A few weeks ago in Los Angeles, beachgoers walked around a group of twenty Muslims and Jews, all of whom had laid out mats on the sand to pray in congregation. The rise and fall of Arabic and Hebrew supplemented by the crash of the tide. Men and women in a self-created space that was more intimate than most prayer settings.
One participant, Maryam Saleemi, told The Huffington Post that the group was surprised they could engage in worship together, and above all, that the process was very similar. ‘It was kind of like an “aha moment” that we’re praying to the same God,’ Saleemi said. ‘Why aren’t we doing this all the time together?’
The initiative behind the effort is a group called Two Faiths One Prayer, a product of fellows from the New Ground: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change. The twenty participants were guided to a total of five different public spaces across Los Angeles, including the city hall. Travelling through public transportation allowed the group to debrief on the way to each place, resulting in a closeness and chance to bridge whatever gaps may have been present.
The city hall prayer differed from the other prayers, as the group was joined by sixty to seventy others, and the session was followed by a dinner that carried on till the Muslim night prayer Isha. Jewish participants recited Piyyutim, liturgical poetry.
The future is looking hopeful for this group, as everyone involved enjoyed the experience. It ignited a conversation about finding common ground. One New Ground fellow, Tuli Skaist, said that sharing a prayer space with members of another (albeit not wholly dissimilar) faith enhanced his own spiritual experience. He openly claimed that he hopes this initiative is the beginning of something bigger, and ‘that people do it on their own and start praying with each other. It doesn’t only have to be within the context of an organized event.’
Luckily there’s a video, so we can all what this event looked like: