Due to the Coronavirus, and not being able to gather safely in-person, Elijah Interfaith hosted a global gathering on Zoom, where over 100 people from all across the world came together to pray according to each of their faiths. Spiritual leaders from multiple traditions shared teachings, meditations, songs and wisdom. We are praying for the health and safety of all people everywhere.
On December 26, 2019, the fifth night of Hannukah, Praying Together in Jerusalem held its monthly gathering, attended by 60 people, Jews, Christian and Muslims. We met in the main prayer auditorium of the Moreshet Yisrael Synagogue, part of the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center for Conservative Judaism.
Host Tamara Fine Skversky, Program Officer at the Fuchsberg Center, introduced PTIJ coordinator Eliyahu McLean, who then invited representatives of the different co-sponsoring groups and religions to offer an opening blessing.
Blessings were offered by Sheikh Jamal al Din, a Muslim educator from Beit Haninah in East Jerusalem, Ahuva Tamar Batch from the Women Wage Peace NGO, and Sister Trudy Nabuurs from the Sisters of Sion at Ecce Homo in the Old City.
Sheikh Jamal al-Din chanted a verse from the Quran, and Women Wage Peace presented a song of hope by Leah Goldberg entitled Ha’omnam (Will it be).
Others joining the event included Palestinian Muslims from East Jerusalem and Idna, near Hebron, 40 American Jewish college students in the Conservative Yeshiva’s “Ta’amu” winter program, Christians from the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, and general public.
We then broke up into four study groups led by the different faith leaders, to study texts with the theme of light in Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Then, the three faith groups present – Jews, Christians and Muslims – broke up for the separate evening prayer circles.
David Helfand – a rabbinical student, then gave a short teaching about the meaning of the Hannukah ritual. Eliyahu recited the blessings for lighting the central Hannukah menorah, inviting one representative of each faith tradition or sponsoring group to light a candle; including: Muslim – Sheikh Jamal al-Din, Christian – Sister Giovanna from the Sisters of Comboni, an American Jewish student from the Conservative Yeshiva, and Rachel Suissa of Women Wage Peace.
This was followed by closing songs/blessings, including a Sufi chant of “Allah” led by Sheikh Jamal and a song “Pray for the Peace of Israel, Pray for the Peace of Ishmael,” led by Eliyahu. We then closed with 2 minutes of silence.
It was an inspiring evening of interfaith unity during a unique week when Hannukah and Christmas converged on the calendar.
Report by Eliyahu McLean, PTIJ co-organizer
Photos by Reuven Ḥanan Stone, PTIJ coordinator