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Unity hands Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians assemble for adore

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

In a small building in the foreboding shadow of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum ogled upon a bunch sitting attentively before her. We have had a long way to go to prepare for this evening, she suggested 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 junctions worn around cervixes. Others sat in the conventional pitch-black attire of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their practices gathered together at the back of the chamber. Numerous were wearing no religious garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for merely eight periods, a music academy in the lowest valley of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, referred 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 metropolitan.

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 contacted out to six other religious representations 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 traditions, but also 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 danger and a huge step. But this is not a political campaign; we wanted parties are derived from the right and from the left and been demonstrated that faith is beyond dogma. Here, we are reshaping reality and we are doing it through prayer.

She emphasised how Amen is not simply 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 strips of muslin that hang from the ceiling in preparation for an night of devotion and song. Picture: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight managers had met once a few weeks to discuss how development projects could be realised and even travelled together to the desert to practise praying together. For most, this was a entirely new ordeal. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has used a different appoint in the programme to prevent a backlash 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, “ve never” spoken with a female rabbi.

Instead of merging prayers and habits, each night the prayer home was hosted by a different religion chassis, 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 occurrence, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure the project lived on beyond its eight epoches. You realised suddenly “weve all” speaking the same communication, she alleged. It cant simply be a remembering, this has to be the intensity for the next step. We will use this as the seed to erect Jerusalem a permanent region where all sects can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly significant was the collaboration of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important point site for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who toured from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the prayer nights.

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 called on the programme.

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

This project is a milestone because it evidences other imams that there are devout religious Muslims who can play a role in jobs like this, he suggested. Of direction, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and current realities of Jerusalem today is hatred and people crusading, but its important at the same is necessary to plant the seeds of parties coming together and envisioning one another. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, orientation, location

In a city where geography is politics, the locating of the communal house of prayer was essential to ensuring the residents of Jerusalem admitted Amen. Elad-Abblebaum admitted it had been a formidable undertaking, having been refused again and again by places in both the east and the west of the city and on Mount Zion itself for horror the project would inspire anger.

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

Modesty decided the interior design of the prayer residence. Thin rows of white muslin hung from the ceiling, each countenancing a quote from the bible, the Torah or the Quran in both Hebrew and Arabic and the religious leaders, and their associated 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 opposition in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt genuinely reassured at the start, he suggested. The meaning was very nice but I did not see how it could happen. But when we started gather up, I was astonished at how real ties-in developed between us all and I discovered there was something fascinating there. And that friendship between us, I envisage, is the humble inaugurating we need to change peoples 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 piou Muslim woman leaves her husband and her children and her parish for a few weeks to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed alleged, and her gazes filled with rips as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they check the road Im dressed in wall street they fear me because they were of the view that every Muslim has a knife to stab a Jew. It was important to stress 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 seem a lot of hurt and sorrow because of whats going on between Both israelis and Palestinians.

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

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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