Source: The Guardian
By Hannah Ellis-Peterson
Eight religious leaders brought their congregations together for eight days in one room. It was a dangerous move
In a small building in the foreboding shadow of Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, Rabba Tamar Elad-Abblebaum looked upon a crowd 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 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 worn in her synagogue, there were some crosses worn around necks. Others sat in the traditional black robes of the Copts, another in the Muslim hijab and several nuns in their habits gathered together at the back of the room. Many were wearing no religious garb at all. But they were all there to pray.
Last week, and for just eight days, a music school in the lowest valley of Jerusalem was transformed into a communal house of prayer, named Amen, bringing together Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious leaders and their congregations to worship together in one room. It was a sight rarely seen in this segregated city.
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 figures – 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 practices, but also open to discussions with other faiths.
Elad-Abblebaum said: “I never believed something like this would be possible in my lifetime. Jews who live in the territories publicly praying together with Palestinians, this is a big risk and a huge step. But this is not a political project; we wanted people to come from the right and from the left and to show that faith is beyond ideology. Here, we are reshaping reality and we are doing it through prayer.”
She emphasised how Amen not only brought together Israel’s discordant religions, but also men and women, which is almost unheard of in such inter-religious gatherings.