praying together. For most, this was a completely new experience. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has applied a different identify 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 coalescing devotions and habits, each night the devotion house was hosted by a different religious flesh, 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 contest, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight epoches. You realised suddenly “weve all” speaking the same usage, she said. It cant precisely be a storage, this has to be the vitality for the next step. We will use this as the seed to develop Jerusalem a permanent residence where all sects can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly substantial was the cooperation of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point area for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who wandered 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 harmony can be dangerous. The imams expected not to be referred on the programme.

Ihab Balh was acknowledged that building development projects had been a challenging step, 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 presents other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in projections like this, he said. Of route, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and parties pushing, but its important at the same time to flower the seeds of beings coming together and ascertaining one another. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, site, 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 declared it had been a formidable exercise, having been refused time and again by places available in both the east and the west of the city and on Mount Zion itself for panic development projects would prompt anger.

The chairmen eventually settled on the small music institution, which teaches both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a sacred website for all three religions. The house, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian community of Silwan, is also instantly below the secret zip cable once used to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green cable from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the devotion house. Thin deprives of white muslin hung from the ceiling, each making 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 declared he had been extremely sceptical when firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had met some fighting in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt genuinely reassured at the beginning, he said. The hypothesi was very nice but I did not see how it was able to happen. But when we started meet up, I was astounded at how real relationships developed between us all and I detected there was something concerning there. And that friendship between us, I guess, is the humble beginning we need to change people 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 participate 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 sees fitted with snaps as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes beings, when they interpret the style Im garmented in wall street they are afraid of me because they think that every Muslim has a knife to stab a Jew. It is important to underline there is a difference between what I read in the Quran and how people act in the name of the Quran. God didnt was just told to stand up and kill people. I feel a lot of throb 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 different textbooks but in the end “were all” contact for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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