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Unity holds Jerusalem a devotion: Jews, Muslims and Christians assemble for love

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

In a small building in the foreboding darknes of Jerusalems Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum gazed upon a audience 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 flock 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 worn in her synagogue, there were some sweeps worn around necks. Others sat in the traditional pitch-black dres of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and various nuns in their practices be gathered at the back of the chamber. Many were wearing no religious garment at all. But they were all there to pray.

Last week, and for precisely eight daylights, a music academy in the lowest depression of Jerusalem is turning into a communal house of prayer, named Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their parishes 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 initiated by Elad-Abblebaum and the Muslim Sufi Sheikh Ihab Balah almost a year ago. They contacted out to six other religion 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 rehearses, but too open to discussions with other faiths.

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

She emphasised how Amen is not simply brought together Israels discordant beliefs, but also 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 night of devotion and song. Image: Michal Fattal

We were all speaking the same language

Over the previous six months, all eight chairmen had assembled 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 know-how. Catholic Rev Rafik, who has expended a different epithet in the programme to prevent a backlash against their own families, who are originally from Lebanon, admitted 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 incorporating prayers and habits, each night the prayer house was hosted by a different religion illustration, 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 contest, Elad-Abblebaum said she was already working to make sure development projects lived on beyond its eight eras. You realised unexpectedly “weve all” speaking the same expression, she mentioned. It cant only be a storage, this has to be the vigour for the next step. We will use this as the seed to improve Jerusalem a permanent neighbourhood where all sects can come and pray alongside one another.

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

Particularly significant was the collaboration of three imams, including one from al-Aqsa mosque the most important website for Muslims in Jerusalem and another Palestinian imam who wandered from the West Bank city of Nablus to participate in one of the devotion 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 referred on the programme.

Ihab Balh are recognizing that constructing the project 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 shaped it seem more acceptable.

This project is a milestone because it establishes other imams that there are devout religion Muslims who can play a role in activities like this, he mentioned. Of course, the allegations of normalisation are a challenge and the reality of Jerusalem today is hatred and parties crusading, but its important at the same is necessary to bush the seeds of people coming together and determining one another. Thats what I am doing here.

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

Location, spot, location

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

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

Modesty determined the interior design of the devotion mansion. Thin strips of white-hot muslin hung from the ceiling, each tolerating 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 declared he had been extremely sceptical when first approached by Elad-Abblebaum about the devotion house and had gratified some resistance in his community.

To say the truth, I wasnt actually reassured at the start, he added. The project was very nice but I did not be seen to what extent it is able to happen. But when we started meet up, I was astonished at how real ties-in developed between us all and I detected there was something interesting there. And that friendship between us, I ponder, is the humble inaugurating we need to change people hearts and from there, their minds.

In an increasingly tense and sporadically violent 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 few weeks to do anything, let alone this, Mahmeed spoke, and her sees filled with weepings as she indicated her hijab.

Sometimes parties, when they attend the acces Im dressed in the street they fear me because they were of the view that every Muslim has a knife to jab a Jew. It was important to stress 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 find a lot of hurt 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 texts but in the end we are all reaching for same thing.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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