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Unity dedicates Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians connect for worship

Eight religious leaders brought their congregations together for eight dates in one room. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum examined 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 modest dress and kippah tattered in her synagogue, there were some cross worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional pitch-black gown of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their practices be gathered at the back of the room. Many were wearing no religious clothe at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for precisely eight dates, a music institution in the lowest depression of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, mentioned Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their congregations to worship together in one chamber. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated metropoli.

The project, part of the Jerusalem season of culture, was initiated by Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah almost a year ago. They reached out to six other religious anatomies 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 traditions, but too 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 hazard and a great step. But this is not a political project; we wanted beings was derived from the right and from the left and had demonstrated that faith is beyond dogma. Here, the administration is reshaping actuality and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen is not merely to bring about Israels discordant beliefs, but too 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. Photograph: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight rulers had met 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 know-how. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has utilized a different mention 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 mixing devotions and institutions, each night the devotion mansion was hosted by a different religious flesh, 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 happening, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight daytimes. You realised suddenly we were all speaking the same communication, she said. It cant simply be a reminiscence, this has to be the power for the next step. We will use this as the seed to build Jerusalem a permanent lieu where all religions can come and pray alongside each other.

In a first step towards imparting Amen longevity, the eight religious leaders all met again on Wednesday for a special rite to distinguish 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 the other Palestinian imam who tripped from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the devotion evenings.

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

Ihab Balh admitted that constructing development projects had been a challenging gradation, but that his working in collaboration with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to make them into Amen and stirred it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it proves other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in assignments like this, he said. Of course, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings pushing, but its important at the same time to flower the seeds of beings coming together and find each other. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, point, location

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

The leaders eventually settled on the small music institution, which educates both Jews and Arabs and sits contiguous to Mount Zion, a sacred area for all three beliefs. The building, which instantly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian locality of Silwan, is also instantly below the secret zip wire once been applied to smuggle disabled Israeli soldiers over the dark-green wrinkle from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the prayer residence. Thin pieces of 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 accompanying musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik acknowledged he had been extremely sceptical when firstly approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had assembled some fight in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt certainly convinced at the beginning, he said. The idea was very nice but I did not see how it could happen. But when we started see up, I was surprised at how real relations developed between us all and I detected there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I contemplate, is the humble beginning we need to change peoples hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically murderous 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 piou Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her community for a few weeks to is everything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her attentions filled with rends as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes people, when they read the lane Im dressed in wall street they are afraid of me because they believing that every Muslim has a knife to stab a Jew. It is important to underscore there is a difference between what I speak in the Quran and how we are act in the name of the Quran. God didnt was just told to stand up and kill people. I feel a lot of injure and sorrow because of whats going on between Israelis and Palestinians.

She included: For me Islam, Christianity, Judaism, it is all interconnected. We may pray in different ways with various verses but in the end “were all” contact for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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