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Unity devotes Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims and Christians meet for adore

Eight religious leaders raised their parishes together for eight days in one room. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum ogled upon a army 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 crossings worn around cervixes. Others sat in the traditional black robe of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their practices gathered together at the back of the room. Numerous were wearing no religious garb at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for simply eight periods, a music institution in the lowest valley of Jerusalem was transferred to a communal house of prayer, identified 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 metropolitan.

The project, part of the Jerusalem season of culture, is an initiative of Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah almost a year ago. They contacted out to six other religious people 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 likewise 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 along with Palestinians, this is a big jeopardy and a huge step. But this is not a political projection; we wanted beings to come from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond dogma. Here, we are reshaping reality and we are doing it through prayer.

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

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

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight rulers had met formerly a week to discuss how development projects could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to practise praying together. For most, this was a completely new suffer. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has exploited a different name in the programme to prevent a backlash against their own families, 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 prayers and traditions, each night the devotion house was hosted by a different religious person, 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 happen, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight daylights. You realised abruptly “weve all” speaking the same expression, she said. It cant precisely has become a remembering, this has to be the intensity for the next step. We will use this as the seed to erect Jerusalem a permanent place where all faiths can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly significant was the assistance provided by three imams, including information from al-Aqsa mosque the most important site for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who hurtled from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the prayer evenings.

In an atmosphere where Arab involvement in any activity involving Jews leads to accusations of normalisation, such interfaith harmony can be dangerous. The imams requested not to be named on the programme.

Ihab Balh admitted that improving the project had been a challenging stair, but that his working in collaboration with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to introduce them into Amen and prepared it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it shows other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in assignments like this, he said. Of direction, accusations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and beings engaging, but its important at the same is now time to bush the seeds of beings coming together and assuring one another. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, place, location

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

The managers eventually settled on the smaller music school, which learns both Jews and Arabs and sits neighboring to Mount Zion, a sacred site for all three beliefs. The build, which directly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian community of Silwan, is also directly below the secret zip wire formerly used to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the green string from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty determined the interior design of the devotion mansion. Thin deprives of white muslin hung from the ceiling, each enduring a quote from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their associate musicians, sat on wooden chairs.

Rafik admitted he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had met some resistance in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt genuinely persuasion at the beginning, he said. The notion was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it could happen. But when we started rally up, I was surprised at how real relationships developed between us all and I detected there was something interesting there. And that friendship between us, I speculate, is the humble beginning we need to change folks 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 participation being perceived as political.

It shouldnt be taken for granted that a piou Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her parish for a few weeks to is everything, let alone this, Mahmeed said, and her attentions fitted with weepings as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they learn the channel 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 emphasise there is a difference between what I read in the Quran and how people act in the name of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I feel a lot of suffer 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 various textbooks but in the end “were all” achieve for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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