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Unity contributes Jerusalem a prayer: Jews, Muslims and Christians connect for love

Eight religious leaders drew their flocks together for eight epoches in one chamber. It was a dangerous move

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum searched upon a audience sitting attentively before her. We have had a long way to go to prepare for this evening, she articulated with a soft smile. Today we all do something very brave.

Certainly this parish 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 cross worn around necks. Others sat in the conventional black robe of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their attires gathered together at the back of the room. Numerous were wearing no religious clothe at all. But they were all there to pray.

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

The project, part of the Jerusalem season of culture, was launched by Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah almost a year ago. They reached out to six other religion digits two rabbis, a Franciscan monk, a Catholic priest, a Coptic deaconess and a female Muslim community leader who were very conventional in their beliefs and rehearses, but likewise open to discussions with other faiths.

Elad-Abblebaum answered: I never believed something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying along with Palestinians, this is a big gamble and a huge step. But this is not a political project; we wanted parties are derived from the right and from the left and been demonstrated that faith is beyond dogma. Here, “were about” reshaping world and we are doing it through prayer.

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

Waida Ibtisam Mahmeed ties up the strips 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 presidents had satisfied once 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 event. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has expended a different figure in the programme to prevent a backlash against his family, who are originally from Lebanon, declared 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 coalescing devotions and traditions, each night the devotion house was hosted by a different religion illustration, and most of the prayer done through 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 abruptly we were all speaking the same language, she answered. It cant just be a remember, this has to be the intensity for the next step. We will use this as the seed to body-build Jerusalem a permanent region where all sects can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly substantial was the cooperation of three imams, including information from al-Aqsa mosque the most important locate for Muslims in Jerusalem and the other Palestinian imam who travelled 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 solidarity can be hazardous. The imams asked not to be named on the programme.

Ihab Balh admitted that constructing the project had been a challenging stair, but that his work with these imams over the past decade had laid the groundwork to wreak them into Amen and cleared it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it pictures other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in projects like this, he pronounced. Of trend, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and parties opposing, but its important at the same time to flower the seeds of people coming together and seeing each other. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, location, location

In a city where geography is politics, the point of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem accepted Amen. Elad-Abblebaum acknowledged 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 panic the project would instigate anger.

The managers eventually settled on the small music institution, which educates both Jews and Arabs and sits neighboring to Mount Zion, a pious place for all three religions. The building, which instantly faces the poverty-stricken Palestinian locality of Silwan, is also immediately below the secret zip cable formerly allows one to smuggle injured Israeli soldiers over the dark-green path from East to West Jerusalem.

Modesty governed the interior design of the prayer home. Thin rows of grey muslin hung from the ceiling, each carrying 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 first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the prayer house and had gratified some resistance in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt really convinced at the start, he added. The impression was very nice but I did not see how it is able to happen. But when we started meeting up, I was astonished at how real relationships developed between us all and I detected there was something interesting there. And that friendship between us, I visualize, is the humble embarking we need to change peoples hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically violent 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 participate 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 week to is everything, let alone this, Mahmeed suggested, and her sees filled with snaps as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they interpret the practice Im dressed 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 speak in the Quran and how people act in the name of the Quran. God didnt tell me to stand up and kill people. I experience a lot of hurt and sorrow because of whats going on between Israelis and Palestinians.

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

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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